What Makes A Supporter Support?

Have you ever wondered why some of the people you know are willing to support you and others are not? Over the past year, I certainly have. I realized that, regardless of how great your products or services are, or how sophisticated and well-executed your marketing strategy is, or how amazing you are as a person, there will just be some people in your circle who will not contribute to your vision.

As I celebrate the first anniversary of SAM LEA, I reflect on the many times that I have considered my support base and ways to expand it. Recent worldwide events related to the movement for racial equality and social justice have ushered in a new wave of support, particularly for small Black-owned businesses. Despite the trendiness of "buying Black," there will still be some businesses that will not be able to garner the level of support needed to advance to a sustainable place in the market. Understanding that support can be expressed in many forms, ranging from a shared social media post to mere words of encouragement, helped me to see the value in even the slightest gesture. However, the reality is, businesses need paying customers to be successful, and attracting loyal customers — even within your own social circle — can be challenging. Personal connections do not always guarantee support; potential patrons must first buy into your vision before they are willing to part with their hard-earned cash.

In my experience, I have learned that a variety of factors can motivate a person to support or, in some cases, not support your business. So, the question is, what makes a supporter support? I have identified several supporter “types” and behaviors that I have encountered during my journey. I hope my insight and experience helps you in some way.

The Unconditional Supporter

The Unconditional Supporter is likely someone who knows you personally and genuinely wants to see you succeed. Unconditional Supporters are among the first to purchase or promote your business and may be a close family member or friend. This supporter may also occupy a very meaningful position within your social circle, an area reserved for your most intimate relationships. However, this is also the area where you are most likely to begin re-examining some of those relationships. There may be times when you expect to look into the crowd and see all familiar faces cheering from the sidelines, but you may discover that a few important faces are missing. This can be disheartening for a budding entrepreneur, but the benefit is you will be able to identify those within your circle who are cheering for you and those who are not. Fortunately, this can be detected somewhat early on in your journey, and the sooner you can determine who is who, the sooner you can adjust your expectations and manage your relationships accordingly. Try not to allow anyone's absence to distract you from appreciating those who are committed to your success. Stay motivated and remain focused.

The Conditional Supporter 

Similar to the Unconditional Supporter, the Conditional Supporter is also capable of being committed to your success; the difference is, you will have to earn their support. They must be able to attest to the quality and integrity of your products or services before publicly endorsing your business. There may be underlying reasons why your word or personal relationship is not enough to win them over but once you do, you can expect them to sing your business' praises. The fact that you may have to work harder to gain their support is not necessarily a bad thing. As your business grows, most of your customers will not know you on a personal level and Conditional Supporters will essentially prepare you to manage the expectations of those new, less familiar relationships.

Although Unconditional Supporters can also help you establish credibility and prepare you for the unknowns, Conditional Supporters are less motivated by personal connections and, therefore, more likely to offer the kind of objective feedback that you will need to improve your business and expand your customer base. In my experience, this supporter is essential to your business' growth and development. Consider them an asset to your journey.

The Opportunist Supporter

The most important thing to know about an Opportunist Supporter is you will only get support from them for one reason and one reason only – their benefit. It is all about what they stand to gain from supporting your business however, the irony is that they actually do believe in your ability to achieve success. They see their patronage as an opportunity to advance their own agenda; the "clout chasers" of the group who will strategically attach themselves to anything or anyone who can elevate their social or professional status.

In my experience, the Opportunist Supporter is the most pernicious of all the types because of their ability to mask themselves as Unconditional Supporters. They will go to any extent to appear to be genuine, which makes them difficult to detect. However, the challenge for them is standing the test of time. In the words of Rob Hill Sr., "Time exposes weak bonds," and after a while, their act will be a difficult one to keep up. Be sure to watch out for the red flags of opportunism.

The Bandwagon Supporter

Have you ever heard a person be accused of "jumping on the bandwagon"? Well, a person who jumps on the bandwagon can essentially be equated to a follower or even a copycat. Much like the term's general meaning, a Bandwagon Supporter is someone who supports you only because of the support you receive from others. In the world of social media, this behavior is quite common. For example, some people will only interact with you on the platforms when a particular person (or group of people) interact with you. Some may attribute these selective interactions on algorithms and timeline settings but, in some cases, I see it as "bandwagoning". Bandwagon Supporters will monitor your progress via your social media connections and observe who is supporting you and to what extent. Based on this insight, they choose to patronize or, sometimes, not patronize your business. I can only speculate what motivates this behavior, but I have found that people who seek external validation or lack confidence in their judgment, rely on others for ideas and opinions.

Bandwagoners' unwillingness to think and act independently can potentially be harmful to a business, especially if they decide to jump on the bandwagon of your less genuine supporters. Because their opinions are based on someone else's judgment, regardless of how accurate or inaccurate it is, Bandwagon Supporters will sanction it, thus increasing the likelihood of perpetuating unsubstantiated, unfavorable claims. As many of us know, negative reviews can be very damaging to a business, and this type of supporter is more likely to spread unproven information that may not shed the best light on your business. Accurate, fact-based information should be the basis for formulating our opinions to avoid the possibility of spreading untruthful rumors and misinformation.

The Check the Box Supporter

As I mentioned earlier, support for small Black-owned businesses have received a considerable amount of publicity in recent months. Now would be the time that a business would see its largest support from this type. The Check the Box Supporters are those who are likely to make one purchase, or attend one event, or share a post for the sake of giving the appearance of advocacy. For them, it is more about politics and appearances and less about your business' success. Unfortunately, there will always be Check the Box Supporters but, the potential to gain their genuine, lasting support does exist. Investing in tools that can improve your customer retention rate can greatly impact your ability to generate long-term support and solidify your business' longevity. With the right approach, you can turn any one-time buyer into a lasting patron.

The Non-Supporter

Last, but certainly not least, you have the Non-Supporter. They would rather wait for hell to freeze over before they make a contribution of any kind to your business. However, do not fret, they cannot stop your progress even if they try. Everyone will not be destined to accompany you on your journey and there will always be those who will not support you for whatever the reason. Fortunately, we live in a world filled with people who are supportive and see your success as a benefit to humanity. Some may argue that any support is good but, regardless of one's intentions or reasons for not endorsing your business, you are the master of your fate. Stay encouraged, be nimble, always extend impeccable customer service, take nothing personal and, most importantly, keep reaching for the stars.

As with all of my posts, I hope this helps you in some way. I wish you the best of luck and please stay safe.

All the best,


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