Brand advocates: the missed opportunity in building brand awareness
Brand awareness: a nirvana of most entrepreneurs and business leaders. It’s not impossible; you only have to take a look around your immediate setting to see any number of household or business-related brands that we’re all very familiar with. But in the more relatable everyday world of running successful businesses, achieving even a fraction of this kind of renown seems fraught with big budgets and long time frames.
Some assume it should naturally follow where there’s a credible business model and demonstrable demand for the core offering. Others struggle to gain traction beyond their immediate network despite their efforts.
What to do?
Big budgets aside, there’s plenty that can be done to build brand awareness. Initial thoughts about those who will endorse a brand might lead to external searches for happy clients. But that potentially means overlooking valuable internal advocates. In this blog we want to focus on a hugely under-utilised resource which is largely free to deploy: your staff.
Employee advocates positively promote the business they work for through word-of-mouth, social media posts and by contributing to industry-related events. This means that they can be a powerful tool in building brand awareness:
LinkedIn research indicates that employees collectively have social networks that are ten times bigger than a corporate brand. Perhaps more importantly, employee shares on social media for example, are considered more authentic than corporate shares, resulting in double the number of click-throughs.
Content created or shared by employees is useful in building prospective client relationships because it offers an opportunity to connect and engage. The benefits extend to a firm-wide level too: in a study by Aberdeen Group, formal employee advocacy programs were credited with a 26% rise in year-on-year annual revenue.
With an agreed set of brand values and thoughts on how these relate to employees, staff are better equipped to embrace and communicate them consistently and authentically. It may seem obvious (and it’s been said many times) but ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ really does increase understanding and awareness. And this brings us to the next point.
Strong brand values, championed by existing employees, help to attract new recruits who are aligned to the company’s values and beliefs. Done well, a virtuous circle with an increasing number of internal brand advocates starts to emerge. Our work with Vario sought to position the business as a people-centric brand that connected emotionally with its audience whilst echoing its professional values and contributed to a 71% year-on-year growth in their community.
Employee advocacy programs have been shown to increase happiness and engagement at work; a study by Hinge found that 86% of respondents reported a positive impact from formal programs. Feeling valued has the positive knock on effect of advocating the brand’s offering as well as being a good place to work.
We have to accept that buying behaviour and decisions are rarely based solely on logical and factual information; prospective clients are likely to show greater loyalty to the ‘good guys’. Purpose and culture are key differentiators so it’s worth nurturing internal brand advocates given the important role they play.
At Bretom we believe that employees are a crucial part of building a successful brand; their advocacy of a brand, whether the result of a formal program or more simply a cultural or leadership approach that encourages it, is a powerful tool in building brand awareness. It’s something that large and small businesses, those with deep pockets and those on a shoestring, can use to their advantage.