A company needs to listen to its customers in order to improve and stay ahead of the curve. John Auckland, crowdfunding specialist and founder of TribeFirst, explains how to find out what your 'tribe' wants.
Consumers are increasingly skeptical of industry leaders, disloyal to brands, are well-researched in the products and services they need, and not willing to be talked at. And through social media, they listen to one another about which brands are worth caring about, and which are not.
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.
These new behaviours are natural effects of the digital age, and companies that want to survive, and indeed thrive within it, must embrace these fresh practices.
Active listening is just that – actively seeking out what consumers are saying about not just your business, but about your competitors, and your industry in general. This can be done via social media platforms and other online tools.
When it comes to your own business, 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.
If difficult conversations or comments about your business crop-up online, engage with the person and take the conversation offline and out of the public comments box.
LinkedIn is another universal tool for almost all industries. For recruitment, networking, seeking financiers and 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.
As the crowd increasingly becomes the zeitgeist, the perceived wisdom of industry leaders loses its resonance. In other words, pluralism is overtaking individualism. It won’t be too long before all new ideas and brands will not be trusted if they haven’t first gained the trust of the crowd.
This is, of course, just a prediction, but I’m not the only one theorising this radical shift. 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.
New power, they argue, is replacing old systems because the digital landscape allows for instant, positive feedback loops. Ideas and content can snowball online through a continual appraisal process of likes, shares and upvotes. Pass the viral test, and the content creator knows they’ve excelled, and have brought the crowd along with them.
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.
Ditch the gatekeeper
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, 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.
Communicators are open and transparent, while gatekeepers are the opposite:
So, 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.
John Auckland is a crowdfunding specialist and founder of TribeFirst, a global crowdfunding communications agency that has helped raise in excess of £5m for over 30 companies on platforms such as Crowdcube, Seedrs, Indiegogo and Kickstarter – with a greater than 85% success rate.
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