Marketing leaders have long known that there’s a connection between improved brand equity and business results. And a big part of strengthening brand equity is impacting what people think, feel and say about your brand by finding and harnessing brand advocates.
It turns out that marketing leaders are already surrounded by untapped brand advocates every day at work: employees. Employees can do what even the best TV commercial or corporate Twitter feed can’t match—rave about your brand in a way that’s believable, different and authentic.
Using employees to strengthen brand equity is called inside-out marketing. It works in two ways. First—and most obvious—is by encouraging employees to promote your company on their own social networks. The second—and the harder thing to do—is to help employees “live” the brand in a way that makes a difference to the total customer experience.
Based on our experience creating inside-out marketing initiatives for a wide range of clients, we have developed four helpful tips:
- Start with leaders: A company’s executive leadership is ultimately responsible for how a company’s brand is perceived inside and outside of an organization. In order for an inside-out marketing approach to be effective, it must be led from the top-down. Equip leaders with tools and resources necessary to frequently engage their people in the brand’s unique purpose and culture, and in return, they will build teams that live that culture day-in and day-out. An ideal example is the grocery chain Wegmans—a brand that is not a client but a company we admire. Their motto is “employees first, customers second.” Wegmans’ leadership believes that by engaging employees and making them feel connected to the company’s purpose, they will deliver better experiences for their customers. Wegmans is consistently named in Fortune’s list of the top 100 Best Companies to Work For (ranked #2 in 2017) because of programs that are designed to show how much their employees matter. There’s evidence that their strategy is working: the company is known for having an almost cult-like customer following that all starts with the way their leaders oversee and manage their teams.
- Make sure employees understand your “why”: If employees believe in why the company exists, they will make a powerful and emotional connection to the products and services they are selling. In fact, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%. Without that connection, employees are likely to have a detrimental effect on the customer experience. One Daggerwing client was suffering from weak business performance and a broken culture. We found that as more individual employees connected their roles to the vision of the company and could verbalize personal connections to the “why” of the company, business performance improved.
- Make your employees your brand ambassadors: Increasingly, consumers are looking at employees to understand what brands do and why—brand messages shared by employees on social media earn 561% more reach than the same messages shared by the brand’s social media channels and earn eight times more engagement . One way to encourage more employees to become social influencers for your brand is by creating an employee ambassador program. Identify a core group of engaged employees. Give them tools, information and content so they can spread the good word inside the company and on their own social networks to promote company stories to external audiences. Brand ambassadors tend to be natural influencers, but they still need a lot of training, recognition and encouragement. You can even “gamify” the work of ambassadors so they compete for who promotes the most positive stories. Things like branded content, “swag,” actionable behaviors associated with the company’s values, and regular training sessions make employees feel like they are living the culture, which ultimately increases its overall effectiveness. If your people are on board, your customers will follow.
- Bring your external commitments to your employees: The commitments that your organization are making externally should sync with internal messaging and initiatives. When your internal and external communications are mismatched, it can threaten an employees’ perception of an organizations’ integrity. If you are a brand that is committed to helping people live healthier lives through food, organize internal CSR campaigns aimed at feeding the hungry. If you are selling innovative technology that helps businesses to work faster, make sure your employees are equipped with such technology. If your brand stands for bringing families together for the experience of their lives, then make sure that your employees are able to live those experiences for themselves.
Every day that goes by without harnessing the brand equity power of employees is a missed opportunity. Inside-out marketing can be fast, affordable and effective…and a great addition to your overall marketing and communications mix.
 “The Key to Increasing Your Brand’s Reach by 561%? Your Employees”, Forbes