Employees are the face of any organization, and when that face displays genuine happiness and pride, the mood is contagious. Encouraging your employees to serve as brand ambassadors online and offline should be an essential component of your marketing strategy.
According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the Global Workplace study, organizations that simultaneously engage employees and customers report a 240 percent boost in business outcomes. To do this successfully, however, your people must like their jobs and believe in your brand, and they must be recognized for speaking up on behalf of the company.
We tapped small-business owners Lars Helgeson, CEO of software solutions firm GreenRope in San Diego; Morgan Lashley, co-founder of women’s boutique Vestique in Charlotte, North Carolina; and Clint White, president of ad agency WiT Media in New York City to share their insights on employee ambassadorship.
What do you do on an everyday basis to boost team pride?
Lars Helgeson: GreenRope is unique in that our whole team works virtually. We do not have an office, so team morale and employee involvement is largely based on cultural fit. We emphasize collaboration and teamwork in our day-to-day efforts, which increases trust, loyalty, motivation and overall team spirit.
Clint White: We have a culture of appreciation. I strive to give team members positive recognition as often as possible, both in public and private settings. I like to point out “assists,” or ways that support staff created success for the team. We also have a program of getting together and doing fun stuff to celebrate our work.
Morgan Lashley: We constantly feature our employees on Vestique’s social channels, for example our blog, Instagram, and Facebook. We want our customers to feel like they know our employees, recognizing them for being trendsetting, fun-loving and hardworking individuals!
Tell us how your employees display that pride, and what specific activities you encourage from them, online, offline, etc.
Lashley: Our employees are encouraged to wear clothing and accessories from Vestique inside and outside of work. The Vestique girls are huge supporters of the brand and regularly share our pieces on their personal social media accounts. They truly are our most active ambassadors.
Helgeson: We plan in-person activities such as trivia nights, beach cleanups and weekly team meetings, and most of us meet at my house every Wednesday to get face time with everyone.
White: One way we display our pride is through empowering a variety of staff to have a voice in our social media and in new business pitches. This approach allows individual employee style to be a part of the diverse mix of who we are and what we offer.
What strategies do you employ during the hiring process to ensure that the team members you bring on board will be a good fit?
White: Some of our most successful hires are former clients, former colleagues and people to whom we have connections. Not only do we have more clarity on what it is like to accomplish things together and how we complement one another, but there’s more inherent loyalty at the early stages. There’s less likelihood of a new hire giving up if they know the light at the end of the tunnel is close. Otherwise, we have to take risk, which we mitigate by having a potential new hire come in for a day or two and try out the chemistry.
Lashley: After a potential employee has had a face-to-face interview and we think they are a good fit, we invite them back to the store to see how they interact with customers during a normal business day. If the person is outgoing, friendly, easy to relate to and stylish, we know they will do a wonderful job at Vestique!
Helgeson: Almost everyone in the company is hired based on a referral, so we are all very close and know we work well together. If we do not feel that a candidate is excited about the work we do, then we move on. Skill is obviously important, but when it comes to employee advocacy, personality fit is more important.
Why are employee brand ambassadors important? How have they helped you grow your business?
Helgeson: Having employee ambassadors is especially important for small businesses competing with much larger companies. Employee advocacy extends your brand’s reach to each individual employee’s entire network. The bigger the network, the more brand awareness, and hopefully the more business. In our case, every GreenRoper has been a part of constructing our mission and vision. Each person recognizes their value and contribution to the success of GreenRope, which motivates them to continually share our progress, network with their friends and acquaintances and attend events to get our name out there.
Lashley: Our employees create awareness by wearing our clothes and sharing them on social media. They bring their friends in to shop, host events for their sororities and clubs and spread the word about our business around town.
White: Our employees are closely involved with all of our activities, so they are the best source of examples and case studies regarding how we are unique and valuable. They share these through their personal and professional relationships, naturally creating new business leads.
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