How to have customers who are stakeholders and brand evangelists
by: John Auckland, TribeFirst
We are seeing a new, deeper relationship developing between people and brands, one born of closer bonds and greater interaction beyond just a purchase. I call individuals in this new movement ‘post-consumers’.
|Post-consumerism will be driven by younger Millennials and Generation Z, the generation growing up now. They’ll make eco-friendly buying decisions insisting on buying goods from companies that refuse to engage in unsustainable practices such as planned obsolescence. They will be sustainers rather than consumers, stakeholders rather than customers, tribes rather than crowds.
How can businesses make sure they appeal to this socially conscious audience which wants long-term relationships with brands?
Creating a community brand
The brands of the future will be tribes. Two favourite community-focused brands of mine are GiffGaff and Monzo, both have built democratisation into their marketing strategies by involving their customers in big decisions.
For example, GiffGaff has used its customers to write, direct and appear in its TV ads. The ethos of their brand is to see customers as their true owners.
Monzo, the challenger bank, has opened up a number of crowdfunding rounds specifically for their customers, allowing them to become part owners in the brand as well as involving their community in every major decision.
Brands like this are leading the way. I predict this will become the norm after the death of the consumer.
Turning customers into investors
One in 10 of us has invested in small UK private companies through equity crowdfunding, and this is growing. It’s also becoming more common for growth companies and medium enterprises to offer shares to their customers.
Challenger stock brokers such as Freetrade are being supported by retailer investor insight platforms like Genuine Impact, allowing DIY investors to make informed and instant decisions about which investments they make.
If you’re a startup or growth company, the best way to get your customers to invest is through an equity crowdfunding campaign. There are plenty of crowdfunding support partners and workshop programmes to take you through the process. Check out Virgin StartUp’s Crowdboost, Crowdcube and Grant Thornton’s Crowdfund Bootcamp or TribeFirst, where we offer a managed service to help companies raise.
If you’d rather sell shares direct to your customers rather than run a public campaign, you can either facilitate this through SeedLegals, or we recommend setting up your own fully licenced, FSA-compliant platform on Envestry.
Open for investment
As a crowdfunding expert I am a huge proponent of equity crowdfunding. However, it can be limiting for companies that wish to be always-open to investment from customers. You can list on a small cap public exchange like AIM or NEX Exchange but that involves the additional cost and admin of a public company.
One reason I’m a big fan of Envestry’s white label solution is that it allows a company to be ‘always on’ for investment, 365 days a year. This allows any brand to be available for its tribe to invest whenever the relationship has reached that stage.
A recent Financial Times feature on crowdfunders searching for the next Facebook or Apple concluded that most investors expected to lose their money. If they win, they win big, however that’s not the primary incentive. Feeling part of something was more of a driver.
An example is Crowdcube alumni Wool and the Gang. Given the option of receiving store credit or their original investment returned most crowdfunding investors opted for the credit.
If you do decide to sell shares to your customers, consider that the post-consumer may want ‘soft dividends’ (exclusive stuff/ insider knowledge/ experiences) instead of just a financial return.
Let them feel special
Reward your investors and best customers with exclusive merchandise or early access. When Monzo ran a crowdfunding round, they gave their investors a sense of status by giving an exclusive ‘investor’ debit card.
Gestures don’t need to be grand. Post-consumers want to tell their mates they were part of something. By giving them the ability to brag, you’re encouraging a culture of authentic word of mouth marketing.
Post-consumers will increasingly buy into a brand’s stories on social media or through the brand’s advocates. Communicate openly to create a transparent culture that will deepen your relationship. Fulfill your post-consumers’ expectations from today onwards!