Why spend money on a potentially expensive third-party marketing consultant when the solution is right in front of you? Well, not literally right in front of you, more like 20 feet from you.
We're talking about your employees! If properly equipped, they can make great brand advocates. Your entire team can help grow and strengthen your brand, as long as you provide instruction, structure, and the tools to make it happen. With that in mind, here are some tips to transform your gifted employees into rock star brand advocates:
- Pick a story and stick to it. By "story," of course, we mean a brand strategy. While not every employee will be involved in brand management brainstorming sessions, they need to know the outcomes. They need to know what your retail outlet, bank or dealership represents; your buyer personas, and what message you want to send to the public at large. Employees need to incorporate these concepts in any activity that affects your brand, whether it's making a sales call or talking about business strategy at networking events.
- Give them the tools. Talking points are great, but they can only do so much. Blogs and social media tools can help broaden your brand to a larger audience. These tools will supplement existing inbound marketing tactics like email marketing, video, and display ads. Our suggestion is to leave the more sales- and marketing-intensive tasks to their respective owners while encouraging other employees to use social media to extend your brand (see the next tip.) They're probably already using Facebook anyway!
- Cut them loose... Certain employees are particularly attuned to customer concerns and needs. Let them write occasional blog posts and post on your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Give particularly talented employees administrative access on certain accounts to minimize red tape. And make sure digital cameras and smart phones are used to maximal effect: nothing can communicate the power of your brand better than photos of employees, either alone or with satisfied customers.
- ...But set limits. It sounds intuitive, but "cutting them loose" can be fraught with difficulties. After all, you (likely) don't want someone in HR Tweeting his thoughts on last night's episode of "The Voice" on your business account. Identify who will be posting content, the type of content, the social media channel in question, and create some sort of schedule. For example, Gary can be tasked with writing a blog post once a week about specific topics he specializes in.
- Accentuate their expertise. As the aforementioned example indicates, if an employee is tasked with posting about something they don't understand or enjoy, two bad things can happen. One, the end-result, namely the content itself, will be poor. And two, the poor results will negatively affect your brand management efforts. So make sure employees are posting about familiar and exciting topics. If the enthusiasm isn't there, don't bother.
But when the enthusiasm is there, great things happen. As we noted in a previous post, making your employee brand advocates — particularly by unlocking the business value of social media — decentralizes information-gathering, makes for more engaged employees, and surfaces new business opportunities. The fact that your brand is also strengthened in the process is icing on the cake. So what are you waiting for? Cut Gary loose!