Breaking news: your employees are your most valuable assets. Right now you’re probably rolling your eyes thinking “Of course employees are the most valuable assets, without them my company could not run.” Yes, that’s undisputably true. But, did you know that your employees are also your most valuable marketing assets? Now, your employees may not be a line item on your internal marketing budget, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the potential to move the needle for your brand. Here are three ways to transform your employees into powerful brand marketers.
Create A Great Working Environment
Most likely your employees spend at least 40 hours a week at your company’s office or engaging in work-related projects. They devote a major portion of their lives to helping your company run smoothly. Although they may be devoted to meeting their deadlines and responsibilities, if not they’re not supported by a company that consistently shows appreciation and interest in morale, they won’t be likely to advocate. If you want employees to speak about your brand in a positive light, they must first have positive experiences working for your brand. Transparency and open communication policies are effective means of encouraging employees to take on more vocal roles within the company. When people feel empowered and supported they will be more willing to offer feedback, share ideas, and participate in an off and online dialogue. Whether it’s through the facilitation of in-person forums, or running digital, internal communities, you want to create programs where your employees feel respected and heard.
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Strong working environments are especially critical for brands eager to cultivate millennial advocates. A 2016 study found that 66% of millennials cited respectful treatment as a contributor to job satisfaction. Additionally, the study founded that this generation places a high value on openness and community within an organization. As millennials are more active on social media than their Gen X and Boomer counterparts, meeting their working environment and culture expectations are crucial if you want to see them amplify their company advocacy across their social profiles.
Practice What You Preach
If you’ve been paying attention then you’ve likely come across the buzzword “authenticity” several times in the past few months. With more access to brand information, audiences are becoming increasingly adept at distinguishing authentic brands from, well, inauthentic one. Customers want to engage with brands that are open and transparent across every facet of their business models. Millennials are especially concerned with authenticity, and as this demographic’s spending power increases, the authenticity argument is one that brand’s should take seriously.
Let’s say you run a company that produces and distributes organic juices. You’re preaching healthy principals and lifestyles to your audiences, so you should be instilling the same values among your employees. Healthy living is the foundation of your brand’s identity. Simple things like offering employee wellness programs, facilitating recreational leagues, or making healthy foods and snacks more readily available in the office will connect your employees to your brand mission on a deeper level. Sound marketing programs are built from the ground up, which means that employees can’t be bypassed; their experience with your brand, and brand mission, is arguably more important than your customer’s experience. Today’s consumers place a high value on authenticity; and creating employee programs and working environments that mirror a brand’s external mission is the pillar of authenticity. Remember, your employees are already talking about your company with their friends and family – your potential customers. So why not give them positive and authentic experiences to share with their circles?
Social media has opened the doors on the potential for brand-customer engagement; brands can more easily start conversations and learn their customers’ wants. Although customers are more accessible through social channels, their brand expectations have risen. Customers want to see the behind-the-scenes moments of a company, starting with employees. Employees have deep-seeded expertise in the their employers’ product or service offering, which makes their personal stories and insights all the more fascinating for customers.
A 2016 Nielsen study found that 80% of Americans seek referrals before making product decisions. This number should both scare and excite brand marketers. If you are not maintaining a stellar and authentic work environment or empowering your employees to participate in your brand, then there’s a strong chance the sentiment around your brand’s word-of-mouth buzz will be less than desirable.
Brands already employ their own armies, but whether employees fight for their organizations and promote their employers outside of the office is completely dependent on culture, values, and social initiatives of the company.