Heard of Google Pizza Ambassadors or Developer Advocates? They represent a cross-section of the market that a brand looks to win over. HR folks have a task to attract the top talent and retain them. Marketers and Salespersons have the single-most important agenda to win customers, retain their trust and get their repeat orders. Finance people have something similar with not only the internal customers but also the financial institutions who play the vital role of financing their growth plans. There is practically nobody in an organization who can achieve one’s goals without the approval of an external stakeholder. How does one receive recommendation from others?
We need Brand Ambassadors
Organizations invest huge amount of energy and money in listening to the voices in the market. Not only the tech giants like Google, Amazon and Microsoft use brand ambassadors but companies in retail, consumer products, engineering, telecom and logistics develop customers who would advocate their products or services. It’s always more believable for a customer when someone similar has a positive experience of the brand. No amount of advertising and promotional campaigns can replace the power of recommendation of another person I can relate to.
You may be a surgeon, a chef, a designer, a plumber, an engineer, a customer service executive or an accountant, you need to understand why your role exists and how you must add value. The role becomes meaningful only when there are many takers of the work you are doing or the value that you are delivering. You as a brand shine when there are ambassadors talking about you and your work. Many others listen to their words and look forward to your piece of work.
Should you stack the deck?
Organizations have to put their best foot forward all the time so that their customers and all other stakeholders such as their own employees, suppliers and partners see the bright side of the work done by them. However, dressing up the bride beyond a point could create an unrealistic picture and set very high expectations in the minds of the stakeholders. It is impossible to meet those dream-like lofty expectations and hence, one shouldn’t make surreal attempts to glorify one’s strengths. We do not want to be a phoney brand that people get disenchanted with. Let us not burden ourselves with the problem of post-purchase dissonance! Realistic presentation of what one does well and how it adds value to the other stakeholder is desired.
HR folks need to provide a realistic job preview, engage their brand ambassadors to promote the brand promise appropriately and passionately. Similarly, marketers need to promise the values realistically, bosses must say what they mean to do, sub-ordinates must promise what they can deliver with their best efforts and so on.
We can plant the seeds by recruiting the right ambassadors, training them well about the brand promise, the narrative and the advocacy program. While they go about spreading the word around, it is important to monitor the program, the kind of engagement happening on the ground and making course-corrections. We have to be genuine and authentic. No stacking the deck, please!
When does one start receiving recommendations?
Loyal customers are not necessarily the brand advocates; they keep buying the product but do not have the urge to spread the word around. They do not have such high levels of passion and involvement with the brand or the value proposition that they would influence others positively about the brand. Ideally we need brand ambassadors who are not only loyal to the brand but also speak positively about their experience with the brand.
In our hyper-connected world of today, it is not difficult to spread the word around. Brand ambassadors have to be engaged well by the marketing team or the leader of the business. When we are trying to strengthen an employer brand, thereby attract and retain top talent, the HR team needs to find people within the organization who have progressed well and are willing to talk about their experience within the organization as well as the outsiders. They need to be identified, nurtured and highlighted so that they keep enthusing others with their positive experience. It is important to involve them appropriately in organization development activities so that they stay within their remit.
When such a program is managed well, a virtuous cycle sets in and the power of compounding kicks in. Organization starts seeing greater engagement of their employees, better financial results aided by higher levels of employee commitment.