I just recorded a new podcast with Kyle Tothill, a Co-Founder and the Managing Director of eHire, an IT recruiting and executive search company located in Atlanta, Ga. In a crowded industry, eHire is building a reputation as something different, a company with intentional culture and purposeful values baked into their DNA. As a result, they're growing like crazy. I’m looking forward to sharing the conversation with you later this week on taispeak.com.

I first met Kyle about 18 months ago as I was trying to figure out how to translate 2 decades of experience in music to the real world of business. Kyle was incredibly generous with his time and wisdom as he helped me try to navigate the uncertainty of a personal job search. The care he showed me, with no financial remuneration, gave me a bit of perspective of how eHire approaches their business, and I’m a fan!

When our podcast was done, we spent a little time touching base about my role with Leadercast as well as my desire to inspire others with my writing and public speaking. You don’t have to dive too deep in my LinkedIn profile to see my passions: music, marketing, and leadership. I’m on a personal journey to bring all of those passions together, and I love doing that in public speaking opportunities.

My favorite talks are “How To Lead Like Taylor Swift,” inspired by a blog I first posted here, and Market Like A Rockstar, where I translate music industry lessons on cultivating a raving fan base to the business world in tangible applications.

Now, when I talk about fans, my experience in music has set a high standard. My band Third Day had amazing fans. Yes, I know “fan” is short for fanatic, and music can attract an often comical, extreme enthusiasm. But, music also cultivates the kind of fans who put their favorite artists in their twitter profiles, wear branded apparel, and put stickers on their rear windshields of their car. Fans self-identify with the object of their fandom.

Being a fan means you make part of your own identity your association with the brand, and you want people to know it!

When I meet with business leaders, I often ask how they make new customers. I learn a lot about their businesses by how they answer that question. You can often draw a direct correlation between the health of the company and the percentage of business that is acquired through relationships and referral vs. traditional advertising or marketing approaches.

74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decision.
— Ogilvy/Google/TNS

When I think about brands that are really building raving fans, some obvious companies come to mind: Apple, Chick-Fil-A, Under Armour, Disney, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, YETI, etc. Consumers go beyond a normal customer connection with these brands.

Fans want you to know they love their favorite brands.

Just look on rear windshields of the cars around you on your morning commute. Apple fans will often let you know the size of their family by the number of Apple stickers on the back of their cars. Count the YETI stickers and Salt Life decals you see today. When consumers buy these products, they want you to know they’ve bought these products. What’s the result? Well, I’ve never seen a single piece of YETI marketing collateral or advertising, but I sure know about the company, and have become a customer myself. Why do you want a Big Green Egg? It probably has something to do with your cousin who just won’t shut up about how awesome they are!

As Kyle and I talked about brands that really cultivate fans well, we circled around a real challenge. Nearly every example we could think of were B2C companies. That makes sense, as fans are created through personal connection. How do you make those kind of fans when your company is a B2B service or product? We both agreed that the principles were the same, but also agreed that there is an inherently greater challenge to get customers to the “fan” status when your interaction only reaches them in the marketplace.

Not many of us wear tee shirts with our corporate banking logos on them, or law firms, or accountants, or staffing agencies. Corporate swag often ends up as extra rags with which to clean out the garage. B2B products and software offerings might have a little easier time than services. When I think about companies like SLACK and MailchimpI see more of a fan atmosphere among their delighted clients. However, I’m honestly struggling to think of a lot of examples. Can you help?  

What are B2B companies that are really building raving fans? Is your company? Have I set the standard for “fan” too high? 

If we identify who is doing this well, we can next identify how they’re doing it, then we can then start incorporating the best practices to our own companies. It's a worthy exercise that can help us Market Like A Rockstar, even if we're a B2B brand.