It’s no secret that middle-market companies want their customers to be brand advocates — but many frequently overlook one of their most important advocacy groups: their employees.
Employees are a built-in advocate army. They can personally communicate the benefits of your brand in a way a campaign never could, and they have the ability to share, rather than tell, your company’s message. Here’s how to create advocacy in your most powerful asset — your people.
Equip Employees to Tell Your Story
It’s hard to tell a story without having read the book. While your employees probably know a specific area of your business very well, it’s vital they have the resources they need to communicate your entire brand’s story. Whether through your employee intranet, printed wallet cards, or targeted training sessions, provide employees with easy-to-share information about your middle-market company’s values and mission, as well as industry-related facts that are specific to your company. Once employees have been trained, encourage them to have a voice in sharing your story.
Set Them Up for Sharing
In today’s digital age, it’s not a matter of if employees will share on social media — it’s when. Set them up to do so in a way that puts both your people and your brand in a position to find success. Prepare a specific social media policy that includes topics like transparency and respect, and make sure all supervisors have conversations with their teams about what is — and isn’t — appropriate behavior on social media.
Promote Company Pride
Think about the way AT&T runs many of its stores today. Employees don’t seem to just work there; they are true brand advocates. They really care and believe their company is the best. No matter what it takes, they want to make sure each customer has a great experience.
Foster this type of company pride and passion by providing employee engagement opportunities, whether it’s through shared stories of pride on your intranet, a special holiday event for the entire office, or an opportunity to join intramural sports teams. When employees are allowed to engage and collaborate, they’ll see the company as much more than just a job; it will become part of their identity.
Listen, Listen, Listen
A key pride point for employees is feeling like their ideas are being heard. Look at your last employee engagement survey. What were popular feedback topics? Which are actionable items? Once you’ve come up with a plan to address employee concerns, share what you’re doing. Let employees know their opinions truly do matter.
Foster Top-Down Transparency
A commitment to honest, open dialogue and transparency starts at the top. If leadership is open with employees about the state of the business — its vision, future growth plans, and financial status — employees will feel more trusted and empowered to provide customers with a similarly open, honest experience.
Your people live and breathe your company every day — which makes them phenomenal brand advocates. By providing training, resources, and encouragement, you can empower them to tell your story better than any campaign ever could.
For nearly 30 years, Doug Austin has been studying the “art of observation” and filtering out the human truths. Whether digging for key customer/consumer insights or preparing the next national retail promotion, it’s all about the ability to “hear and see” what others may not and asking the hard questions that get us to the possibilities. Austin is the SVP of Growth & Innovation and leads product and brand innovation sessions for Marlin Network.
Cindy Crotty, middle-market business watcher and head of KeyBank’s commercial banking segment, once more shared with Middle-Market Executive the findings of a KeyBank’s middle-market business sentiment survey, which reveals that merger-minded business leaders remain a minority in 2013. Download report here.