Don't Just Do the Work. 'Share' the Work -- With the World.
Free Book Preview: Brand Renegades
You’re the leader of a startup, so your life is filled with endless tasks: crafting business plans, designing products, delegating assignments, nurturing opportunities, analyzing data, learning from mistakes. ... Even with all that, you must also make money somehow.
So, the tasks you decide on and the decisions you make can mean the difference between success and failure. It’s a wonder you can sleep at night, let alone do anything else.
Still, if you neglect to show your journey to the public, you could be missing out on authentic connections that could help you build a brand people want to be a part of.
How Amazon shows its journey to the public
Take Amazon, for example. At times, it seems like a massive machine that runs itself. However, it has a special way of encouraging consumers to lean in. The way the brand does this is that it keeps its journey visible to customers and involves them in important evolutionary changes.
Last year, for example, Amazon began a contest to find the perfect location for its new headquarters. The winning city will get the benefit of thousands of jobs, a boost in infrastructure and investments that could transform the community for years to come.
Determining this new location could have been an operation that took place entirely behind closed doors, but Amazon instead documented the contest, which led communities and customers to root for -- and heavily promote -- their locations and follow the journey closely.
Why documenting your early days is important
While you’re probably ready to be done with the crazy adolescent period of your company, this is actually the most fascinating time for potential customers to witness. People want to be a part of the story behind a brand -- to see the blood, sweat and tears that went into building it from the ground up.
Showing that there are real, talented humans behind your brand makes it relatable. Customers can see your values, passions and personality firsthand, meaning that they can identify with your mission. And when people identify with something, they want to be a part of it.
When you connect with customers in this way, you’re providing them with key “emotional motivators,” such as the desire to belong and to feel secure. These emotionally connected customers are much more valuable for your business. They buy more products and recommend your brand to friends.
3 ways to start sharing your brand, even on your busiest days
Obviously, you’re not Amazon; you can’t afford to host a global contest right now. But there’s still plenty you can do to build sharing into your daily practice:
1. Turn your company blog into a scrapbook.
Your blog isn’t just an item to tick off the marketing checklist. It’s a blank canvas, a daily opportunity to show visitors who you are, what you care about. It's a chance to tell your story, specify where you’re headed and display both your sense of humor and your unique voice.
A blog, therefore, is a great space to update your audience about your product, and is an effective approach to collect email addresses and drive traffic to your main website. In fact, according to HubSpot, business-to-consumer companies that blog more than twice a week earn four times as many leads as less active bloggers.
Moreover, a blog is a tool that's softer than outright PR; it's a way to build trust. When you share behind-the-scenes insights and expertise, you cultivate your authority in front of your audience. That's why the best way a company can start to humanize its brand and reach its desired customers is by reflecting the rapport and relationship it holds with its staff. This is considered the "relatable approach."
So, connect with a customer by showing him or her that your brand has a direct impact on a person's life or livelihood. Everyone working with you or for you has a family. Therefore, these people are putting food on the table for someone they care about, and working toward a goal or dream bigger than themselves. Your audience can relate to that.
Think about being inclusive here and sharing the steps you and other team members took along the way, the struggles you weathered and how you've personally surmounted challenges.
2. Get personal and candid on social media.
Companies often "phone in" their social media profiles. They treat them like a free ad in a business directory, merely posting the necessary information and responding to the occasional question or complaint.
In contrast, a company that tops the list when it comes to social media engagement is Dollar Shave Club. This company took a seemingly mundane object -- the razor -- and made it the center of a hilarious universe. The brand creates original, light-hearted posts, such as “Is It Bad to Pluck Nose Hairs With My Fingers?” that feature members of its team; and that makes customers feel that they're a part of a fun club. According to Single Grain, this approach has earned Dollar Shave Club more than 3 million subscribers and 7 percent of the U.S. shaving market.
As for platforms, Facebook and LinkedIn are likely the big, natural ones for your brand, with users voting those platforms their most valued sites. Depending on your audience, Instagram or YouTube might also be great options on which to focus your social media presence. They’re Generation Z’s favorite platforms, and videos and images are known to be popular, engaging types of content.
Why not go further still with your social media and use it as a direct line to the individuals behind your brand? Show what you're up to on a daily basis -- not just with a polished press release but with both the ups and downs of business life. Take your customers by the hand and bring them into your nerve center. They will be excited to be treated like a valued friend rather than a client.
3. Take your company live.
With much of the world now online, live events are an often overlooked strategy for sharing with customers. But according to Bizzabo’s 2018 Event Trends study, veteran marketers believe that live events are the tactic that will be the most effective in the near future. Customers, after all, are suffering from digital burnout. They crave in-person experiences, and your brand can give that to them.
There are lots of events that are pertinent to your industry -- from conferences to focus groups. The key is to find out what aligns with your future goals. Crunchbase, AngelList and Startups.co are all great resources where you can connect with like-minded companies in your area about topics such as hiring, co-working and funding. Forming relationships with key players of charitable events is also a great way to meet investors and grow relationships.
Community service, colleges and startup mixers are all readily available these days. For example, Startup UCLA hosts a startup pitch mixer once a year, and it's an extremely valuable resource. So, check out reference bulletin boards in coffee shops, tap into online industry-specific threads and sign up for newsletters to receive event announcements. Half the battle is being in the know about these opportunities, in order to explore and connect with successful leaders to further the potential for you to eventually host such an event in the future.
While all these actions might feel overwhelming and stressful, this time when you’re building your business from the ground up is too precious not to capture. It’s when you’re creating and evolving at the quickest rate. So, give your customers a backstage pass to witness this evolution. You'll fascinate them and help them connect emotionally with your brand.