“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool.” –Lester Bangs, Almost Famous

We started this series by inviting you to reflect on the roles of devotion and care in business, but you may be wondering: where do the weirdos come in?

Well, as Lester Bangs1 knew, devotion and care mean the most when they’re divorced from trends, or anything else we pursue in the name of cool. Genuine devotion is that band whose music we fell in love with before we even knew who was playing it, before we saw their faces or how they dressed2. It’s that topic we never tire of learning about, that hobby or skill we geek out on because it brings us intrinsic joy and satisfaction. It’s the things we find so fascinating and motivating that we can’t help going deep with them, even if our love of them makes us weird.

Weirdos, as we’re using the word here, are devotees of unusual interests (or unusual combinations of interests)3.

And the reason we love weirdos so much that we’re dedicating a season to them is that they’re the enthusiasts who make the world go around. They power every community event, every awesomely niche museum, every great fan website, every so-uncool-it’s-seriously-cool thing we’ve ever seen.

But also, they power really great businesses in often under-appreciated ways. (We’d bet there are some serious weirdos who keep your favourite companies in business.)

  • First and foremost, they increase the quality of your leads, by referring their friends and colleagues. The leads your weirdos generate are usually the most qualified and easiest to convert.
  • Your weirdos reduce your churn rate, because they’re not just doing business with you out of convenience. They tend to be less price-sensitive, too.
  • Got a new product offering you want to test? Your weirdos are likely to be first in line for testing, early bird specials, and the like.
  • The bottom line is: deep trust, combined with shared enthusiasm, leads to traction and sustainabilityand you cultivate trust by showing you care about something more than making your next sale4.

When we build a business, we’re often told to define a “target market,” as if you can just show up in the world with a product and sell it to everyone who checks a particular set of boxes. Online advertising is built with the same notion: demographics + interests = target audience/market. But that’s not really how people function. To go back to the example from our first entry, it’s not like Lauren’s mom is just really into elevators, and wants to see lots of ads for elevator companies.

What she wants is to have an important need handled, in the right time, place, and context, by people she trusts.

But you can’t plug “people who will trust me” + “people who need this” into an ad engine.

So how do you reach those folks? Let’s return to our list of what inspires customer devotion — but this time, we’ll look at it from your company’s standpoint:

  • You look forward to hearing from them.You consistently and generously contribute to your customers’ growth, supporting them in getting where they need to go. You listen more than you talk, and in the words of Tim O’Reilly, you focus on creating more value than you capture.
  • You feel seen and understood by them on some level.Your enthusiasm for your niche obsessions is genuine5; you aren’t just paying them lip service.
  • They do what they do brilliantly.You consistently meet or exceed your customers’ expectations for quality and integrity.

That’s how you connect with the people who will share your stuff whether it’s cool or not.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What would be possible if we had enthusiastic, high trust relationships with our customers?
  • What are the things our company seriously geeks out about? (Set aside the things you think your customers want you to care about — what do you genuinely obsess over? What fuels you, really?)
  • Of our current and past customers, who sends us the most qualified leads? What enthusiasms and motivations do we have in common with them?