Branding is an important part of marketing in the life sciences, as we’ve previously discussed in this blog. The ability to shape and manage the perceptions of your company in the minds of customers is a powerful thing. Simply having strong branding will certainly help your company in a multitude of ways, but you can do even more and leverage your brand to derive even more value from it. One such way is the cultivation of brand champions.
What is a brand champion?
A brand champion is someone who feel strongly about your brand, understands its message, and promotes it to others. You could say that brand champions are the “stewards” of your brand. While brand champions can be any stakeholder, we’re going to focus on customers as brand champions. Having customers as brand champions is of particular value.
How to Cultivate Brand Champions
Every brand champion starts as an enthusiast. Find customers who like your products and / or brand and have given you good feedback or maybe who your support or sales staff have a good relationship with. Pick customers who can identify with and support your brand values and goals. Once these customers are identified, define and execute strategies that improve engagement with those customers on a personal level. Give them that little bit of special treatment. Once your enthusiasts are engaged, be sure you have communicated the brand values to them. While there are many strategies to perform any one of these steps, so long as they are performed you’ll start creating brand champions out of your customer enthusiasts.
Leveraging Brand Champions
Once you’ve cultivated your brand champions you can leverage the value that you have created in doing so. One common way to extract value from your brand champions is by encouraging word-of-mouth marketing. Word-of-mouth marketing is both free and highly effective – your marketing message will be much more readily accepted by scientists when it comes from a colleague. (Curious how you can encourage word-of-mouth marketing among your customers or brand champions? Ask us.)
Brand champions are also great beta-testers. Have a product you’d like user feedback on before a full release? Ask your brand champions if they’d be interested in trying it out. Brand champions can be trusted to provide quality feedback and not be overly negative to colleagues about any flaws or unfinished aspects of your new product.
Testimonials and referrals are also great ways to derive value from brand champions. Scientists are more accepting of other products when they hear positive things from other researchers / customers regarding the quality of the product, the services of the company, etc, and brand champions will much more readily be the customers that flout your benefits to others.
Brand champions will also help you crowdsource. When you need the opinions of your customers, your enthusiastic brand champions will be right there to help you and provide the feedback or perspective you need.
There are more ways to leverage brand champions as well. No matter how you do so, be sure that your brand champions feel good about the interaction with your company and brand. If they begin to feel like they are simply being used or taken advantage of they’ll turn their cheek to your brand and you’ll lose a loyal champion. Don’t let that happen. Be sure your brand champions feel properly rewarded.
Cultivating customers into brand champions requires effort but is highly rewarding. Brand champions can be a strategic advantage to your business and provide unique value to your company that cannot be derived in other ways.