People-brands hold the key to competitive advantage
You've had a bright idea, given what feels like endless hours of thought to your business and worked on your company mission statement, which will shape culture and guide commercial activities. You've pulled the business plan together, developed a marketing strategy for the year ahead and set the company's revenue targets to deliver incremental growth. You can pitch your product or service; you know who your customer is but who are you? And what matters to you and your team? Where's the plan that guides your activities as a business owner, as an industry thought leader, or as a diverse collective of human beings?
People love to hear about the humans behind the business and by bringing individuals to the forefront of your marketing activities you create transparency, inclusivity, and depth of understanding. Marketing a product, service or business with diverse human voices is far more meaningful and impactful than doing it without them. And this people-led approach creates space for consumers to establish rapport, develop brand trust and demonstrate loyalty. Whether you're a company of one, a small business or a global organisation, the same idea applies - people prefer to connect and buy from people.
Simply put, showcasing your business isn’t enough. Competition will arise in any space that has margins for profit and when it does, your commercial strategies must be better than those around you and this is where 'people brands' can offer competitive advantage. Wherever there’s a business, there’s a person and when you put founder or employee influencers in the marketing mix, you add value to your offering.
Showcasing the inspiration behind commercial activities and by taking consumers on a journey with you is an open invitation for others to feel part of something and by embracing this methodology you will showcase your business in a more appealing, approachable, and engaging way.
Activate in-house influencers
Bring your brand to life by shining a spotlight your team (or yourself if you’re working solo) and reveal the faces and stories behind the product or service. The best spokespeople and cheerleaders are likely to already be working in the business so when you’re on the search for influencers; look within, develop what you’ve got and co-collaborate for mutual benefit.
From a company marketing perspective, this could include an interview series with key people, either on social media or a company podcast, where your audience gets a behind the scenes glimpse of the processes, outcomes, or culture. When selecting your in-house ambassadors; variety and diversity works best - the most senior people aren't always the ones who have the most engaging voices or the greatest impact.
It’s important for individuals to be authentic to their personal, leadership or career brand (you’re not creating company mouthpieces here!), but it’s your responsibility to inform them about your message, mission and top-down sales and marketing goals so that they have the insight to keep any company-related conversations on-brand. This strategy works best when there is an open-ended, two-way dialogue as opposed to a one-off briefing document sitting in someone’s inbox!
Confidence is the foundation of success
Before charging enthusiastically into an influencer programme roll-out, it’s important to take a moment to step into the shoes of others. It a fantastic thing when a company is willing to shine a light on their people but not everyone (including you!) might be comfortable stepping into that spotlight. People often hide behind the comfort zone of 'professional' but professional doesn't necessarily make interesting content, nor does it mean that people can’t be themselves.
People are not an extension of the company, they’re individuals who add value and they will need to develop their confidence alongside an approach which feels aligned to their personality and values. Career and leadership brand programmes co-created with an external provider and in-house sales or marketing teams, deliver increased impact and ROI, they also deliver outcomes that are mutually beneficial and fair - from experience, the inclusion of a third party encourages people to be more truthful and trusting, which positively impacts their personal development and the overall success of the project.
Confidence, collaboration, and an approach that’s tailored to fit the different personalities, characters and skillsets within the organisation are all key ingredient that are essential for this mix to rise!
Influence is here to stay, so are your people and customers
Social media was originally created to connect people and help them exchange ideas. This has evolved into a beneficial tool for companies across the globe, revolutionising the way businesses share information and allowing audience interaction in a way that wasn’t previously possible.
Outlining the advantages of working for the company while giving the team a chance to be the ones with a voice, can be a powerful recruitment and retention tool. People want to work, and more importantly stay, at companies where they’ll develop and grow, where they feel that their work is valued and showcased and where they can attract aligned opportunities.
Regardless of who your audience are, they want human connection. People will get behind businesses that value and invest in their teams, who support causes that matter to people and that deliver positive impact for society and the wider world. Good intentions can often get lost in fast-paced, profit-driven, time poor environments, but companies don’t have to do this alone and they can choose to move away from box ticking exercises and instead amplify the voices of people, and the things that are important to them, on company platforms.
Social proof is a powerful thing and the benefits of speaking positively of something or someone are bigger than many of us realise. If it’s not something you do already, start those conversations around how you can showcase culture, values, and personality by positioning your employees, teams, or yourselves as the ones with a voice. Get people talking about your company and those who work there because your business, products or services don’t sell themselves, people do.
In summary, Founders, executive teams, and employees are so much more than their job title; they are the sales, the marketing, the product, the service, and the bottom line - they are the business. When you’re brave enough to be bold, to stand for something and to showcase other people in an authentic, genuine, and effective way it creates an inclusive, healthy culture and people feel part of something bigger than themselves, which in turn generates a mutually beneficial advantage for your company, for those who work there and for the people who buy from you.