Marketer’s Guide to using Tribes to Grow Your Business

Tribal Growth Channels

Snapchat, Whatsapp, Dropbox, Airbnb. Over the past decade, there have been countless tech startups from Silicon Valley and beyond reaching escape velocity to millions of users.

Companies have achieved this, not through TV ads, billboards, PR or other ‘traditional’ marketing channels, but rather with something termed  growth hacking. We also used growth hacking successfully when growing I Am Playr to millions of users (which I’ve written about in the past).

Growth Hacking is a new(ish) area and so I’ve reflected on how to create a framework that guides marketers on how to approach Growth Hacking for their business.

Common Misconceptions

A lot of people calling themselves ‘growth hackers’ are focussing on quick tricks & tactics that are at best short lived & unsustainable and at worst spammy & brand destroying. All in the pursuit of a few clicks.

I believe growth hacking can be credible,valuable and long lasting whilst distancing itself from spam-like behaviours.

Tribal Networks

In my last post, I discussed the first element of this framework I call, blue ocean marketing channels.

In this one I’ll share the next part, tribal growth channels.

What are Tribal Growth Channels

Tribal Growth Channels: this is a technique where achieving rapid growth is possible  through finding tribes of your ideal customers and attaching your product/service to their common user behaviours.

Let’s look to one of the earliest growth hacking/viral marketing successes that even pre-dates the internet, the tupperware story.


This tribal growth story looks at tupperware, yep the plastic boxes that stack unevenly in your cupboard but help you to food-prep like a boss.

Tupperware founder Earl Silas Tupper was a bankrupt tree surgeon & a kooky inventor. He invented these now-famous plastic boxes after  a string of failures, such as the ‘fish powered boat’ (below is an actual sketch  of how this said boat was due to look…crazy!)

Fish powered boat

When Tupperware launched, they had a great product but were struggling with distributions and not growing at the speed they wished (ever relate to this problem? )

Tupperware was getting some slow traction as it began being stocked in a few stores, but it really exploded when single mom Brownie Wise began to represent Tupperware in Florida.

Brownie Wise knew Tupperware’s target market incredibly well (stay at home moms across the US), and knew a regular behaviour of this audience was to hold ‘coffee mornings’ at their homes. It was Wise’s idea to contact some groups of said moms to ask if they would sell Tupperware at these coffee mornings (soon dubbed ‘Tupperware parties’).

Tupparware party

And it worked. The stay-at-home moms that attended the Tupperware parties bought the product from people they knew and trusted. These ladies  then went home and thought ‘I can do that’, and began Tupperware parties of their own, invited their friends who then bought the product, went home and thought ‘I can do that’, and the cycle continued…

This quickly became the Tupperware sales model nationwide. Within a few years, thousands of women were hosting sales parties and recruiting friends for Tupperware get-togethers.

So highlight  the success of this: By 1953, Wise had 3,000 dealers and distributors; by 1955, she had 20,000. Within 10 years, “her army of Tupperware ladies” were selling tens of millions of dollars worth of containers annually. Tupperware parties were the viral marketing or ‘Growth Hacks’ of their time. Wise became the first female executive to make the cover of BusinessWeek (perhaps we can call her the original ‘growth hacker’?). Today, Tupperware is a $2.2 billion global behemoth.


So let’s reverse engineer what Tupperware did:

1)     They knew their core target market (stay at home moms)

2)     They analysed the customer behaviour of this tribe (coffee mornings)

3)     They found a way to attach their product to their behaviours (offering the stay at home moms the opportunity to sell the product)

I believe this is the basis of a powerful growth formula we all can apply, I call it Tribal Growth (note: this is different than Tribal Marketing, where a tribe forms around a product such as Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’ campaign)

Thankfully with the rise of internet, it’s much easier to find tribes of your customers online.

Let’s explore some other companies have done this successfully.

Airbnb’s Tribal Growth Strategy


When Airbnb launched, like so many others, they  initially struggled for growth. To solve this problem, they went out and spoke to their target audience and conducted dozens of interviews.

During this interview process, AirBnB discovered that the majority of their target audience was a tribe of people looking to book holiday rentals and they shared one common behaviour:

So armed with this information, they began exploring how they could attach Airbnb to the actions of this tribe. As they dugdeeper, they discovered that when people were posting to craigslist the photographs were typically very poor quality, a contrast to Airbnb’s photos that were taken by professional photographers, and visually very striking.

The Airbnb team began experimenting around this behaviour…to see if they could ‘attach’ themselves to the Craiglist tribe’s behaviour.

The idea of reposting Airbnb properties(complete with professionally taken photographs) to Craiglist was born. The Airbnb picture was visually more appealing and more people clicked on the photos they were shown (a big ‘click to book’ button did the trick). They were then sent back to where  the transaction took place. It was a labour intensive start initially with a team literally copying and pasting every Airbnb listing to Criaglist, but this soon developed into a more seamlessly integrated one..

Airbnb successfully attached themselves to the tribe’s behaviour:


So let’s reverse engineer what Airbnb did:

1)     They knew their core target market (people renting private holiday homes)

2)     They analysed that customer behaviour of this tribe (Craigslist)

3)     They found a way to attach their product to the behaviour of the tribe (reposting Airbnb listings on to Craigslist)

Before we look at how you can apply this to your business, let’s examine two more quick examples of products successfully using this strategy:


Instagram growth hack

1)     They knew their core target market (social photo sharers)

2)     They analysed that customer behaviour of this tribe (posting and sharing these photos on Facebook)

3)     They found a way to attach their product to the behaviour of the tribe (made it easy to post photos with filters onto Facebook, with a clear link back to Instagram)

Clarity (business to business advice)


1)     They knew their core target market (business owners / entrepreneurs)

2)     They analysed customer behaviour of that tribe (all on Linkedin)

3)     They found a way to attach their product to those behaviours  (When someone became and approved clarity ‘expert’ they received a note recommending they add this to their job roles on Linkedin. What happens when we get a new job title on Linked? Our connections get notified).

Note: Clarity was founded by Dan Martell who I believe is one of the top Growth Marketers out there. He heavily influenced my writing this post through the frameworks he taught me.

How to Apply the Tribal Growth Model to your business?

As we can see there are three core steps to implementing this strategy

1) Finding your Core target audience.

This first step is one of the fundamentals  of marketing (yet 99% of all entrepreneurs I speak to are too busy to get it done). I have written about this  the past and here is another blog post to give you a step by step guide on how to create your persona. Do this now (even if you’re sure you know it already)

A word of warning: Not doing this  thoroughly will negatively affect the follow steps iie. you won’t be able to do them!  

This is your tribe.

2) Find your Tribe’s Behaviours: What are their commonalities?

To figure out where they hang on the line, I recommend this framework as the most powerful you can follow when developing  a growth hacking strategy (props to Dan Martell, the master of Growth Hacking for showing me this framework).

Tribal Growth Channels

Where does your tribe go? (online or in person)

What does your tribe buy? (online, subscriptions or in person)

What does your tribe read? (could also be listen to, or watch)

List 10 answers to each of these. You should now have some answers that pop out at you that are worth exploring further. Circle them.

3) Attach yourself to the tribe’s behaviour:

Now this is the creative bit. By now you should know your audience, and have selected 2 or 3 or your tribe’s behaviours.

Then in your weekly or monthly marketing sessions you should run experiments on how to attach your product to this platform or behaviour. Each channel will be different for every audience, but you will find that if used  correctly, this point ideas should start jumping out of the page.


So in summary we have analysed and seen how successful businesses such as Tupperware, Airbnb, Instagram & Clarity utlised a method called tribal growth channels for rapid expansion and we have explored a clear step-by-step framework for you to apply to your own business.

This is an incredibly powerful marketing framework that almost every business can use.

Try it. I’d love to know how it works for you.

Your turn

Have you successfully experimented with tapping into your customers networks please share it in the comments below.


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