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3 reasons to embrace and equip your internal brand ambassadors

Branding is important.  The perceptions that customers have about a company, and its products and services, play a big part in how they make purchasing decisions.  Personas are important, too.  Social media has changed how brands are defined online and enabled companies to create more robust, almost lifelike, personalities.  Increased brand loyalty, customer acquisition and retention are high on the list of goals for marketers, and branding efforts, be they online or offline, and through digital, social and traditional channels, play a critical role in helping to achieve those goals.  

With increasing frequency, companies are looking to their most accessible, most amenable stakeholders to help take branding to new levels, and more employees are assuming the role of “brand ambassadors.”  Here are three reasons why that’s a great thing:

  1. On the front lines, demand for product knowledge and excellence in customer care is greater than ever before. 
    Today, it’s not enough to equip salespeople with sheets of marketing collateral, or the communications team with a wallet-sized card of key messages.  Employees need to understand what their brand represents, what their company stands for, and what makes it different from every other company.US-based clothier and retailer American Eagle starts to foster brand ambassadorship as soon as new team members join the company.  They connect employees to the company and its core values, and to other employees, from Day 1, offering brand advocacy and engagement training, and committing to keep their employees informed, engaged and inspired throughout their careers.  The company’s “Live your life” tagline is more than marketing copy, though; it’s their culture.  American Eagle has proven that not only do brand ambassadors improve morale and peer-education within the employee base, but because they are so knowledgeable about the company and its products and services, their brand ambassadors also prove to be its greatest competitive advantage.  Quite literally, knowledge is power.
  2. In a world where influencers rule, your employees can lead the charge. 
    Anyone in marketing, PR or community management knows the power, allure and caché of The Influencer. They’re connected, opinionated, and authoritative because, quite simply, what influencers do and say, what they recommend and shun, impacts the behaviours of others.  When employees are educated and vocal about their company and their brand, they have the power – every day and in real-time – to affect the decisions of their clients and prospects, and to become influencers in their own right.  And this isn’t specific to the communications team; corporate influencers and brand ambassadors live in customer service, accounts payable and front-line sales.A 2010 study from Trend Micro showed that more workers around the globe are using social networks while in the office and on the clock, and that in the US, UK, Germany and Japan, social web use in the workplace has risen from 19% to 24% in just the last two years.  There can be tremendous opportunity to increase brand awareness and customer affinity when companies arm their staff with the knowledge and confidence they need to responsibly act as brand ambassadors in social networks. The fact is that employees are already using social media, so it often makes sense to use their voices as agents and ambassadors of the brand. 
  3. Battles aren’t won with a single soldier, but an entire army. 
    Competition is fierce, and the battle for market share, profit and share-of-voice is not an easy one for companies to fight.  Business is not 9-to-5, and it’s not relegated behind office walls.  Just as social media has enabled real-time marketing and branding, it’s also necessitated real-time customer service and community management.  While many companies have a single person or small team dedicated to managing traditional and social media communications, there’s no doubt that there is strength in numbers.  Empowering a larger group of brand ambassadors from teams across an organization has the ability to bring about great change and success, as Best Buy’s Twelpforce, Fiskars’ Fiskateers and the Zappos team have proven. 

It’s important to remember that in every endeavour, and at every touch point, the actions and reactions of internal stakeholders can be critical to a company’s success. Employees are front-line defence, stalwart ambassadors and trusted assets to bring out the very best of what their company represents.  Don’t distrust and discount them; empower and embrace them. 

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