Chris King is smarter than you and me.
Chris King, the component maker, is smarter than you and me and a lot of other folks.
Not only has King Cycle Group quietly built a reputation for creating innovative and lust-worthy parts since the first headsets in 1976, but King has also been very successful in building a very, very loyal group of happy customers who have become evangelists for the brand. This cult will spend hours telling you how smooth the bearings are, how precise the freehub mechanism is or how sturdy the hub shells are. Give them the chance and they will talk to you for days. King is unapolagetic about the fact that their parts cost more than most. They back it up with the fact that the parts are so reliable and nearly infinitely rebuildable. Amazing products actually.
It isn't the parts that makes them so smart though. King has a reputation for giving their followers what they want- great product and a reason to love and support those products. That is the magic.
This week, my inbox had an email in it from Chris (The CD) DiStefano. Chris used to be the official voice of Shimano, another parts maker (some would say THE parts maker since they control the bulk of the world market for bicycle parts). Now Chris plies his trade for King Cycle Group. Chris sent me an email about the fact that they will be hosting daily viewings of Tour de France race action all the way through the event. This is the third year that King has done this and is likely not going to be the last. Not only are they hosting the daily coverage review in a local Portland favorite brew pub, but they are taking donations for the Lance Armstrong Foundation and matching those donations "dollar for dollar up to $3,000". How cool is that? Combining a great way to give a little something back to the local cycling community and King fanatics with raising funds for a great cause. Pure genius!
This is precisely the kind of community building that helps King remain as strong as they are in the market. It isn't just about the incredible products they make or the very "green" way they run their business. They make smart choices when it comes to building a reason for the loyal followers to remain loyal. They have a very cult-like following and they reach out to that cult and do good things.
Here's the lesson in all of this; marketing isn't all about why your product is better than your competitor's product (because they likely have an equally solid reason for why it isn't), but it is very much about building community. A community of loyal fans who will go out and support your product and get other people to do the same. Give them a reason, whether altruistic or otherwise, to support the product and then embrace them for doing it. Sounds like common sense maybe, but it isn't always so easy to understand or execute.
The folks at King are doing a great job of it though and deserve to get a little recognition for it.
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser
(Editor's note; it should be pointed out that Chris DiStefano is a friend of mine. He isn't paying me to speak highly of King or even asking me to do so. In fact, he hasn't even sent me that set of red road hubs I have lusted after for the past 10-12 years. Now that I think about it, he hasn't done a darned thing for me at all... and now I'm starting to reevaluate that whole "friend" thing.)
Posted by Tim Jackson at 8:50 PM