There is a lot of talk today about how to monetize things. If you create a new app, business model, or venture – partners, employees and investors will all want to know how you’re going to monetize it. But what about monetizing a tribe?
Recently I was chatting with a friend about the TRIBAL event I’m launching later this year and the subject of monetizing your tribe came up. My friend asked if I had seen a post on Facebook from a mutual colleague of ours railing against monetization, and suggested it might be directed at me. Who knows, probably was.
The colleague was decrying how everyone was trying to monetize him, and he didn’t want to be monetized. That sounds right, and I’m sure most people who read his post nodded in agreement. After all, who wants to be victimized by those evil, greedy, money-grubbing monetizers?
But if we do a little critical thinking on it, things don’t look quite the same…
Of course no one wants to be “sold” or monetized. But everyone will gratefully trade away some of their money for things that solve their problems or add value to their life. All true prosperity is created by value-for-value exchange.
If you have a toothache, you will gratefully trade a couple hundred dollars to a dentist who can make it go away. When I saw that R8 Spyder at the Audi dealership, I decided I wanted it more than the $155K I had laying around. When you see a charity really making a difference, you’re happy for the opportunity to fund their good work.
So how does this dynamic relate to leading tribe?
Well there are many different types of tribes and causes that bring them together. You could be a consultant who’s championing a new way of manufacturing for an industry, a non-profit who is rescuing homeless orphans, or Jimmy Buffet leading his band of “parrotheads.”
No matter the objective you’re seeking to accomplish, if you have a tribe that follows you, they pay you a great honor. They’ve given you a platform and of course, with that platform comes responsibility. Part of that responsibility is never betraying their trust, and providing real value to them. But please know that these responsibilities don't include leading the tribe for free, or for “the greater good,” unless that is something you feel moved to do. (And are financially able to.)
For most tribe leaders, a big part of your responsibility is finding a way to monetize what you are doing with the tribe. Because for most tribe leaders, if they don’t do that – they won’t be able to continue doing what they do. If you really believe in your work and want to be able to continue doing it, you have to get the money thing out of the way. And the consciously aware members of the tribe will understand and support this.
Jimmy Buffet has provided joy to millions around the world. But if we parrotheads didn’t buy his CDs and concert tickets, that wouldn’t have happened.
Lee Ann Kim had a vision to create a film festival for the Asian community in Southern California. But to do that, she has to hire good people and pay them. So like all non-profits, she has to monetize the people who believe in the cause.
I do a lot of counseling with aspiring speakers, coaches and authors who have a message they believe the world needs to hear. And the world does need those messages. But the people who own those messages need to buy cat food, doctor bills and groceries too.
Yes there are people who sacrifice personal wealth and material comforts to serve others in noble causes. I'm sure someone would bring up Mother Teresa in the comments if I didn't mention her here. But know that she was able to do that because she had followers who sent her money every month to continue her work. (I was one. Not because it was my responsibility, or because I was being noble. I did it selfishly for the joy it brought to me. )
The meek may inherit the earth, but not if they’re only paying the minimum balance on their credit cards each month.
Do you feel led to lead a tribe? Great, go for it. The world needs more people like you. Or as Seth Godin said in his brilliant book on the subject, “We need you, to lead us.’
However, if you really want to make an impact, make a difference and become the change – find a way to monetize what you want to do.
P.S. I'm back to posting at least several times a week here. So I won't send out an e-zine each time like I did with the occasional postcards. So check back often or else enter your email in the "Stay Connected" box in the upper right corner to get an alert each time I post something new.