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Unveiling Brand Champions: Identifying and Nurturing Advocates

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Marketing is not just about generating sales, but also about the deep, long-term work of building a brand that customers identify with. But getting your brand to a place where it grows easily and consistently attracts the right customers can be a difficult journey - one that's easier and quicker to navigate with brand champions on your team. In this article, we'll discuss what exactly brand champions are, some of their most common traits, and strategies you can use to find and nurture these amazing people.

What is a Brand Champion?

A brand champion is a person who loves your brand and isn't afraid to show it! This could be a dedicated employee or a loyal customer. This person understands and believes in your company's values. You have an intuitive sense of what would advance your business. If it's a customer, they might be talking about your business on social media, writing reviews, and telling their friends about your products or services. As employees, they actively participate in meetings, support their colleagues and suggest new ideas. In short, these are the people you want to attract to your brand, whether internal or external.

Why are brand champions important?

Today's consumers are bombarded with advertising and other corporate messages every moment of the day. We spend an increasing amount of our time online, where information overload is omnipresent and advertising is omnipresent. Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to figuring out whether they have fallen for a marketing campaign. They are tired, suspicious, skeptical and looking for brands they trust.

Brand Champions share authentic messages supporting brands and their values. This authenticity works wonders against the tired cynicism so many consumers feel and helps them internalize your brand's most important messages. Of course, it's in your best interest to find and support these brand advocates so they can continue to speak out and benefit your brand and your bottom line.

We cannot downplay the importance of external brand champions in the form of engaged, enthusiastic customers. But internal brand champions—employees who champion your company, drive progress, and work hard toward that vision every day—are just as important to any company's mission. On the one hand, their presence can be used as a barometer for the work culture and employee well-being. How easy or difficult is it to identify brand champions on your team or elsewhere in the company? This alone can be an indication of how your employees are doing and whether you are on the right track in building a strong culture.

Internal brand champions also help motivate their employees. Collaborating with colleagues is one of the joys of work, and working with people who are so passionate about progress can put an exhausted employee back in the mood for everyday life.

How to identify and build brand champions

If you can identify your company's brand champions, you can encourage them and give them the resources they need to reach more people. So how do you find these brand rock stars to recognize for their good work? And once you find them, how do you nurture them and make the most of their passion for your company?

Check your employees' performance.

(Without this type of control, it is also difficult to keep employees happy and productive). If your company doesn't have an employee performance appraisal system, you should start with it. If so, look for employees who have consistently received good reviews. Employees who are or may become brand ambassadors are generally praised for their enthusiasm, hard work, and creative problem-solving. But don't just limit your search to formal employee reviews - also ask yourself who consistently goes above and beyond the scope of work. You may also want to look at data about who is recognized most often in your company to find people who consistently do great work.

Collaborate with customer support or social media representatives.

It can be a little more difficult to find out who the brand champions are outside of your company because you don't have the same amount of information about them. But there are a few strategies you can use. We recommend asking your customer support and social media management staff if they have noticed any customers who are particularly passionate. These employees come into daily contact with customers as part of their normal business activities. They've probably noticed when a customer writes an email with positive feedback or when an influencer posts about your product a few times.

Set or clarify expectations.

Use our list of brand champion traits that we shared earlier in this article to clarify what exactly you want from a brand champion. You can (and should!) adjust your expectations to match your company's values and priorities. Is your current focus on increasing sales? Focus on external brand champions with rapidly growing audiences who can promote your products or services to potential customers. Instead, focus on creating a coherent brand? Identifying internal brand champions who have a sixth sense for the company message might be the best way to go.

Recognize and reward brand champions.

Brand champions work hard for your brand because they truly believe in your company and its values. If you want to capitalize on this enthusiasm, recognize and reward these people's work. They may not write positive online reviews or actively participate in meetings in hopes of receiving material rewards, but recognition can go a long way toward ensuring brand ambassadors continue their good work.

Ask for feedback.

People who genuinely care about the future of your brand may occasionally have critical feedback to offer. Whether it's a bad experience with one of your products or a conflicting opinion about the direction of a particular sales strategy, brand champions sometimes have a contrary opinion. If you want to benefit from the work they do to support and promote your brand, you should also pay attention to their critical feedback. It can help you identify areas for improvement. Feedback from people who are truly invested in the future of your brand is priceless, and showing them that you care enough to listen to them will make future collaborations even more positive.

Create incentives for engagement.

Don’t just reward brand ambassadors when they make a contribution you value. You can also be proactive and create incentives to get them to contact you. For example, you could host a contest and offer entry to those who talk about your brand on social media using a specific hashtag. Or you could send out a survey to employees who participated in a specific project and offer them an additional day of vacation if they complete the survey. Regardless of what you choose, it's important to create incentives to keep your brand champions fully committed to your brand.

Take time to think.

Brand champions are not people to be used and discarded when it is convenient for the company. These are real people who voluntarily contribute their creativity to a company. Your contributions are a gift, and they should be treated as such - especially brand champions who are also employees of the company. Their expertise and enthusiasm are irreplaceable. As you work to connect with them and make the most of their insights, think about how you can show gratitude and support in return.

Be a brand people talk about.

Maybe it goes without saying, but an important way to ensure your customers and employees are invested in your company's success is to be a brand worth maintaining. What are the values of your brand and how do you promote these values with concrete measures? Are your products or services as good as they can be? Do they solve your customers’ problems? Do you treat your customers well? These are the things that build brand loyalty and cultivate the brand champions you are looking for.

How to Leverage Brand Champion Marketing

Once you've identified your company's internal and external brand champions, leverage their input and expertise to make your brand shine. Below are some tips on how to use Brand Champion Marketing in your business.

Focus on the people who love the work your brand does.

Find the people who care about your brand and put them in the spotlight. They already know your brand's message and values inside out - they just need a platform to express themselves. Interview them, feature them on your social media or in your email newsletters, mention them in company communications, let them have their say on your website - give them a larger audience so they can to share what they are already feeling.

Offer referral and affiliate programs.

You could also introduce a referral or affiliate program where employees or customers receive a small bonus every time someone signs up or makes a purchase using their link. These tools are not only suitable for influencers or people with a large online following, but also for everyday people, and brand ambassadors who care about your business can bring you a lot of business with the help of affiliate programs.

Ask for reviews and ratings.

Positive testimonials and reviews strengthen a company's ethos. You can increase the trust of potential customers by asking your brand ambassadors to submit a testimonial or write a review on your website. These things may seem insignificant, but for potential customers who are deciding whether or not to trust your company, these endorsements can make all the difference.

Reward the right messages.

Reinforcing the messages of your brand ambassadors is certainly an important part of this type of marketing, but rewards and recognition programs are important too. Some people appreciate gratitude shown in a very public form (e.g. on a brand social media account) more than others. So be open to how you can reward your brand ambassadors for their contributions. How about a giveaway or prize? For employees, you can consider a bonus or even a raise. Rewards go a long way in increasing team morale and employee well-being.

Research has shown that positive reinforcement is an extremely effective method of incentivizing behavior. People subconsciously evaluate the potential value of rewards they could receive when deciding how hard to work on a particular task. Simply put, you can't afford not to reward your brand ambassadors for their work - especially when they're employees who go above and beyond. A rewards and recognition platform makes it easy to introduce, track, and manage a formal employee recognition program in any company.

Brand champions are the heartbeat of your brand, fueling its growth and success. Empower them with recognition and support using IceHrm's tools, and watch your brand thrive!

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