The practical and spiritual challenges of finding and connecting with your tribe

by | Dec 11, 2011

Marketer and blogger Seth Godin defines a tribe as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”
In the case of your tribe of just-right clients, you are the leader, responsible for giving them care and guidance. Not in a patronizing way, but to the extent that they depend on you to do good work and to lead them toward things that match their needs.

You and your tribe of just-right clients are connected through your work, the way you market that work, and the sales conversations you have. (Selling is a conversation. But you knew that, right?)

Finally, you and your tribe of just-right clients are connected to an idea. That idea could be the core values behind your work. It could be how your work matches what they want. It could be the difference your work makes in the world.

So finding your tribe involves a spiritual and a practical relationship.

The trouble with finding your tribe

The trouble with finding your tribe is that many Accidental Entrepreneurs don’t feel like they are in the same tribe as the clients they want. Here’s a sample of issues you may relate to:

  • The clients you want don’t really get you or your work.
  • The people who need your work can’t afford it, or
  • You can’t relate to the people who can afford it.
  • It’s hard to get their attention.

They don’t get you

When you love your work, you naturally want your just-right clients to love it, too. But it can sometimes seem like they just don’t get you.

Do you get frustrated when potential clients seem to miss the beauty, subtlety, or utility of your offers? Do you get cranky if you’re asked to explain yourself? Do you feel indignant or defensive when questioned about the value of your products or services? And does the idea of offering a guarantee set your teeth on edge?

The reality is that when it comes to finding your tribe, it’s not their job to get you; it’s your job to get them.

Get your tribe before asking them to get you

Stephen Covey said it years ago: Understand before seeking to be understood.
It’s okay to want your tribe to get you, but if you want them to hire you or buy your work, it’s your job to help them understand what’s in it for them. And to do that, you need to understand where they are coming from.

That’s not as hard as it might sound. Ask the people you want to work with what they think. Ask them how they like to be treated. Find out how they like to get their information or receive products and services.

Yes, it takes homework, but for the sake of your tribe (and your livelihood), isn’t it worth it?

The people who need your work can’t afford it

This one can really hurt your heart. You so want to serve through your work. Yet you need to make a living. And it seems like the people who want or need what you do can’t afford you.

Here’s the thing. Some people can’t afford what you do. Some people can. What’s needed is a way to serve both while supporting you. After all, you are responsible for the well being of yourself and your loved ones.

The answer is to serve from generosity

The answer to this problem is to serve your tribe from generosity.

What does that mean?

It means having a business that supports you well enough that you can give generously of what you have.

One of the best ways to do this is to give away useful information. If you are a bodyworker, you can give information about self-care. If you are a self-employment coach, like me, you can give away insights and tools for succeeding at self-employment.

When you give from deep and renewable resources, you help people who can’t afford you, without depleting yourself. That means you can thrive and continue to give.

You can’t relate to people who can afford your work

This one’s a doozie, too. If you sell a premium product or service, one that costs more than you typically spend, you may feel like you and your just-right clients are on a different page when it comes to money. This can alienate you from your tribe.

But does money really need to separate you?

The point of a price is to establish a shared value. The price you sell is the value your work represents to you. The price your just-right clients pay is the value it represents to them. So long as that value matches, your respective incomes aren’t an issue.

When you connect with your tribe around the value of your work, instead of obsessing about whether or not they have a different lifestyle, money stops being a barrier.

But how do you get their attention?

Perhaps you are convinced of the importance of understanding your tribe before asking them to understand you and your work. You’re willing to concede that the financial gap you’ve been seeing doesn’t need to be an issue.

The question remains: How do you get the attention of your tribe?

Too many Accidental Entrepreneurs expect their tribes to form around them just because. Because they do good work. Because they have a lot of training or experience. Because they have the best interests of their tribes at heart.

But you’ll never get the attention of your tribe by sitting around waiting for it. You have to earn their attention by giving them something valuable.

You earn your tribe’s attention by serving them

The best way to get the attention of your tribe is to do something for them. Give away your best ideas in your blog or ezine. Write tip sheets or how to columns for your local newspaper. Visit the places your tribe hangs out online and off and answer their questions.

Again, it takes homework to find opportunities to serve your tribe. But your peers are doing it everyday. Notice what successful people in your profession are doing and follow their lead. Stamp your offerings with your own personality, and before long you will stand out.

Your tribe is waiting for you

The best way to get a continuous stream of income from your work is to form a tribe around your business. That means looking for the values and concerns that you hold in common with your just-right clients. It means not letting surface differences like income level get in the way. And it means serving them so they can come to know, like, and trust you.

Now you know what to do. Do it. Your tribe is waiting for you

Photo Credits: Yellow steps by Molly Holtzschalg via flickr.