In Ireland, possibly more so than in any other European country, a company’s reputation is the foundation from which strong brands evolve. We may be known for our talkers but the result of all this chatter can have a significant impact on Irish businesses where a restricted market size often means that word-of-mouth endorsement, or criticism from customers can make or break the reputation of a business, particularly in the early years.
I have spoken before about the impact a leader can have on shaping their company’s brand and developing the brand image from the inside out. One of the strongest ways a leader can develop their brand is through their selection of employees and how they inspire their employees to become genuine brand champions or custodians of their brand.
While marketing plays a strong role in shaping the external identity of the brand, employees are a critical asset that cannot be overlooked in creating a strong brand and positive reputation for your company.
Your employees not only spread your brand message with your customers, but also through their friends and family, and publicly on their online networks. Your employees are involved in the core of your business so their opinions on your company/brand(s) are very important.
How do you make sure your employees are spreading the right brand message? What can you do to influence how your employees impact on your brand? The key is to turn their role in the company from being standard employees to becoming highly informed brand champions or brand ambassadors.
Whether your business offering is as tangible as selling a car or as intangible as selling insurance over the phone, the service the customer receives during those few minutes of interaction with your company employee (the human extension of your brand) will strongly shape his or her impression of your brand.
Every positive experience, or negative interaction for that matter, that occurs between your frontline staff and your customer establishes trust and credibility, bolstering your company’s brand reputation or equally undermining it too if badly represented.
When your customer then shares this positive (or negative) experience with their friends and family they are inadvertently advertising your brand and helping shape your brand image. Never forget, referral is one of the strongest and most trusted forms of brand endorsement, and never more so then in this world of instant viral communication.
Developing brand champions begins with ensuring that your employee’s brand training and internal cultural experience of your brand, and the image it aspires to create, is fully aligned with your company’s brand strategy.
Right now, if you asked each of your employees, from those in your accounts department to your frontline staff, to stand up and give a short pitch about your business would they all be able to say the same thing?
Does their impression of your business brand match that which you believe or have set out to achieve? They must really live and believe your brand to authentically share your brand message with the outside world. If your own employees cannot fully articulate what your company’s brand is all about, the do’s and don’ts of how they interact and what your brand stands for, then how can they be expected to communicate your brand effectively to your customers?
Leading a company with a powerful team of brand champions is essential to the success of your brand and ultimately the profitability of your business. In short it must be incorporated into your overall brand building strategy if you want to be a market leader. Doing so will not only strengthen your brand and company reputation but it will also:
1. Increase Motivation: A workforce that believes in what they do and what the company is striving to accomplish will naturally be motivated to achieve their goals and therefore productivity and profitability will increase.
2. Increase Word-of-Mouth Promotion: An employee who truly believes in your brand is more likely to naturally share their enthusiasm with family and friends and will be an advocate for your brand even outside normal work hours.
3. Improve Service: an employee who really believes in your brand will embrace a sense of ownership in their work and the service they provide, which will result in a greatly improved customer experience.
4. Reduce Employee Turn-over: a brand champion who believes in your brand will also be less likely to leave a position in which they are motivated and satisfied with their work. In fact if employees speak highly and openly about your brand, your company has a better chance of increasing retention rates and attracting new high performing, talent.
If you want your employees to become brand ambassadors then get them onboard, share and educate them in your brand vision. Make sure they really understand at a fundamental level what your brand is all about. Explain to them how important they are in the process of building the company brand.
A positive brand image leads to loyal customers, strong referral sources and solid internal growth. Bottom line: Take care of your employees and they in turn will take care of your brand. They are your strongest brand advocates, but they can’t champion your brand effectively if they don’t understand it or buy into it.
• Do your employees know and understand your main brand message and what your brand’s image is?
• Do they know how your brand is positioned relative to similar brands on the market?
• Are your employee’s impressions of the brand aligned with that of the company?
• Most importantly, does your company have a clear brand strategy that can be articulated to and through your employees?
Feel free to get in touch. We’d love to hear your thoughts and would be delighted to answer any questions asked.