Part 2: Brand Advocates Anywhere, Any Time
A couple of weeks ago, on the flight that brought me to a digital-free vacation on a Caribbean island, far away from work and anything remotely related—or so I thought—I made a chance encounter that taught me a lesson about the power of a brand.
The Progress-branded jacket I was wearing didn’t go unnoticed. A mild-mannered man approached me and started a casual conversation. “Progress, huh? Is this the software company?” As much as I like to think that any professional boarding a plane in Boston would be familiar with our company, I was surprised by his interest nonetheless and asked him how he had heard about Progress. His answer left me speechless. But more about that later.
The point of this anecdote is to demonstrate the power of purposely preparing your employees to become your best marketing ally outside of their work environment. Here’s how:
Tell Them What You Want Them to Say
Craft a short message that answers the question, “what does your company do?” (a.k.a. mission statement). The statement must be concise and written in simple, everyday language to maximize message retention. The more concise the message, the more chances of remembering it verbatim. Your goal as you craft the statement is to make sure your employees are able to convey the essence of the company’s mission, even if not word for word. This is especially important for companies with complex matrix organizations, with each business unit potentially promoting its own mission. You can test your message by surveying your employees and asking them to answer the “what do we do” question in their own words. You may be very surprised by the results. If the answers you get are all over the place, it may be time to revisit your mission statement or your communication approach, or both.
Give Them Useful Branded Merchandise
All too often, merchandise items that are distributed to employees are useless and of low quality: candy, pins, balloons and the like. These may be fine to mark a special occasion, but they are short-lived. At best, they will end up at the bottom of a drawer, defeating the very purpose of leveraging these items for brand recognition. What you want is merchandise objects that your employees will enjoy using for the long haul—or at least until the next rebranding effort. Take that jacket I was wearing on the plane to Martinique; had it been poorly cut, undersized or oversized, you bet I would have relegated it to the dark end of my closet (or worse.) This one, however, happens to be a favorite piece of clothing I bring along on all my trips. The Progress logo on it never fails to stir curiosity, opening up opportunities to start a conversation about my company and my job. On that flight, it happened again, and boy, was I glad I was prepared for this unexpected chat.
Train Them for Social Media
Social media outlets are very powerful communication vehicles that can easily and inexpensively be made available to your employees with very little training. Armed with your company mission statement and a few guidelines, your employees can become effective brand advocates and exponentially amplify your carefully crafted messages on a multitude of platforms. Think about all the social media resources right here, right now—and for free! In part one of this blog series, I offered advice on things to consider when enrolling your company’s most valuable assets—your employees—as social marketing agents.
In a world where the line between work and life is blurred by digital access from anywhere at any time, a company brand takes a life of its own outside of the traditional communication media and out of your control. It’s in the conversations we have with family and friends. It’s on display in the most mundane objects. And, it’s even on the clothes we wear. These are the new media that we, as marketers, cannot afford to overlook anymore. As long as you can keep your employees engaged and happy, they, in turn, will be proud to act as your brand advocates.
So why did my fortuitous encounter with a curious passenger surprise me? Because the man happened to be Clyde Kessel, co-founder of Progress. As we celebrate the company’s 35th anniversary this month, this happenstance was quite a coincidence. Or was it?