She sat next to me at a workshop, and we quickly struck up a conversation about work. She was just finishing an internship at an area firm and loved talking about the company and the work she did with them. As we talked, I thought the firm might be a good fit for one of my clients. It was. I had such a great experience using their services with this client that I asked them to bid on a project for another client… which they landed. This simple conversation with an intern netted the company more than $15,000 in closed business. The young intern was a brand advocate.
What makes an employee a brand advocate? The brand advocate can’t help but share about work outside of a work setting. They may share positive company news on their own private social media channels. The brand advocate also brings their “A” game for their employer. The brand advocate creates positive customer experiences.
So how can you create an environment to foster brand advocacy? As a consultant who works with many businesses, I’ve had the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t. Here are four tips to help you grow your employees as brand advocates.
- Treat them well. This seems simple, but it’s usually the most overlooked aspect of brand advocacy. Don’t think of your employees as cogs in a machine, but treat them as important shareholders in your company. Even if they don’t own stock, they are bringing time and talent to your organization and can help you grow and improve. It can be as easy as smiling and greeting them as they come in the door and thanking them for a job well done. You might consider flex-time or remote work options to accommodate life disruptions such as sick children. Find out what they value and what motivates them and work to help them feel valued and motivated.
- Train employees thoroughly. When possible, every employee should have at least a passing knowledge of all aspects of your organization. Create an employee orientation process, and not just one that ends on the second day. Establish a mentorship system and pair a new employee with a positive and knowledgeable coworker. For veteran employees, use your performance review times to discover questions they might have about the organization. Keep an open door policy with employees and make sure they know you are available to answer questions.
- Help them feel like they a part of your “Why?” In Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, he asserts that “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” I’d take that a step further, especially as I interact with the millennial generation, and say, “People don’t work for the sake of working. They work to find purpose.” Create a company culture that’s about more than a paycheck. Share positive customer stories with the ENTIRE organization. Celebrate milestones together. Reward team members when they are part of your company’s growth and success.
- Empower employees to attend networking events. Better yet, encourage them to speak at events. Provide paid time to attend these events. Don’t think of it as time away from the job. Send them out as an ambassador for your company. Sometimes they may find a great prospect. Sometimes they may just get the opportunity to sharpen their skills and enjoy a lunch out. And about this public speaking thing… if you have an employee who has public speaking skills, find business- or community-related topics they could speak about. They don’t even need to directly relate to your business. My friend just gave a $50,000 contract to a company namely because they allowed a marketing staff person to speak at an event. That staffer spoke briefly about the company and an audience member passed the information along to my friend. You never know when stories like this will happen. But they won’t ever happen if you chain your employees to their cubicles for 40 hours a week.
At the core of this brand advocate approach is the golden rule: Treat others as you would want to be treated. This is especially true for how business owners treat employees. How are you preparing your team?