Brand Selling: How to Get your Employees on Board with your Brand
By Peter Baron
You’ve spent countless hours defining your company’s brand. Your tagline, product names, advertising and Web copy are complete. Your offerings are differentiated and value propositions are defined. But is your staff on board with your brand? Do they know what the market should expect when they see or hear your company’s name? And are employees communicating it in every interaction with customers and partners outside of the company?
We know that a marketer’s job is never done. Considering the business climate, a tough competitive landscape, global interactions social media tools that are rapidly extending your brand to wider online channels, it’s important to ensure employees know the company’s brand promise and how to deliver it consistently and accurately.
Understanding the Brand
While marketers can quickly recite the brand attributes of their organization, can everyone in the company communicate the certain unique qualities of the brand? As a marketer, internally selling the brand is the first step to empowering employees to be brand ambassadors.
A brand is not just your logo, tagline, Web site and brochure - it is a promise to customers that a specific level of value, quality, and service will be received.
Some companies have learned this lesson the hard way. Eastern Airlines made a commitment to its customers that they would “earn its wings everyday”, but poor service quality – from food, to baggage handling to scheduling – led consumers to boycott and eventually the company went under.
This example illustrates the importance of teaching employees the promise of your brand. Also, communicate your corporate values and philosophy internally. A successful brand is one seen as an overall business strategy, deriving success from full integration with all aspects of the business, including sales and marketing, internal and external communications, corporate philosophy and product development.
Getting Your Ambassadors On Board
Here are 5 easy steps to get your brand ambassadors started:
Know what you’re working with
To start, get a baseline understanding on how much your employees already know about the brand. Survey every department with 3-5 questions about the brand. Find out how many employees can accurately recall the company’s tagline? What do they think is the essence of the company’s brand? Do they know if it is in line with what customers think? What do they think they can do to support the brand?
Provide training and awareness programs
Create a "brand culture" where the organizing principle for all activity centers on delivering the brand promise to customers. To help employees remain aware of your brand priorities, use every opportunity to communicate your brand, including:
- Staff and departmental meetings
- New employee orientation materials and training classes
- Employee briefings prior to trade shows and conferences
- Internal communications
- Annual company meetings
- Employee performance reviews
- Marketing agency-led sessions to review your company's advertising and communications program
With the growth of social media, it’s critical to provide employees with guidelines to connect directly with customers to more actively engage in brand selling. This applies to employee blogs, LinkedIn or Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts.
- Encourage employees to think about the consequences of personal communications: Using a blog to trash or embarrass the company, customers, or co-workers, is not only dangerous but ill-advised
- Remind them that it’s perfectly fine to talk about your work and have a dialogue with the community, but it’s not okay to publish confidential information
- Have an easy and convenient process in place for employees to get marketing or management’s sign-off before they publish content online
Protect brand identity
Automate brand identity delivery with easy-to-use templates and logos including e-mail signatures, style guides, pre-branded PowerPoint presentations, etc. It’s a very simple first step for ensuring the visual elements of the brand are consistent across the board.
Arm the front lines
Here are some pointers for sales and customer service representatives interacting with customers the most:
- Use branding as a foundational sales tool and sell it first
- Put the brand into your sales language in order to leverage the brand's strength in the marketplace
- Wrap the brand experience within each step and at every level of the sales process
- Hold occasional "brand refresher" meetings with customers to reinforce the long-term benefits of partnering with your company and encourage sales folks to share feedback they are getting from customers
- With sales in particular, take the time to resolve customer issues in person, as personal attention and face-time breed familiarity, extend contacts across management and uncover new opportunities
Build a philosophy
Encourage employees to incorporate the brand into their every day processes. From e-mail to phone and in-person conversations, employees should ask themselves, what can I do to best present myself in a way that aligns with the company’s brand? Every communication should be viewed as an opportunity to assert brand image and drive brand loyalty.
- Create a simple at-a-glance branding and key message document that employees can easily access and keep top of mind as they perform their daily job functions
- Create scheduled assessment periods to get continuously updated internal and external readings on brand delivery and its effectiveness with employees and customers
- Encourage employees to see every communication as an opportunity to assert brand image and drive brand loyalty
- Keep language basic and always relate it directly to a particular department
For marketers, building a brand can take months, even years. But in today’s digital world, a brand can be damaged in a “Twitter minute.” Companies that live and breathe the brand promise, put training and development programs in place, along with metrics and performance management systems to promote “good brand behavior”, will be successful in integrating its brand strategies through the company at every point of public contact.
Peter Baron is founder and principal of Carabiner Communications, a marketing and PR firm serving start-up and high-growth technology companies. With two decades of technology marketing experience, Baron has directed campaigns for such well-known clients as Apple Computer, Ericsson GE, Motorola and IBM. Baron co-founded SocketPR which was acquired by Hill and Knowlton. Prior to founding SocketPR Baron was a partner and VP at Alexander Communications (now OgilvyPR Worldwide), where he oversaw accounts covering cross-platform communications, networking, databases and application development tools. His work spans the formative years of the PC industry, all the way to today’s Internet-driven, wireless and mobile device markets. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.