Q: How do you say thank you to an arena filled with 20,000 screaming fans?
A: You grab the microphone, raise your fist to the sky, forming the heavy metal horns and you shout, ‘Thank you, Cleveland!!! You guys fucking rock!!!’
Then you brazenly smash your guitar onstage, toss the remnants to your ravenous fans and walk offstage right into the backstage party and a circus tent filled with booze, cocaine and wanton groupies.
OK, that was easy. Now for a harder one.
Q: How do you say thank you to one raving fan?
A: You grab the microphone (or your computer keyboard or mobile device, as it were), raise your heavy metal horns to the sky and start typing an email or a Tweet with passionate intent and shout, ‘Thank you, Cleveland (actually insert the fan’s name here)!!! Dude, YOU fucking rock!!!’
How To Not End Up Working In a Gas Station
Only you’re not some shallow, narcissistic sleazebag who happened to get lucky once and wrote the hit song that bought you your golden ticket. Otherwise, you’d still be working in a gas station right now.
No, you’re someone who wants to make a dent in the universe and you’re starting to find your voice. You’ve found the courage to create your unique art and put it out there. You’ve embarked on the hero’s journey.
You’ve also spent a fair amount of time wallowing in obscurity when someone finally discovers your work. It resonates with them and they write to tell you so. Then they keep showing up and consuming all your content. A tiny glimmer of light appears at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
You realize suddenly that this is the one fan you’ve been writing for all along when you hoped and prayed that your work would one day connect with at least someone out there who would find it useful.
And you start to wonder if there’s a bigger picture at work here.
So you stop and sincerely thank this fan from your heart.
It’s All About The Golden Rule
Remember that one?
Do unto others, right? Treat other people like you want to be treated yourself. The law of reciprocity. It’s burned into our DNA.
I was reminded of that golden rule recently when a fine copywriter named @DemianFarnworth Tweeted a big shout out to his followers about how truly grateful he was for their continued support of his work.
That humbled state of mind where you learn to recognize all the tiny acts of kindness along the way that have helped you to build a better life.
I’ve been following Demian for some time on Copyblogger, where he writes brilliant, concise articles on how to become a better copywriter and master the tools of the trade. I’m always grateful for his insightful advice every time I read his work.
Copyblogger’s major focus is to provide you the tools you need to master content marketing and grow your business in the digital space. So it would be easy to simply write off Demian’s Tweet as a clever marketing ploy that plays on that golden rule to his advantage in the hopes you’ll reTweet it (as I did) and share his work.
But his remark didn’t feel like an imitation. It felt like sincere gratitude. And it got me thinking.
Do You Remember The First Time?
When you’re building your business, your email list, your fan base, you can quickly forget when that first customer walked through your door and paid you for your products or services so you could pin that first dollar bill up behind the cash register and celebrate your first success. Or when someone left that first comment on your blog when you were starting out and told you how much they appreciated your work.
It’s easy to write her off from memory because another customer just walked in the door behind them. Then more curious readers showed up and became followers. They started commenting too. They signed up to your email list. Some of them bought your products and services too. They came to your show. Things are starting to percolate. So you keep slogging away, nose to the grindstone trying to build momentum and you never look up.
The Power of Gratitude
Now if you’re open to that third eye way of seeing things you might catch a glimpse of that bigger picture at work here. It goes far beyond a simple business transaction. When you show gratitude for those who support and share your work you start to recognize how we’re all interconnected. You cannot truly rock if there’s not an audience pumping their fists back at you.
You can have the best of intentions and may work your ass off to make a difference in the world. But if no one hears it or sees it or reads it or buys it, then your work was all for naught. First, your motivation wanes and next thing you know you could easily wind up in a full on creative tailspin.
Let’s face it, we all need a little recognition.
So when someone finally buys your art, your products or services or comments how your work has changed their lives, expanded their thinking, upped their game, gave them inspiration that they too could accomplish great things, it validates your efforts. It’s called affirmation.
The wheel comes full circle. It’s the universe telling you to keep going. You’re on the right track.
But the real burning question here is how DO you get to play that jam packed arena?
How DO you fill that banquet hall at the Hyatt with all those raving fans who just paid a whole lot of money to hear you speak?
Well, it’s simple. But it’s not easy.
The 10 Bold Steps To Building A Devoted Army
1. You have to begin with the desire to create truly awesome art that will ultimately inspire and benefit others. Your message has to be bigger than your own self interest. If your message resonates, a tribe forms and they decide if your message spreads, not you.
2.You have to want to be head and shoulders above the rest so that your work cannot be ignored. It’s noisy out there. Anything short of unforgettable will be forgotten tomorrow. (If it even got seen today)
3. You have to find the courage to overcome your fears and your self doubts and act on that initial desire to be awesome. That means you have to actually start doing the work. It’s scary, yes. (Not trying is a far worse alternative)
4. You have to be willing to suck for a long time until you begin to improve. To actually improve you have to practice your craft tirelessly. Like an Olympic athlete in training. You need to study from the greats who came before you in your chosen area of focus. What were their methods? Who were their heros? What could you take away from them and apply to your own art?
5. While in the above sucking / improving phase you have to put your work out into the world and solicit feedback. You can’t wait for perfection before you ship. It will never arrive.
6. You have to be willing to wallow in obscurity for a long time and continue to improve and refine your art. You need to be conscious of how your work is being received (negative commentary is not necessarily a bad thing. No commentary after a while just might be) You have to be open to trying out new ideas and tweak your approach until you discover your ‘Aha!’ moment and your work begins to stick.
7. You have to believe in yourself with total conviction when no one else does and soldier on through that vacuum. Loneliness is a drag. But know that everyone who you ever admired for their success or awesomeness was once in this exact position. You are not alone.
8. When someone finally does find your work and responds to it, respond back to them. Immediately! Let them know you really appreciate their feedback. (But you have to really mean it) Start a relationship. Nurture it. These people will become your advocates. They will spread the word. They are the building blocks to your success.
9. When you see that fan continue to consume your content and share it with the world, make it a point to do something special for that person. Let them know they’re an integral part of your success story.
10. When your awesomeness starts to open doors and create opportunities for you and your audience begins to build, go back and repeat steps 8 and 9 until you’re blue in the face. Never forget this one until that day when you can actually hire someone to manage your responses because it’s become too overwhelming to do it yourself. (You should have such problems)
Are We There Yet?
And maybe, just maybe (and there are no guarantees here) after you’ve gone through that feedback loop of steps 8 and 9 countless times over a period of perhaps years (Yeah, sorry about that but there are no overnight sensations), you may find that one day, if you’ve stayed the course and achieved that very rare state of sustained awesomeness, that you’ve built up an army. A community of loyal followers who would go to battle for you and follow you to the ends of the earth.
And one day you may finally get invited to play that arena or get that big speaking engagement. And if and when that day comes, it will come as no surprise. Because you did the work. You put in the time. You followed the path.
Your art became undeniable.
But it all begins by learning to how to say thank you.
You build your army one fan at a time. Keep them motivated and well fed (with awesome content).
So it is with humility and great sincerity that I would like to send out a major thank you to Tom Southern, who is one of those people that found me and keeps coming back to remind me to keep going.
(In fact, writing this post was his idea)
So Tom, thank you. You fucking rock!!!
Now who will YOU thank today?
Do it right now.
Say it loud. Say it proud.
Thank you, Cleveland!!!
You guys fucking rock!!!
P.S. Thanks Demian! (you inspired me to turn your 140 characters into 1700 words) And to Sonia Simone, thank you for your awesome post, 5 Quick Things You Can Do This Week to Fix Your Marketing. (I used #2 and #5 on your list to polish this post)
P.S.S. And one more thank you to His Royal Awesomeness, Jon Morrow for his most recent post, 317 Power Words That Will Instantly Make You a Better Writer (I went back and found a few spots for some key power words). I’m grateful to all of you. You’ve made me a better writer.
No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude. Alfred North Whitehead