People underestimate the power of “putting a face to the name” when it comes to building brand awareness. Brands often get seen as a product, an image, a lifestyle, but when you tie all these elements to a human representative with a mission, people tend to feel connected and, in turn, more impacted by what your brand represents.
As the Co-Founder of Robo, a consumer 3D printer company in San Diego, CA, I have been on a mission to bring 3D printing to the world since I fell in love with the technology back in 2012 . One thing I think all my customers would tell you is I never miss a chance to be the representative of my brand and industry.
One of the most important things that people should consider when starting a company is who is going to represent the brand. Who is going to be the face? Who is going to be the advocate that people can stand behind as you build your business, story, and mission? It could be yourself, a like-minded influencer, celebrity advocate, or even another member of your team. I’ve put together a list of what can be done to ensure you are building a brand that people can connect with and support.
The magic occurs when people believe in 1) a product, 2) a lifestyle (related to your product), and 3) a human — the trio of brand engagement.
Let’s get to it:
5 ways to humanize your brand and build brand advocates naturally
1. Have a story worth believing in and stay true to it.
When starting a company, you should be able to explain the WHY. Why did you feel inclined to take a leap into the world of entrepreneurship in the given industry? Why did you believe this was the mission you were set to lead? This is the foundation that those around you and more importantly, your audience, your potential customers, need to hear and spread.
We built our 3D printer company out of college as part of a project to make a 3D-printed prosthetic leg. How are we staying true to this original “why”? We now support a group called e-Nable that builds 3D-printed prosthetic hands for kids and to date, we have helped make over 50 3D-printed prosthetics for kids around the world and have helped to get our customers and users onto the foundation.
2. Always be transparent, humble, and likeable.
People who support you want to believe you are doing it for the right reasons, that you are truthful and honest, and that you are actually passionate about what you are doing.
If you are facing issues, be it production, manufacturing, etc., tell your customers. We have been fortunate enough to raise over $1,000,000 in crowdfunding campaigns with our Robo 3D printers but there were times in production where things did not go as planned. I had to be honest and transparent with customers about the reason behind the delays. This ultimately resulted in support, rather than frustration, by customers. We even had customers reaching out asking how they could help.
3. Send personal emails and messages to customers of your product and engage in conversations with them. Be proactive, not reactive.
It is amazing how many companies never communicate directly, on a personal level, with the people that own their products and use their products on a daily basis. If you aren’t reaching out to your supporters on a daily basis, you should be. Ask them for feedback. Be anywhere and everywhere your product is. Don’t be reactive to posts on social; instead, be proactive and ask for feedback. Send personal emails to repeat customers when you have time. Send DM’s on Instagram to users that frequently comment and like your posts, thanking them for the constant support and try and engage a conversation with them.
4. Don’t do social media, be social.
Do live events or simply, post stories on Instagram, so that you are always showing and talking about what you are doing and revealing your passion for your product and interest for your product category PUBLICLY. One thing we do at Robo is every Tuesday and Thursday, I showcase a cool print or project that users can follow along with. It gives me an opportunity to connect with users and answer any questions. People want to feel like they are part of something or contributing to a movement.
5. Embrace early brand ambassadors.
There is always going to be small groups or select individuals that are HUGE advocates of your brand. These people need to be harnessed and utilized. Invite them to your office, talk with them on a regular basis, or offer them free stuff for helping out. Make them feel special for treating your company special.
Lastly, be a subject matter expert and teach your audience ways they can leverage your product or technology. Talk about how your product is going to change the way X does Y, and most importantly, showcase examples of how this is going to happen. Be anywhere and everywhere your product is, whether at a trade show or local event. Always be on the ground floor doing the things that you did when you were a mere team of one or two.
I guarantee, if you do all of the above while building your company, you will find that people will gravitate even more toward your brand. Customers will want to talk about your brand, and ultimately, users will want to share the stories that you share with them. A product is only a product, unless that product can tell a story. When a product becomes a story, that story will resonate from customer to customer. Be human…be your brand…be the outlet to inspire the people that support you.