How to use your employees as brand ambassadors

Your Business, May 2017 issue

By Amantle Mokubung

As a Marketer, I understand the importance in having companies spend between 5% and 10% of their revenue on marketing and have witnessed the rewards of complying with this general industry rule of thumb over the years. With that said, if I were to recommend the same to you as a startup or an emerging company owner, you would probably be quick to start thinking that I have taken up a pastime of smoking my own socks. Marketing expenses are most likely to be at mthe bottom of your priority list, perhaps you are more focused on finding innovative ways of spending next to nothing for promoting your offering.

Using your employees as brand ambassadors is an approach that I believe entrepreneurs must begin to model and prioritise in their marketing strategy. It’s a more humane, authentic and engaging way to educate and communicate with prospects through trusted sources (your employees) across different platforms. Remember, by doing this, you are most likely to hit the emotional chord with your customers.

Your team understands your business better and has already established trust within their social and virtual circles. You have invested time and money into finding the right talent to help
ensure that the vision you have for the company materialises, why not make the business’ marketing as extraordinary as your employees? Tap into what it is that makes them tick and start plugging in the resources that will create an enabling environment for them to effortlessly spread the word about your company.

Companies such as Johannesburg-based award winning brand management and marketing agency DNA Brand Architects continue to successfully use their employees as brand ambassadors; reflecting the company’s culture, positioning the agency as the ideal new age employer and letting us in on their latest company news without explicitly shouting: “Hey, we are good at what we do…contact us on 011…” . I will admit that I check the agency’s Instagram account at least twice a week to find out if their weekly dance-offs have returned and that I now follow the majority of the “architects”/employees that have had cameo roles in the dance-off videos.

Bringing things closer to home, are you aware of the size of the community that you have at your disposal through your employees’ social circles? Do you know that one of your employees could be a lifestyle influencer on social media? They could be an aspiring model that would benefit your marketing campaigns. One of your employees could actually have more followers than that of your company’s social media pages. Could they be your next social media community manager or content strategist? Maybe.

By all this, I don’t in any way mean creating a burden for your employees to market the business nor you taking over their social media profiles and dictating what they should be posting. I simply mean that you need to find common ground between you and your employees and work from that point. You might fear the possibility of your employees demanding to be rewarded for sharing the company’s content on their personal account, find a way around it by openly engaging with your employees. The reward might now be monetary; it might be annual leave days. Getting a morning or a full day off work is gold for a “9-to-fiver”.

A few years ago, I worked for one of the big South African airlines. With one of our print campaigns, we struggled to find the right model for the advertisement. As an intern, I ended up with the frustrating yet exciting tasks of visiting our ground staff at the airport to scout potential models that could come in for a casting after their shift. One of our ground staff members ended up as the face for our campaign. With these type of arrangements, you would need to ensure that you compile and sign release forms with your new “model”. You could use the pictures in your email marketing campaigns, marketing collateral and as stock images depending on the agreement that you reach with your chosen team member.

So how do you practically implement this, you ask? While this marketing approach is cost effective, you will be expected to be generous with investing time in:

  • Hosting regular sessions with your employees to educate them on products and services, and update them on the company’s latest news and happenings. Keep it simple, visually appealing, interesting and clear.
  • Refining content converting it into fresh, bite-sized content. Make it easy for your team to share the company’s content.
  • Creating a rewards system in return for the leads generated by employees from any department. Keep in mind that this responsibility doesn’t solely lie in the hands of your sales team alone, it’s company-wide collective effort.
  • Crafting a simplified social media policy that doesn’t sound like a heavy, binding contract that could end up discouraging your employees from getting involved.
  • Compiling release forms for marketing-related shoots with employees. Ensure that the terms and conditions are crystal clear before both parties sign the agreement.
  • Lastly, focus on the finer details in your work environment. Create pockets of spaces that are comfortable, captivating, inspiring and creatively stimulating that your employees can use as backdrops for their social media posts or as meeting rooms that people actually want to take pictures in.

Go ahead and start