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When brands focus their attention on advocacy strategies, it usually revolves around turning their best customers into brand advocates.
After all, word of mouth is a powerful force. However, your sales teams and employees are, more often than not, the greatest brand ambassadors for your company.
Who better than the people closest to your product to share your brand message?
The key to cultivating advocacy from the inside out is to ensure your employees feel invested in your brand’s success. There are many ways to convert your employees from passive sales associates to true brand advocates that help ensure the success of a campaign.
Here are three approaches to encourage employees to advocate for your brand.
If your brand has a brick-and-mortar presence, there is nothing more important than ensuring that your customer’s experience inside the store aligns closely with the brand message they receive outside.
Often, the focus of a campaign is placed too much on motivating a consumer to do something and the role of the employee in that experience is overlooked.
Activating your in-store employees to represent the brand is particularly crucial, as customers don’t often differentiate between the messages they receive outside of a store and the messages they receive within those four walls.
In early 2013, Walgreens unveiled a rebrand, positioning itself as the go-to place for “Happy and Healthy” living.
To ensure that the new brand message was being represented in-store, Walgreens invested in a mobile-friendly Happy and Healthy employee trivia program. The trivia game educated and tested employee knowledge of what it means to be ‘Happy and Healthy.’
After completing the trivia, employees received a sweepstakes entry to win a fitness-related prize and were asked to submit a statement about how they help customers stay Happy and Healthy.
The sweepstakes incentive helped drive participation and the Happy and Healthy statements proved to be a great internal PR tool to have employees share and reinforce the brand message.
By looking at the trivia results, Walgreens could identify potential branding disconnects with employees and reactt accordingly.
Advocacy doesn't have to take place in-store or 1-to-1 with a customer. Take advantage of your employees' social networks to promote your brand.
To be successful, you need to provide something meaningful to share, make it easy, and provide a fair and motivating incentive.
When athletic retailer PUMA sought to promote its Friends and Family Weekend, it took one of the most popular employee incentive programs - a “friends and family discount” - and kicked it up a notch by making it socially engaging and tapping into their employees’ competitive spirits.
Rather than sending employees an email with a discount code for them to share on their own, PUMA added a competitive bent. Employee discount codes were trackable, so as they were shared and used, PUMA was able to see which employees were driving the most sales.
The top three performers won the contest's big prizes but any employee who achieved a specific threshold in sales was guaranteed a gift card reward. This created a spirit of competition at the high end while also motivating all employees with a guaranteed payout for hitting the threshold.
By incentivizing employees with sharable codes and coveted prizes, PUMA shifted the employee emphasis from “who should I send this to?” to “how can I get this in the hands of as many people as possible so I can win the contest?”
Adding this element of competition engaged employees and brought them closer to PUMA’s campaign goals.
Third party advocacy
For businesses that sell their products through third-party retailers, employee advocacy can be much more challenging, though far more valuable.
After all, these third-parties are often selling both your product and your competitor’s product, so getting employees on board with yours specifically can be difficult.
When Samsung sought to motivate store teams at three different retailers to sell more Samsung phones, it turned to a sales incentive program with a fun twist.
Each time an associate made a sale, the receipt printed a unique code to enter through the 'Samsung Monopoly' website. When the retail employee entered the code, they would receive one “Bank Dollar,” allowing them to advance one space on the digital Monopoly board.
Different spaces on the board generated instant win and collect-and-win prizes. Making it all the way around the board (through the 40 spaces) gave an employee a guaranteed payout, as well as the chance to win a $5,000 grand prize. Samsung Monopoly also rewarded sales associates for each individual sale.
Driving daily engagement through incremental prizes keeps your brand top of mind for employees and retail partners, thereby increasing the chances that they’ll recommend your product over your competitors'.
Turning retail employees into brand advocates is a big undertaking, but one with a big payoff.
Through fun contests, meaningful incentives, and opportunities to succeed each step of the way, store teams will work harder to see your product sell and your campaign succeed.