In Business

Turning Your Team Into Brand Evangelists

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Executive Summary

Integral to every business is the investment in campaigns that endorse their core products or services. In most cases, brands spend resources on increasing brand awareness through the use of external promotions, advertising, surveys and focus groups. However, many businesses and their marketing teams fail to invest in other areas of brand advocacy and therefore miss potential cost-effective opportunities. The most often overlooked resource is a business’ own employees. Employees are perfectly positioned to be loyal brand evangelists, and once identified, these team-members should be invested in accordingly.

Employees are key to the success of connecting the business brand with the target audience in a meaningful manner. Research indicates that more than 70% of consumers buy new products via different recommendations; thus, an entire workforce has the potential to increase brand awareness since they provide the customer with a thorough background and function of the product so that, it follows, their endorsement is prioritised.

Introduction

For the past thirty years, businesses have spent their allocated budgets on hiring external teams to influence targeted consumers. Yet, a strategy that is rarely tried by businesses is to approach their own staff members and encourage them to become brand evangelists. In fact, a company’s workforce will often have the most effectual voice for increasing brand awareness.

Research conducted by Bryan Conte, for instance, indicates that social media easily exposes the weaknesses of many businesses. In the case for employee brand advocates, if staff members are not satisfied with how the organisation is run, there is the likelihood that they will publicly disparage the company through online media and, as a consequence, damage its reputation. The converse can also be observed, when employees are properly invested in and rewarded for their efforts their collective voice can be a powerful ally in brand building.

In his commentary titled “How to develop brand evangelists”, Jim Maclachlan explained that not only do businesses have a requirement for quality products and services, but it is also necessary to build and maintain a strong corporate brand for the business to thrive. MacLachlan states that eye-catching colours, unique fonts, and well-crafted logos will not add much value to the product without the full co-operation of employees. Lauren Leonardi speculates that employees should be considered above and beyond the customer. Once employees are content in their work environment, they will intrinsically take care of the rest of the enterprise – including clients and service quality. If employees are aligned with an organisation’s business approach, they will share positive information online as well as by word of mouth in their immediate circles. Leonardi adds that this approach takes time, investment, and understanding to establish employees as loyal brand evangelists. It is imperative they should not be given work-related content to share on their various social media and other networks unless there is a sincere commitment to the organisation. This loyalty can be achieved from positive and rewarding work conditions fostered by the business. Various measures can be undertaken by employers to ensure their staff become loyal brand evangelists, for example, incentive schemes to reward those workers whose efforts meet expected targets or produce results beyond the usual standard.

Define the Brand and why it is Important

While much of this may sound straightforward to experienced business leaders, Leonardi reveals that many employers cannot clearly define the company brand or its purpose, and as a result, many employees are often removed from the essence of the brand. Businesses should not expect their employees to be loyal brand evangelists without explaining to them what the brand represents and its function. To begin turning team members into brand evangelists, businesses must have internal procedures that ensure complete corporate concepts and philosophies are understood.  This includes the value proposition of the brand, its function, what it represents, and how it is associated to the workforce, customers, and partners.

Understanding the Target Audience

Understanding why a target demographic buys a product or service is integral for developing a program of brand evangelism within a business. Businesses and their employees must work in unison and dedicate quality time in getting to know their audience, this includes understanding daily routines, social spheres, location, age, and the motivations behind purchasing decisions. Equipped with a comprehensive profile, employees can begin to have relevant conversations that will ultimately introduce the core brand to the appropriate audience effectively.

Effective Communication

In the study conducted by Fan, ‘Effective Communication’, it is stated that it is especially important that the company’s mission statement guides employees to succeed in the competitive environment. Whatever the size of the business, communication will always be the foundation that allows an organisation to establish the right staff expectations. Effective communication on every level will lead to staff feeling valued and significant within the company and, indeed, those employees who appreciate the opportunity to be heard in relation to the operation of the business are likely to make ideal candidates for brand advocacy.

However, it must be noted, that this is continuous process where staff are recognised for their exceptional work and rewarded as a result. Fan adds that rewards and recognition indicate to the employee that their contribution to the brand has been singled out for praise, they in turn understand that their talents and hard work are valued by the company. In the long term, winning the confidence of staff members as a whole will lead them to share positive accounts about the brand via their social networks and offline gatherings.

Creating A Space for Sharing

Leonardi explains that brand awareness flourishes when there is a high level of authenticity amongst the advocates. In this case; hired, external marketers lack the experience to convince the target audience of the brand’s merit and are, thus, less reliable than the internal staff.
The reason for this is that employees within the organisation are intimately acquainted with the brand, have larger stakes in its success and set higher expectations for the continuous growth of the product. At this point, such staff must be motivated, respected and inspired by their employers if they are to become brand evangelists.

Conte’s investigations highlight the fact that business leaders should strategically invest in their staff through training programmes, inclusive discussion groups and incentives so that employees will bring passion and energy to their projects which will reflect their personal belief in the core brand.
Considering this research, the employee must be encouraged to share their experiences on different networks and it is the responsibility of the company to supply their staff with the necessary materials such as visual data for marketing presentations, access to online forums in the circulation of brand information and published consumer testimonials etc. Conte adds that once business leaders successfully involve their staff and encourage them to participate in these activities, employees will take ownership of the work and, as a result, initiate the promotion of the brand. Nevertheless, various research studies highlight that this can only be achieved if employees are allowed to share their thoughts on essential aspects of the campaign and have, to a degree, some influence on the decision making process. This will instill a passion for the project where they will invest their energy into the brand promotion.

Have a Social Business Strategy

According to the study conducted by MacLachlan, it is indicated that social business strategy must create opportunities but not obligations focused on sharing content as well as experience. Furthermore, MacLachlan states that creating strategies assists business leaders in achieving the set targets and objectives. In this case, social business is usually considered to be a journey rather than a destination. It requires business leaders to have a clear vision; a roadmap with precise objectives, and which team members or staff must be on board. With this in mind, it is only when employees agree to the direction, that they can work to become effective brand evangelists.

In addition, it is important to note that social business must involve both mindset and tactics. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes that business leaders frequently make is starting with tactics rather than mindset. For example, mindset helps business leaders start with their internal staff when planning to increase brand awareness. As research proves, a brand is always powerful when driven by people from inside the corporation. In this case, business leaders must assemble their employees to be at the very centre of their brand awareness campaign.

Most importantly, MacLachlan explains that brand evangelism should start from grassroots; that it should be personal, and that employees should have enthusiasm for the products or services. Under the social business strategy, companies must be aware of the challenge of cultivating brand evangelists in a short space of time. However, there are activities that business leaders can initiate to raise interest amongst their staff and thus attach their loyalty to the brand over time. For example, companies may conduct a pilot or a series of them. Business leaders may choose a certain number of employees from their staff depending on how large the organisation is; perhaps they select 10-15 workers within the campaign to participant in one of the pilots. The selected staff must test and evaluate the ideas, processes, and training etc. while working in a small group. In this case, the selected employees have the potential to inspire the rest of the team. However, business leaders must understand that social business is not about doing things faster, but rather developing a sustainable plan as well as the roadmap to achieve their objectives. In other words, a complete change of mindset usually takes time, and preparing employees for loyal brand evangelism is no different from any other re-evaluation process in business.

Inspire and Motivate Employees about living a Brand Promise

Whilst reflecting on the old saying: “actions speak louder than words”, business leaders must learn to express more faith in their staff’s decisions and abilities. In most cases, organisations that fail to trust their employees usually have internal problems which may not be solved by the hard work of the staff, despite their efforts. In the study, Leonardi demonstrates that when business leaders trust in their staff, these employees in turn take a more self-motivational approach to their work and are passionate about their role in the campaign. The concept of trust is considered a two way street. For example, if an employer cannot trust his or her employees due to a lack of knowledge of their professional experience, then it can also follow that consumers may find it hard to trust the products that are made by a company that is unfamiliar to them. It can be demonstrated that business leaders who work from the inside, will more than likely form a better relationship with their staff and inspire them to publicly support the brand.

Educate Staff about Brand Promise and the Target Audience

According to current research, team members or staff cannot evangelise the brand if they do not clearly understand its concept. In most cases, it is not enough for business leaders to give their employees a brand guideline and expect them to give their best. In other words, employees must experience positive leadership where managers or directors are personally invested in the brand promise and are closely involved in the staff’s learning process. Here, leaders can impart their knowledge as well as show their own commitment to the product.
In the same way, recent studies indicate that employees at all levels must be included in a business culture which is bigger than themselves and the organisation itself. For staff to develop an interest in a project, they cannot simply carry out the prescribed tasks without there being a greater purpose in the exercise. Ideally, they should be engaged in work that is meaningful, practical and has a significant impact outside of the environs of the office.

Listen more than Talk

In every organisation, business leaders who listen to their staff and customers benefit from a well-performing work environment. In most cases, this can inspire employees to engage in various activities made available to them by their leaders. For example, turning employees into loyal brand evangelists requires organisations to consider their staff’s advice and opinions in relation to all aspects of the company and its philosophy. By this, business leaders are able to take into account the points that matter in their business line.

Embrace the Fun Factor while at Work

In today’s business culture, an important aspect is that staff should enjoy their time at work. Business leaders must ensure that staff have a good working relationship with their colleagues and a meaningful engagement to their job by implementing various methods that maintain the work/life balance. In other words, both customers and staff must be treated above all as human rather than a component of the organisation.
In this perspective, it must be understood that employees, by and large, enjoy humour and conversation unrelated to their work routines; and in addition, have personal objectives and aspirations outside of office hours. An error business leaders might make is focusing entirely on the revenues generated and forgetting about the people who dedicate themselves to achieving those very goals.
In fact, there is no business operating today so focused that it cannot bring an element of fun into the lives of its employees. Moreover, fun and enjoyment must also be incorporated into the customer’s experience; considering they support the business and rightly expect their interactions with staff to be agreeable. Therefore, to secure brand evangelism within the workplace, business leaders are required to create a comfortable atmosphere for their staff members which will encourage these employees to promote the company through the brand whilst the customer receives the best possible service.
In summary, the concept of brand evangelism reminds business leaders that consumers do not just buy products but, more so, buy from trusted brands. As a consequence, these customers are always in a position to define brands which means that the bond between customers and the employees of the corporation is especially crucial.

When customers are satisfied with the product, they become brand evangelists themselves, but this chain effect starts with the employee who served that customer advocate. From this perspective, employees must always be the primary brand evangelists if the business is to continue to be profitable. However, it is always important for business leaders to know that turning team members or staff into loyal brand evangelists usually takes time and investment, yet the benefits in the long term are considerable.

From the case studies, establishing loyal brand evangelists within the business is believed to be the most effective way to reach the target audience. In other words, employees have always had the most reliable and influential voices in relation to the brand, and they can be defined as the best ambassadors once they are recognised and rewarded in their position.
To conclude, business leaders must realise that their most powerful brand evangelists are their own employees. Considering this, employees are the key players when it comes to connecting the business brand with the target audience in a meaningful manner.

References

Conte. B. “Customers Define Your Brand, Not You: Creating Brand Evangelists.” Last modified April 2, 2015.
Fan, H. “Do Your Employees Believe in Your Brand?” 2017. https://blog.4colorprint.com/do-your-employees-believe-in-your-brand.
John, J. “Brand Evangelists: Why they are important, and how to cultivate them.” Last modified September 22, 2017. https://marketeer.kapost.com/brand-evangelists/.
Leonardi, L. “Turn Customers into Brand Evangelists | Appboy.” Last modified February 17, 2017.
MacLachlan, J. “How to develop brand evangelists – Marketing.” Last modified June 26, 2013. http://www.upsizemag.com/business-builders/developing-brand-evangelists.

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