Call it purpose-driven marketing or movement marketing. However it may be categorized, tribal marketing is a marketing approach that is more of an art than a science. If you combine the concepts of a “tribe”, a group of like-minded individuals who make up a community, and marketing (well, you know what that is), you create a powerful tool that deeply connects with your customer base and can transcend your brand.  We set out to explore this concept during a recent Leading Edge webcast.   

In just 11 years, SoulCycle went from a simple idea and a single studio in New York City to a passionate community in 82 locations across the nation. “Once you state your values, you have to put your money where your mouth is. You can't just say you're going to do something, you have to do it,” stated Spencer Rice, co-founder of LifeShop and former CMO of SoulCycle. Is this the secret to their success? Tim Clarke, Senior Director for Salesforce, sat down with Spencer to learn about how to build a strong brand, radiate purpose, and nurture the community you serve. Check out Spencer’s top five tips. For a complete view, head to the Leading Edge webcast.

1. Lead with purpose

Have a clear purpose and “why” of what you are selling. SoulCycle was born from the absence of a community feel in the fitness market and strove to be a place where people came not only to exercise but also to be a member of a community meaningful to them. Having this view will help you establish your company's values and will transcend the brand, employees, customers, and entire ecosystem.  

2. Customer experience is everything

Providing exceptional experience is the key to building a thriving customer base. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is actually difficult to execute and maintain. Solely focusing on the customer means constantly listening, being consistent in your customer experience, and delivering on promises.  SoulCycle is obsessed with delighting riders every single time someone walks into their studio. They acknowledge customer birthdays. They change the laundry detergent when riders mention that the “towels smell funny.” Rice believes that this is the reason why SoulCycle is different, not only as a fitness business, but also as a brand.

3. Focus on the people

According to Rice, as people, our quest in life is to be seen, heard, understood and appreciated. It sounds simple, but these four elements are crucial to creating authentic relationships. Personalized interactions are treasured. Listening and responding to customer feedback shows your interest and that you care about their business. SoulCycle has a dedicated hotline and email called “Your Soul Matters” where riders can make suggestions and voice their feedback. Lastly, riders love to feel appreciated with simple gestures, such as a acknowledging a personal interest or milestone.

4. Employees are also your brand evangelists

Your employees are the face of your brand.  Empowering and supporting your employees encourages them to radiate your brand and its purpose.  At SoulCycle, employees are given tools to manage their careers and wellbeing. Instructors are provided with full-time employment with benefits, ensuring a reliable career, and avoiding the need to juggle between studios. This also shifts their focus from finding work to serving and building deeper relationships with their riders. On top of that, the work environment is supportive and inspirational; it’s a place where employees want to spend time. That happiness and pride spreads to customers in the studio and online. It’s amazing to see the instructor-rider relationship transcend outside the studio and onto social media. That’s powerful marketing.

5. Create a platform for your brand evangelists

Give your customers a channel to share their excitement with your brand and make it visible to the masses. The power of your customer’s voice in the marketplace comes second to none when acquiring new customers. According to Rice, companies should provide customers the tools, incentives, and opportunities to promote what’s special. SoulCycle does this in multiple ways. SoulCycle ran a campaign called “Turn It Up” which aimed to push riders to test their limits and ride 20 times in one month. SoulCycle made sure to recognize the individuals who finished this challenge by posting their names in the studio. Because of this, social sharing was rampant. Riders circled their names with “I did it!”, showing a sense of accomplishment. This is a great example of SoulCycle empowering riders and showing appreciation. They also post inspirational content on social media – like customer and instructor highlights — to connect with their audience. These gestures when done right will surely help build connections and deepen relationships between your customers and your brand.

Leading Edge is a thought leadership webcast series on SF Live.  Check us out!