Most companies budget resources to build and promote their brand. They support sales and marketing efforts. They invest in top-notch customer service to support clients. And they put recruitment and hiring strategies in place to attract top talent. Yet many overlook a powerful in-house resource: employee ambassadors.
You might think getting employees to rave about your brand is something that will happen naturally. But you can build up support faster with a thoughtful approach.
Actively encouraging employees to become brand ambassadors can have a big impact on your bottom line. According to research, 65% of companies that implemented formal corporate ambassador strategies saw increased brand recognition.
This recognition increases your reach with customers, but also with potential hires. So what exactly does it take to inspire your employees to become brand ambassadors?
Let’s start by looking at why individual representation is so effective.
The power of word-of-mouth
Put simply, people trust other people. They’re far more likely to be influenced by someone in their network vs. an ad or an interaction with a salesperson.
It’s a combination of trust, relevance, and emotional connection.
Trust. People in our network tend to be friends, family, or acquaintances. These are people with whom we share values, interests, or experiences. Our commonalities make us think of them as more credible sources of information.
Also, when someone we know recommends something, it creates a form of social proof. It’s a cue that reduces the perceived risk of trying it ourselves.
Relevance. This builds on the idea of trust. People in your network likely understand your preferences and needs. So their recommendations are more targeted and applicable to your specific situation.
Emotional connection. Recommendations from friends or family often carry a stronger emotional weight. Their personal experiences evoke empathy, making the influencer’s message more persuasive.
Also, if someone recommends something to us, we may be more likely to try it as a way of returning the favor, even if we wouldn’t have considered it before.
Building brand loyalty through employees
The above factors mean having employees as brand ambassadors helps you reach a wider audience. And have more influence on that audience.
Sounds great, right?
Absolutely. But if you want to engage your team in promoting your brand, you have to know how to do so effectively. Real loyalty has to be authentic. Otherwise, your prospective customers will see employee efforts as just another “sales trick.”
When employees understand and align with the company values, they naturally become ambassadors. And their genuine promotion will help people see their opinions as honest and unbiased.
How employees can promote your company
In some industries, internal brand promotion is straightforward. For instance, employees of a clothing company can advertise the products by wearing them and talking about their quality.
But what about less obvious connections? What if someone works for a construction firm or a B2B software as a service (SaaS) company?
Employee advocacy is not about turning employees into salespeople. They can use their enthusiasm and inside knowledge to hype your brand in lots of organic ways. For instance, by:
- Sharing company news and updates on new products, projects, and achievements on social media
- Posting testimonials, reviews, and behind-the-scenes stories on company review/job-hunting sites
- Taking part in online discussions related to the industry or company, representing the brand’s voice, and sharing valuable insights
- Using branded hashtags in their posts
- Talking about their positive experiences at work with friends, family, and acquaintances
- Representing the company at industry events, conferences, or community gatherings
- Providing feedback and suggestions to help the company improve its policies, practices, and culture
If your team openly discusses your company’s good practices and values, they help build your brand. Even if it’s tough to see the direct impact on numbers right away.
How to empower employees as brand advocates
To create a successful employee brand ambassador program, you need an approach that builds genuine relationships with your employees. And find ways to help them understand how to promote the brand to their network without it feeling forced.
Here are six strategies for turning employees into brand ambassadors:
- Participate in purpose-driven initiatives
The vast majority of employees want to work for a company that shares their values. Give your employees a reason to believe that their work contributes to something bigger. Volunteer initiatives, environmental efforts, or community outreach programs connect them to a broader mission. They add meaning and fuel genuine advocacy.
- Encourage collaboration
One thing at the top of the list of what employees want today: more team bonding time. Break down silos and foster a culture of cross-team collaboration. Let employees see how their efforts are woven into the tapestry of the company’s success. Encourage knowledge sharing, joint projects, and cross-functional learning. This builds a sense of belonging and shared ownership, investing employees in the brand’s story.
- Offer ownership
Don’t just tell people the plan. Let them help build it. Involve employees in goal-setting, brainstorming future projects, and implementing new initiatives. Find out what staff incentives matter most to them and build them into the company culture. This sense of contribution empowers them to take pride in the company’s direction. And will help them become vocal champions of its vision.
- Be free with recognition
Celebrating milestones isn’t only about trophies and pats on the back. It’s about acknowledging individual and team achievements. Show your team their contributions matter with regular employee recognition. Consider personalized shout-outs, peer recognition programs, or rewards that connect to their interests. This boosts morale and fuels the desire to share their experience with their network.
- Listen to (and act on) feedback
Open communication is crucial to building strong employee ambassadors. Create feedback mechanisms that invite employees to share their thoughts on your brand, culture, and processes. Then follow up by showing people their opinion carries weight. Respond to and incorporate feedback to help employees see that they’re not cogs in a machine. They’re active participants in shaping the company’s future. This fosters trust and empowers them to be advocates for positive change.
- Lead by example
Actions speak louder than words. Make sure your leadership team embodies the brand values in their daily interactions. Teach them to be transparent, approachable, and passionate about the company’s mission. When leadership walks the talk, it becomes less of a slogan and more of a lifestyle. And it influences employees to follow suit.
Successful employee brand ambassador program examples
By focusing on employee happiness, purpose, and empowerment, brands can turn their workforce into their most passionate and effective brand ambassadors. Let’s take a look at company ambassador initiatives at work in real companies.
The shoe retailer built a cult-like following by focusing on employee happiness. Their Zappos.com Culture Blog features passionate employee stories, showcasing their diverse roles and genuine enthusiasm for the company culture.
This outdoor apparel brand is well known for its commitment to protecting the planet. It offers opportunities for the many employees who share that value to get involved.
For instance, the company’s environmental internship program. It provides paid time off for employees to spend up to two months working for the environmental organization of their choice. Employees can make a difference. And they return to the company inspired and even more committed to the brand’s mission.
Known for its fun-loving culture and exceptional customer service, Southwest empowers employees to influence decisions on policies and procedures. It also encourages them to inject their personalities into their work.
This authenticity shines through when team members make routine safety announcements fun and engaging for passengers. These interactions make employees relatable and enthusiastic brand ambassadors.
Employees are the living embodiment of your corporate brand
When you implement these strategies, you create a company culture where employees don’t just work for a paycheck. They work for a purpose. You foster a sense of ownership, belonging, and pride. And that naturally translates into genuine brand advocacy.
Your employees won’t only be promoting your brand. They’ll be living it, breathing it, and sharing it with their world. And their support can be one of the most powerful marketing tools you have.