When examining notable Chief Marketing Officers like Marissa Riccardi, Michael Lazerow, Eileen Zicchino, Simon Clift, Pamela Kaufman, Terri Graham, and so many others, a common understanding is shared. Employee engagement dramatically affects the success of building your brand.
“When it comes to clients, it’s all about trust,” notes CMO Eileen Zicchino. “When we look at our brand attributes, it’s about character, intelligence, and strength. Our employees help us put the client first. Our workforce works very closely with them which, in turn, builds our brand. It must be about relationships and trust even if it means we have to turn away business.”
The promise your brand makes to customers is powerfully delivered through the behaviors of your workforce. They are your brand ambassadors. With every move, they represent your brand and they are what differentiates you in the marketplace. All the advertising dollars in the world can proclaim how great your products are or how customer-focused your company is but it’s not enough. How your receptionist answers the phone, how accessible your customer service hotline is, and how well you serve the interests of your clients is what ultimately wins and retains customers.
Properly identifying what makes your brand valuable while helping employees to live and breathe your brand promises will result in superlative employee and customer experiences. That’s what you want.
The focus then becomes how best to collaborate with your employees to match brand values with your customer requirements. What are your strengths? What are you excellent at? What is innovative about you? Are you delivering on your promises? Does your workforce enthusiastically advocate for your brand’s message?
Many of your employees have melded your brand with personal identification and an emotional connection. By engaging employees as your brand’s advocates, you make it difficult for your competitors to keep up.
A recent study conducted by PR firm Edelman, found that the Y Generation Millennials consider brand identification almost as important as religious preference and ethnic background when defining themselves online. And 74% of them say brand has the power to influence their buying decisions.
Knowing this, you want to engage employees to promote brand trust in your market. Brand trust will bring you a greater response to newsletters, emails, and advertisements. Your buyers will sense a greater value in reading your messages and researching your product. This opens the door to increasing your sales.
Help your employees promote your brand.
You have already identified how you are positioning your brand in the marketplace. On a regular basis, focus your employees on demonstrating the value of your brand with their words and actions. Their day-to-day contact with prospects and customers will go a long way toward maintaining a positive brand image.
Solicit employee feedback on how they themselves perceive your brand.
The very exercise itself will provide you with ways on how to encourage pride in being a collaborator with your organization’s mission. Your brand becomes their brand. When the business environment becomes challenging, you will have an engaged workforce as a powerful ally.
“Knowing what new challenges face you and aligning with your workforce
simply makes you a better company!”
Chris Williams CMO of consulting firm Capqemini.
Benefit by being a strong leader.
Whether intended or not, your employees will mirror your example. Regularly communicate about your brand and recognize those in your workforce who do the same. Recognized employees will turn out to be a big reason that more and more prospects seek you out and ultimately buy from your company.
Give your employees the information they need.
To be a good brand advocate, employees need to understand it. Using communication and social engagement tools as a part of your employee incentive program will train and help employees retain the information. As your organization’s chief brand officer, you want to make brand resources available to your employees. What are your corporate identity standards and brand guidelines? What tools are you providing that helps your workforce talk accurately and enthusiastically about your brand?
One idea might include having a workforce event that also celebrates the brand’s message and heritage. For example, McDonald’s Corporation holds Founder’s Day each year on the birthday of Ray Kroc, their founder. The theme includes a celebration where employees remember the unique history of their company and commemorate the growth of the Golden Arches brand. It’s a great way to reinforce brand advocacy.
Give life to your brand via engaged employees.
What are some tangible ways you are helping your employees to be brand advocates? At Yahoo, some employees allow their vehicles to be painted with the Yahoo logo. That might be extreme for some organizations. The point here is that you should create opportunities for your employees to become brand advocates. Contributing to the community on company time and on behalf of your company might be one way for employees to become brand advocates.
Shine the spotlight on your brand advocates.
You want your employees to keep up the good work and share examples so other co-workers get involved. Recognition during meetings, events, newsletters, and your organization’s intranet is another great way to keep your brand advocates in the spotlight. Another innovative idea comes from Westin Resorts—they were able to link the value of their brand name to customers and employees alike. At check-in, some guests receive a Westin lapel pin and are asked to give the pin to an employee if they feel the employee has exceeded expectations. This seamlessly builds a personal connection between consumers and the brand.
Monitor the pulse of brand awareness across the organization.
Hold focus groups to explore employees’ understanding of your brand. Their feedback will identify your brand’s most meaningful characteristics. You can then initiate any changes needed.
Remember that employees are the face and voice of your brand. Consumers and the community will connect their positive experiences with your company. This will enhance your reputation. Engaged and motivated employees who understand your brand and where it is going translate into happy customers. And happy customers build up emotional attachments, strong loyalty, and even a sense of ownership to certain brands. Engaged employees are your key to ensure your brand message stands out from the crowd.
It’s said that it’s the customer who decides how they want to contact you. Hence, smart marketing includes superior customer service and an upbeat, friendly workforce. Listen to your customers and your employees. Welcome ideas. No one has to tell you that someone who has had a great experience with your company is going to tell their friends about it. Whether positive or negative, their experience with your brand will be shared.
Being a great CMO includes connecting with your customers and bringing in your employees as brand advocates. Don’t live behind your mahogany desk and title. Make the effort to think, work, and collaborate with everyone in your organization as its chief marketer. Work to create harmonious relationships with everyone involved. Metrics and numbers matter. Include employee engagement in your metric. You will see results and enjoy your job more.
The hardest but most rewarding part of your job
As with any senior management person, the hardest and most rewarding parts of your job are often the same—motivating, inspiring, and training your people. As CMO, you are responsible for facilitating growth and creating an effective sales and marketing strategy. Depending on the company you work for, revenue generation, cost reduction, or risk mitigation are considerations. Market efforts can be unpredictable. Stress levels can be high. Leverage your most valuable asset—your employees. Get them on your side. Align your brand values with your mission using the help of employee engagement. If your brand claims to offer “great service, elegant products, and best quality experiences” but your staff is rude or unprofessional, customers won’t think about your brand much anymore. And who wants that?