Small business owners do not seem to have a defined branding strategy and are more than happy to outsource it to professionals. Many founders forget the fact that the biggest validation for their startup comes from their own, the employees. When you are running a startup, each of your employees matter since they can either bring down your company name or bring enormous goodwill on your table. When you engage in a marketing blitz, most often the employees who can be your brand assets are ignored while there is concentration on website visits, A/B testing, CTR, and others. How do you engage with your employees on a daily basis to help them brand your company, directly or indirectly?
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You might spend a million dollars on the latest marketing tools, conduct campaigns, and attend conferences and meetings to promote your brand to current and potential clients but leave out educating your employees of the same. If you want your employees to stand up for your company, your brand, they should be made aware of what it stands for. Customer obsession is what Amazon stands for, and if you are one of Tony Hsieh’s employees, you are all about delivering happiness. If your startup stands for product obsession, do your employees walk into your office everyday with that image in mind?
If you have brilliant coders or sales guys who have done an amazing thing or two, show their value to the outside world by promoting them on your blog. Make them write an article on your website’s blog about how they incorporated that new feature on your website which helped the startup improve its sales funnel or a marketing activity that bolstered the proverbial numbers. Not only are you branding an employee of yours with this activity, you make the person feel that he or she is a part of the collective vision of the company. When they increase their brand value, so does your company which comes across as a place where its employees are respected and appreciated. That’s a huge plus.
You should offer something back to your employees if you want them to use their personal handles to tweet about your startup or post about a new addition on your product on Facebook, certainly not something monetary in this case. If you want to create advocacies for your brand, make them feel valued. Make them feel appreciated for their little contribution that goes beyond the fine print in the job description. Most employees will do their bit to spread the good word about your startup, but you need to create advocacies.
If you think that having the right mission statement and quarterly goals will create an atmosphere of involvement, you couldn’t be more wrong. True engagement is when your employees engage in activities for the betterment of your startup, of your brand on their own volition without any external pressure from the company. Involve your employees when you want a branding exercise done, ask them if a certain tag line works better for a new event coming up, the little things like this makes a lot of difference in their attitude towards the company.
If your new recruit is willing to learn a new technology, not only does it add value to his resume, it’s good for the company, too. There are chances that your employees might not be adept at using social media. Conduct a one-day workshop on using Twitter and Facebook accounts for business purpose. Let your copywriters teach an interested set of folks on how to write a good copy and the importance behind the power of words. Send them to networking events where they can discover newer technologies and feel a part of the community.
You can always cut to the chase and ask your employees how interested they would be in being brand ambassadors for the company. Forcing them to be a part of your branding will never help your case. Despite doing everything in your power to cajole your employees into becoming brand ambassadors, if you fail, that is perfectly all right. Be willing to adjust and help them be a part of it in a way they love doing. Keep adjusting, understand their emotions and keep showing that you care about your employees. They will eventually fall in love enough to be your super-vocal supporters online and offline.