The thoughts below pertain to a smaller business, however all of the strategy listed scales well for any sized company that wants to continue to create passion and loyalty for what they do. The larger the group, the harder it is to gain and keep those individuals excited about your efforts, as you have less and less personal control over it.
For a smaller business like a barn, where you have a full schedule and hopefully full stalls, you interact with these individuals frequently, share personal information and struggles. If someone believes in what you offer, trusts your judgment and has enough fun with you and your team, that they are jumping on the chance to wear your logo in public, or refer your business to a friend or colleague you have a brand champion. It’s an emotional connection with your company. I’m not referring to social media followers or a paid affiliation in this sense, but the connection that grows over time with trust building, the alignment of values and shared experiences.
For this instance, I’m keeping “brand champion” separate from “brand ambassador” as ambassadors have an existing agreement to actively promote your company. (See our separate article on ambassadors)
How do you really know who your brand champions are? In a smaller group, you can tell how people interact with you and your staff if they make referrals on your behalf or if they agree to give you a. In a larger setting, I recommend a customer survey once a year to take a pulse on what is happening that you may not be aware of. There should not be any surprises if you are on top of things, and it gives you the opportunity to learn about how your customer base feels regarding a variety of things.
I’m referring to customers and clients in this sense, but you should look at your employees who are also living and breathing your company. In the equestrian world, this applies even more than most 9-5 situations, where 12-18 hour days can be normal and expected.
So what now?
Firstly, if you know who these people are already, feel fabulous that this group exists for you. Go on, I’ll wait here while you pat yourself on the back.
Secondly, think about how you can keep the love moving. Yes, a little strategy here goes a long way. Here are some things to consider…
Think about ways to recognize individuals. Feature your brand champions on your website or social media channels. If you have a budget that allows, even a small gift is appreciated. How about a small nod at a year-end event?
Testimonials. People in this group are likely to be willing to give a sparkling testimonial on your behalf. These go a very long way in helping potential customers determine to pick up the phone or shoot you an email inquiry.
Probe for ways to improve. Coffee, anyone? Find out where things are going well, and where things might be improved.
Feature these folks in advertising, as guest bloggers, or in a product photo shoot.
Never underestimate the power of a “Thank you.” Self-explanatory, but often forgotten as we rush on to our next appointment, child pick-up, class or to make dinner. In fact, if more people took the 1.5 seconds to just say thank you, the world would be a nicer place as a whole. Have an extra 5 minutes? Send a written thank you. You’ll surprise the heck out of someone and definitely make their day a better one.
For more ways to juice up your program and branding efforts, contact Full Gallop directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit – Dark Horse Image
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda MacDonald is the founder of Full Gallop Communications and an occasional dressage rider, mare whisperer and greyhound collector. With almost 20 years of corporate marketing experience, she loves to help problem-solve for equestrian businesses that need to improve marketing, branding, marketing planning or strategy. Amanda is usually found working with her greyhound, Flynn, and two lurking office cats.