Your employees are your best asset. This is a phrase we’ve heard many times before. But when we say these words, we often think of the way in which employees influence the efficiency of the business or their role in innovating new products.
However, when we throw employee advocacy into the mix, we have a whole new way for employees to shape your business’ future. Word of mouth marketing is still one of the most powerful ways to get your brand into consumers’ conversations, and your employees represent an exciting opportunity to leverage this tactic into better audience perceptions and sales numbers.
But how exactly can employee advocacy help you grow your business? What does a successful employee advocacy program look like? And how do you get there? Well, things will be a bit different for every brand, but here are some key things to consider to help you turn your employees into effective drivers of business growth.
Understand the Current Situation
For your employee advocacy program to be a true driver of business growth, you need to start by determining where you are. Ask yourself some of these questions:
- Do employees like and use the products we make or sell? If they don’t, this is a big red flag. You’ll need to find out why this is the case and do everything you can to change it.
- What is stopping people from advocating on behalf of the company? Think about what incentives an employee would have for advocating and ask yourself if this enough. And also think about how you recognize employees who go above and beyond and promote your brand in their private lives, as not giving proper attention to these efforts might dissuade people from being more vocal advocates of your brand.
A useful way to answer these questions is to conduct an employee survey. Doing one every year is good business practice anyway, as it helps you understand the current state of your workforce.
But think about giving special attention to the factors described above. If you don’t have time to do this yourself, bringing in an outside HR firm can work quite well. These agencies can conduct a survey on your behalf and present you with the results so that you can determine the best course of action moving forward.
Company Culture and Employee Engagement
A strong corporate culture is quickly becoming one of the things employees value most about their jobs. And employers are consistently more concerned with issues of employee engagement, as engaged employees tend to be happier and more productive. Because of this, both things should be at the top of your priority list. But if you’re considering implementing an employee advocacy program, then they’re even more important.
This is because engaged employees are far more likely to buy into an ambassador program. Think about it: if someone feels a deep connection to their place of work, then they are more likely to want to promote the company when they’re not in the office.
As a result, for your employee advocacy program to really drive growth, you need to first address any issues with employee engagement. This is where an employee survey can once again come in handy. You may find people are lacking challenge, which means you may need to invest in professional development. Or perhaps they feel as though they don’t have enough flexibility, a sign you may need to restructure your office and the workday.
Improving engagement is a slow and complicated process, but it’s a prerequisite for success with any employee advocacy program, and it’s the only way to make sure these initiatives can drive business growth.
Make Participation Easy
Once you’ve set a benchmark and also begun addressing issues with employee engagement, it’s time to start looking at the features of your employee advocacy program that are going to help make it a success.
Social media is an obvious choice for an employee ambassador program. Nearly everyone has at least one social media account, and your employees’ inner circles are groups of people you may not be able to otherwise reach. In this sense, it’s almost as if your employees can serve as micro-influencers.
However, for this to work, you need to make it easy for people to participate. And a good way to do this is to create content for people. Major brands AT&T, HP and IBM all ran programs that asked people to post on social media to promote the company, and they created internal platforms where people could download pre-curated content to post to their accounts.
This makes it really simple for people to advocate for your brand. And since the content has been professionally made, it’s also going to be better at communicating the right messages than what most employees would come up with on their own.
Offer Good Incentives
While we’d like to think employees who love working for your company would become advocates without any persuasion, we all know this likely isn’t true. You need to provide some incentives for people to participate if you hope to get enough people involved and make a real impact on growth.
But when coming up with incentive programs, be careful what you offer. Being too generous can foster too much competition, and it can also erode the authenticity of your campaign; you don’t want people participating just for the reward.
So to avoid this from happening, consider offering small things to successful advocates, such as the opportunity to spend more time working from home, or gift cards to local shops or restaurants. You can offer cash, but again, be careful with this, as it can have serious negative consequences on the overall success of the campaign.
Employees Truly Are Your Best Resource
A well-designed employee advocacy program can help you get more out of your employees without needing to push them too hard. Take the points discussed today into consideration when designing your program and be patient with yourself and your employees. A commitment to making people feel good about the work they do, and about the company they work for, will pay off in the end with more engaged employees who are willing to advocate for your company in any setting.
About the Author: Jock is the founder of Digital Exits, an online brokerage service specializing in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. His work requires him to consult with entrepreneurs about a wide range of issues, from business growth and development to the founder’s exit strategy. This has given him the chance to become an expert on high-growth startups, and also on what makes a business successful in today’s marketplace.