The art of engagement is a difficult one to master, it involves a lot of planning and consumer research to ensure you are targeting the correct groups of people with whatever message you aim to portray. Nevertheless, there are some key steps that you must consider when aiming to influence stakeholders. These will allow you to get your stakeholders fully engaged, knowledgeable about your mission and interested in the product or service that you aim to inform them about.
Who Are Your Stakeholders?
Before you can work to engage and influence your stakeholders you need to identify them. This may seem obvious but there are many stakeholders that you could miss if you do not target them correctly. The term stakeholder means a person with an interest in something, this broad ideology is relevant when considering your own stakeholder groups.
It is important to recognise those stakeholders that are more relevant to your success and target them, however you should not forget about the stakeholders that may seem far-removed.
Picture any well-known business and their own stakeholder reach, the obvious stakeholders would be their customers, staff and suppliers. These businesses have a duty to keep these stakeholders happy, but their products or services could be affecting the wider community they operate in, they must appease the media and be aware of their impacts on interest groups. It would be idiotic to believe that only your customers or your sponsors are shareholders and to always evoke encouraging engagement and influence you must adhere to all.
The key to any positive engagement or desired influence is communication. Keeping your stakeholders in the know about your next product drops, or new services available give them the chance to share their opinions on them. As many businesses operate both physically and online a lot of communication is shared through both outlets and through social media and marketing.
There are various ways to communicate, all your stakeholders are different, they need to be addressed through their most favourable outlet. If you are communicating information to a younger generation the use of social media, giveaways and celebrity endorsement may be the way that you influence their buying decisions and spark engagement. If you are aiming to communicate to an older, male generation then possibly using email marketing, television advertisements and newspaper or magazine ads will be the best way to spark their interest.
After you have identified your stakeholders and communicated your offerings to them it is time to build a relationship with them. This is coined as re-marketing, but in essence is a form of relationship building. For your more influential stakeholders, such as customers or employees you may use a money saving benefit for engage them and influence their buying patterns, such as employee discount or a store card.
To build the relationships of your sponsors, the media and certain interest groups you may offer exclusive events, PR packages or for some to become brand ambassadors. This way their own engagement will influence the wider stakeholder group to engage with the brand. There are many ways to build a relationship with your stakeholders, it is important to understand how to engage a wider audience to improve your businesses influence in the wider community.
Involvement in Decision Making and Planning
On of the best ways to engage and influence your audience is to involve them with business decisions and use their input whilst planning. All businesses do this at some stage in product development, no matter how minuet their involvement is, however if a business was to broadcast this through marketing then stakeholder engagement levels would rise.
A great example of this can be see in the snack world, businesses that are adopting new flavours of chips or dips often release all their ideas and get their consumers to choose which ones they like the most through their sales, or via voting polls. This engages customers which are loyal to the brand and influences beneficial spending behaviours for the business.
Learn from Stakeholders
To effectively engage and influence all of your stakeholders you need to listen to them and learn from them. After you have identified who they are, how to attract them and have built relationships with them you must continue to learn from them. With a continual communication thread and understanding of what your stakeholders expect and want, businesses can keep on adhering to their needs.
Learning from stakeholders can be done both overtly or covertly, either by using data they have through sales or actively sparking discussions and focus groups with them. Communication alone, whilst important, is not enough to see a change in stakeholder engagement and influence businesses must learn from the information they receive. This can be done in many ways, each of which effective based on how the data collected is used and implemented into the business.
Ultimately, the success of your business relies on the engagement and influence of your stakeholders. The steps above will help you to cultivate your audience, adhere to worthy stakeholders and ensure that the people you hope to engage and the stakeholders you would like to influence, will.
Whilst there are various other actions that can enable stakeholder engagement and influence, these are universal to all businesses. These can be adopted by all but will still have a positive influence on your stakeholders, encourage them to engage and hope for these businesses to increase customer sales.
Previously the main business of a business was to focus on the business, now that focus has moved to stakeholder engagement and influencing positive stakeholder relationships. It is important to remember this when developing any business idea, product or service in the future.