For nearly any organization, creating and maintaining an identifiable and strong brand is integral to success. The brand is your company’s ambassador to the population – it waves the flag for you, it tells the market what your brand is all about and it creates an association in the minds of your consumers. The best brands become virtual synonyms for the products they represent: Band-Aid is a brand name, but more people looking for adhesive bandages will ask for one by name. iPod has become synonymous with MP3 player. By raising brand awareness, your company will flourish.
But how do you create that degree of brand identification? Advertising helps, but what you need more than anything else are people to use and represent your product. Word of mouth is the best form of marketing because people trust their friends and family. Now if only you could find a group of people who are familiar with the product, are prepared to advocate for it, know people outside the company and understand the brand strategy. But of course those people are easy to find – they’re the company’s employees. Here are five ways to convert employees into professional brand advocates.
1. Communicate your brand strategy
Before your employees can tell their friends and family all about your great product or service, they need to be on the same page with the overall company strategy. For example, if your brand is all about ease of use, that’s something your employees should get across. If your target audience is millennials, you don’t necessarily need employees to tell their grandparents about your product.
2. Empower your employees to act
You can’t presume your employees will understand the best ways to promote your brand without you explaining how to go about doing so. In other words, encourage your team to use the products, offer promotions and customer discounts to their friends and family, and take to social media.
“If employees aren’t happy, they’ll be awful brand advocates.”
3. Let your culture and your brand overlap
Your employees will not be willing advertisements if they don’t align with your company’s culture. To put it more bluntly: If employees aren’t happy, they’ll be awful brand advocates. Before you send them off to do the company’s bidding, make sure their own needs and desires have been addressed. Tom Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, explained how important culture is to a brand:
“We believe that your company’s culture and your company’s brand are really just two sides of the same coin,” Hsieh told Forbes. “The brand may lag the culture at first, but eventually it will catch up. Your culture is your brand.”
4. Encourage employees to take the lead
Do you have leaders at your company? Are there individuals who are more likely to volunteer for assignments, take on difficult tasks or apply for that promotion? They’re the ones who will respond best to becoming brand advocates. Don’t stifle employees who are itching for the chance to take on more responsibility – give them that opportunity and allow them a measure of responsibility and independence.
5. Incentivize new business
Your sales team might already have built-in goals and incentives for bringing in new business – after all, it’s their job to grow the consumer base. But other employees in different departments can also bring in business by becoming brand advocates and showing off the products and services to their friends and family. If those acquaintances are interested, tell your employees to hand them a sample, give them a phone number or email address and tell them to express their interest. Then, if those individuals become customers and mention the name of the employee who sent them, send a little bonus to that employee and tell the company what a great job he or she did. That will reward the person who advocated for the organization and show the rest of the company what they can do, too.
Imagine an employee telling a friend, “Oh, I don’t use our products – they’re cheap and no good.” It’s unlikely the person who hears that will ever become a customer, according to JRS Consulting. But turn that message into a positive one and it’s all the more likely that the individual will sign on. Brand advocates can make that much of a difference and by following these steps you can convert your employees into your best marketing strategy.