How does a strong brand advocacy impact business development?
When people talk about business development, all kinds of scenarios come to mind, from the person selling you a pair of shoes to the customer service representative asking you to participate in a survey to the cliche of the used car salesman. Everyone in your organization is involved in business development, regardless of title and role; this is where business development and brand advocacy intersect.
What is Brand Advocacy?
Let’s start with defining what brand means.
“A brand is the way a product, company, or individual is perceived by the audience that engages with it. It’s more than a name, a logo, a tagline, or a product – it’s the emotional connection that the audience feels as a result of experiencing it.” Chris Heaton, CEO, MCCI
Straightforward description; there is nothing new or particularly earth-shattering in the clarity of this statement. Its strength is its simplicity. Things get sticky when your company doesn’t have a defined, fully articulated brand. If you think you have a clear brand message, ask your sales personnel to explain your brand beyond your tagline. You may be surprised at the number of responses and how they differ. You may ask, how is that possible? We have a tagline, logo, and a known name. What is frequently overlooked is the understanding that brands are intangible. You can see a logo- the brand-ing, but you can’t see a brand. Just because you’ve created messaging doesn’t mean the right audience is receiving it.
Creating or refining your brand is as much about your client or customer as your organization. To advocate for your brand in your business development efforts, you must fully understand your current and desired audiences, the market, your competitor, where you are in that market compared to your competitors, and your value proposition. You believe you’ve done all of that. You have encyclopedia knowledge of your audience or so you think. You have demographic data, including age, gender, socio-economics, race, geography, etc., and you know you can reach them in a particular channel, place, or time yet you can’t seem to connect with your customers. Do you really understand the emotional drivers that motivate your potential customer to interact and buy? Ask yourself, what is the purpose of my brand? What am I trying to achieve and why? Once you’ve answered why, ask why again, then repeat.
Without understanding the why of your brand, tactical activation will be undermined.
Marketing activities become things to do on a list instead of the next steps in your strategic initiative. Initiatives are defined by asking Why, then How, and What— is your brand’s purpose.
Now that we’ve discussed the meaning of brand, let’s address how advocacy lends itself to business development.
: the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal: the act or process of advocating (see ADVOCATE entry 2) something
Your branding becomes more robust when you understand the purpose behind your whys. It represents that feeling we referred to at the beginning of this blog. There’s meaning behind your selected colors and the visual identity ascribed to your company. The logo attributed to your brand starts to bring value beyond your product. When these things align, your business development messaging becomes more authentic. Your employees represent your organization with genuine representation because they fully understand your values. It takes the sales out of business development and replaces it with conversations and relationship building because both parties understand the purpose behind what your company does. Strong brand advocacy then leads to a strong brand identity. With brand identity comes brand equity.
Once you have brand equity, you’ve crossed into a new level of business development where your audience begins advocating for you. You’ve built a relationship between your brand and your audience based on an emotional response to your brand’s purpose. Brand advocacy IS business development.