Businesses are often great at what they do - but communicating their qualities to the world is a difficult task.
Before the internet, it was all too easy for companies to speak in megaphone fashion to consumers, reeling in many along the way with a wide reach and a trustworthy appeal simply for being a known brand. In the digital age, this model has been tipped on its head.
Consumers are increasingly sceptical of industry leaders, disloyal to brands, knowledgeable about the products and services they need, and unwilling to be 'talked at'. And, through social media, they listen to one another about which brands are worth caring about - and which are not.
The importance of listening
Those brands that sort out their public image, PR skills and social media game continually lead the way. While they are excellent communicators of their messages, they are also great listeners - constantly asking for feedback, and implementing it.
Allowing Facebook reviews, monitoring mentions of your business on Twitter and soliciting opinions with online surveys and open forums are active ways of garnering feedback.
LinkedIn is another universal tool for almost all industries. For recruiting, networking and seeking investors, LinkedIn can be hugely powerful. My company, TribeFirst, helps organisations connect with their 'tribe' while raising funds, predominantly by running an equity crowdfunding campaign. For every campaign we run, we target our client's first, second and third connections, and engage them well in advance of launch.
Many of these people not only become investors, but part of a loyal tribe that sticks with the company for the long term. Increasingly, the best way to see your ideas succeed and to gain a legion of loyal supporters is to first have them validated by the crowd.
Engaging the crowd
As crowd opinion increasingly gains authority, the perceived wisdom of industry leaders is losing its resonance. In other words, pluralism is overtaking individualism. It won’t be too long before new ideas and brands will suffer if they haven’t first gained the trust of the crowd.
In New Power, the fascinating book by Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, the pair propose that we’re trading 20th-century values for new power values of disintermediation - leaderless movements and crowdsourced ideas.
This is exactly why crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and community platforms are growing faster than other digital channels. They rely on engagement, and primarily on emotional (rather than rational) decision-making, so that people jump on board to bask in the buzz of the feedback loop.
As this new power spirals upward, more SMEs will embrace crowdfunding as a means to engage the crowd early, and see their idea appraised at the same time. This process will also lead the wider crowd to trust in the idea or brand itself. For instance, Monzo, a challenger bank, has been able to overcome the almost impossible task of getting customers to switch their current accounts because they have engaged their tribe through a number of equity crowdfunding campaigns.
Be a communicator
While crowdfunding is a means to raise funds, it is also a powerful communication and listening exercise.
At what other point in your company’s lifetime will you be able to justify the ROI of a mass marketing campaign? During a campaign, each effort is one that, if successful, raises your profile amongst the crowd and amongst investors, and ultimately results in more funds for your business.
Almost every industry can learn a lot from crowdfunding and become better communicators - being more transparent, creating a community of customers and embracing new powers to create positive feedback loops for clients, and thereby creating better experiences.
If you’re looking for new ways to engage with existing and potential customers, or innovative ways to fund your business, start by doing the hard work of building a community, listening to their ideas, and giving them instant feedback to make them feel more like a stakeholder than a client.
Sponsored post. Copyright © 2018 John Auckland, crowdfunding specialist and founder of TribeFirst