If you’re in the thick of raising capital, worrying about who’s running their mouth about your brand and what they’re saying might not be top of mind. Brand is something you can focus on after you secure the cash you need, right?
While we’re certainly fans of staying focused, we think there might be a way to make those dollars coming in the door play double duty. What if raising a round didn’t have to be completely disconnected from running a company? Maybe raising capital can go hand in hand with creating brand ambassadors.
What exactly constitutes a “brand ambassador” though? Today we’re hitting up the old Merriam-webster for a little help. Amongst other things, they define Brand as “a public image, reputation, or identity conceived of as something to be marketed or promoted” in other words, “something worth talking about.” And ambassador? “an authorized representative or messenger”
But here’s where it gets interesting… just below “authorized” you’ll find “an unofficial representative” And isn’t that the hard truth? Just like an unruly football fan can shape your view of a university and a bad waiter can dictate your restaurant experience, the brands around you are often being represented whether they’ve paid for it or not. A consumer’s view of a brand is usually dictated more by what they see and hear from people OUTSIDE the company than what the company says themselves.
So if people are going to talk about your brand anyways, why go through the trouble of getting “authorized” ambassadors?
1 – Aligned storytelling – Investing gives you (the business owner) input into how they tell your story. This input isn’t about control, it’s about clarity. When customers talk about brands they love, they tend to do it in their own language, using their own descriptions and highlighting their own versions of what makes your company awesome. While this can be a great insight into how your customer thinks, it doesn’t always translate into effective communication about the value you’re creating.
Having customers that double as investors creates alignment about how your story gets told and how your product gets represented in the community. This can turn a bad game of telephone into a walking talking billboard. One that actually says what you want it to. Why? Because they have a much more intimate view into your business. They’re not just sold on your product, they’re bought in on you and your vision for the venture. But how do they know all this?
2 – Open communication – Investing creates an open line of communication. This communication starts with the live offering and can extend after the close of the campaign as long as the Issuer (Founder/Developer/Business Owner) continues to engage their investors. As soon as the campaign goes live, would-be investors can take a deep dive on the business reading all about the vision, revenue model and high level financials. Then they can ask questions, either in the Q&A section of the page or in a live session with the issuer.
Once the campaign ends, the investors can receive regular communication from the owners, including status updates, product releases and future plans that foster long-term or repeat engagement There’s nothing that encourages customers to spread the word quite like getting an email reminding them of their financial stake in a company.
3 – Put the work in network – Of course, let’s not forget the obvious. Brand ambassadors aren’t just for helping you sell your services, they can also help sell your stock! (or convertible notes, revenue sharing notes, etc.) Fundraising is hard. New regulations allow your entire network to help you with the job, so why not let them? Your biggest fans can help you raise the capital you need both now and in the future.
4 – Weighty words – Lastly, an investment gives weight to words being spoken about you. While the belligerent fan in the bar isn’t a great look for the university’s name plastered across his chest, the alumni tailgate tent is a much weightier reflection. Why? The simple fact of ownership. One owns a t-shirt, the other owns a diploma. One invested a few weekends, the other invested 4 years.
If you were moving to a new city who would you rather talk to someone who vacationed there once or someone who’s lived there for 3 years? When people buy-in, their referrals aren’t just more frequent, they mean more.
An investment won’t magically turn people into loudspeakers, but it does provide a little motivation to get loud. Getting capital to run your business is often assumed, but given the right focus and perspective, you have the potential to turn your investors into a powerful, long-term force for your business.