Apple has become one of the strongest cult brands of the century. Its loyal fans line the streets in to be the first to purchase the latest release, and with its reported total annual sales at $365.8 billion for 2021, it's clear its doing something right. But its success isn't simply due to its sleek designs and minimalist approach to advanced technology or even it's nearly $2 billion dollar advertising budget and brilliant sales messages. Rather, its in its people--and how it builds out teams.
Other companies tend to fall victim to one seemingly simple hiring practice that is actually a surefire way to burn innovation, sales, and the business. And that's hiring fans.
If you're looking to grow, don't just hire your fan club
The secret to building a successful customer service team is to hire customers. After all, customers understand customers. And with that, they will provide the type of superior service they would want for themselves. But this effective staffing strategy--and the simple theory behind it, is often inaccurately applied to other teams, such as engineering, development, and sales.
Take sales for example, the reason many get this wrong is that they think that a great sales rep would be the person who is their biggest fan. However, this isn't true. The best sales rep isn't the biggest fan--but those who most closely identify with the business's target audience. Because despite a fan's magnetic enthusiasm, the reality is that your biggest cheerleaders aren't necessarily your best salespeople--nor are they your best innovators.
Development and growth demand objectivity
Fans do not see things the way others do. And so fans are not as effective at selling to those who are not yet sold, or improving a product because they see it as perfect. So while fans are incredible at connecting with fellow fans, through they typically lose objectivity--a vital element in the improvement of a product or service and the growth of a business.
Psychologically, when someone is a die-hard fan, we know that their loyalty blinds them to the alternatives. In other words, at some point, being a fan of something means we put one thing on a pedestal arbitrarily--at the expense of something else. With an insatiable interest or loyalty to one thing, we lose not just objectivity, but our authenticity and rationality.
In sales this can lead an sales message to quickly become too good to be true, which comes off as disingenuous, leaving potential customers disinterested. In innovation this can lead to fewer advancements, and lower customer acquisition as products built by fan tend to be built for fans.
Get people who understand your audience--because they are your audience
The key is to know who--and how to hire. And the best bet is often your ideal customer, or those within your target audience. Those who could be a customer, but aren't have the most to offer your business. This is because they understand the reasons why someone might not already be a loyal fan, their hesitations, and their pain points. With that, they can more effectively overcome said reasons. They understand your audience because they are your audience.
Because these types of people hold the key to turn your business into the type of business that the millions of other people who are in your target audience--but who aren't yet customers--into customers. It's how Apple rose to the top of a competitive market, getting into the hands--and hearts--of consumers. It's how it presold nearly 1 million watches on its first day, and how it just entered--and cornered--the $40 billion dollar payments industry. It's also a winning strategy that businesses of any size can use to better innovate and grow.