Enthusiastic and passionate brand ambassadors are marketing gold. These are the people who will proudly show off your products at their next dinner party, write a glowing review of you on their social network pages, and recommend you to their contacts without hesitation.
Many marketers spend a significant amount of time panning for this gold while missing a rich vein of it right under their feet. Your employees can and should be your first and strongest brand ambassadors. But a paycheck isn’t enough to buy authentic support. To turn your employees into your alpha squad, you first you need to activate and then amplify their loyalty and passion.
How to Activate Your Employees
You can’t afford to assume your employees are ardent supporters of your brand just because they work for you. Employees no longer develop indelible bonds with their employees. In fact, one survey found that more than 90 percent of Millennials expect to stay at a job for no more than three years. Is it even possible to instill loyalty into such a nomadic workforce? I believe yes, but you must give employees something they can truly believe in.
Turn your employees into a team of tight-knit, dedicated brand ambassadors with these steps:
- Build a company culture. Promote a strong, positive company culture. Encourage employee pride in your offering by holding yourself up to exacting standards. Write an honest mission statement, and truly live by it. When North Highland created a new vision (Unleashing Potential Together) and mission, we solicited input from across the firm – through surveys and focus group. Our “employee-owners” were part of the process and creation – and this helped with authenticity and reinforcing a strong and evolving culture.
- Lay the foundation with management. Culture always starts with the management team, and that’s where you need to start, too. You can’t force an employee to become a brand ambassador, but if your entire management team exudes integrity and passion, it will trickle down through the layers of your organization. Look for managers who really believe in what you’re striving to do and who show integrity in everything they do.
- Promote brand ambassadorship. Let your employees know that they’re ambassadors of your company and brand. This knowledge alone can shift the way they think and act. As their connection to your brand strengthens, they’ll take the responsibility seriously. North Highland has created a network of volunteer “Social Ambassadors” that are passionate about sharing news about our brand.When the New York Times came out with an article detailing the punishing work conditions many white-collar Amazon workers faced at the company, Amazon engineering manager Nick Ciubotariu quickly wrote a detailed rebuttal taking the writer to task. “As an Amazonian, and a proud one at that, I feel compelled to respond,” said Ciubotariu.
- Make it easy. Your employees won’t know how to be good brand ambassadors unless you give them guidance. Give them the tools to be your best word-of-mouth marketing machines. You can do something simple like handing out T-shirts or giving employees free samples of your product to hand out to their contacts. At North Highland, we mail quarterly newsletters to our employee’s homes, so the content, and our brand, becomes a topic of conversation with families.
- Be an ambassador to your employees. Brand ambassadorship is a two-way street. For your employees to truly believe in your brand, you must believe in them first. Simply showing trust in your employees is a great start, as is allowing for more autonomy and making an effort to recognize each person’s contributions.
How to Amplify Your Employees
Now that you have an activated workforce of true believers, it’s time to amplify their power. Start by sharing their stories. Keep your eyes and ears open for good examples of brand ambassadorship.
Did an employee go above and beyond for a client? Recognize that person, and share his story companywide. Did a group of your employees do a charity walk together wearing your company’s T-shirts? Post pictures of it on your social pages. Show your employees what good brand ambassadorship looks like.
Consider putting together a council of your best brand ambassadors and using them as a brand ambassadorship think tank. They may provide excellent ideas for ways to grow brand ambassadorship even more.
Don’t Lose Sight of Your Brand
Building a loyal band of brand ambassadors is a great accomplishment, but don’t forget your main objective: promoting your brand.
Perception is reality, so how your brand is perceived is your brand. You might have a network of very activated, engaged brand ambassadors, but without a strong guiding hand, they’ll all tell their own stories. If those stories are inconsistent, it could actually do more harm than good. Research suggests “businesses with well-managed, consistent brands are worth up to 20 percent higher than those who aren’t.”
To a certain degree, you must relinquish some control when allowing your brand ambassadors to spread goodwill about your brand. However, consistency is still important. Train your employees on a standard set of branding guidelines before releasing them into the world.
If you’re at work right now, gaze around at your employees. Are they filled with passion and energized to be great brand ambassadors for your company? If not, you have some work cut out for you. Each of those employees is a gold nugget waiting to be discovered. Start building your brand ambassadorship team today!