I think Marketing is like Charity: It begins at Home.

Have you ever been to a great restaurant, one that you’ve heard about and wanted to go to for ages, and when you got there, full of excitement and wonder, your waitron messes up your order before you’ve even got your first drink? Or how would you feel if you bought a BMW 3 series and the salesman gave you a plastic keyring and bottle of cheap sparkling wine as a sweetener? The answer is: pretty underwhelmed! My point is, it is your own staff who can often do the most damage to your brand. This is why marketing needs to start at home, with your own “family”, your staff.

Many business owners sadly overlook their own staff as ambassadors of their brand. “My staff aren’t my target market” and “ They should know the business they are in, anyway” are some of the comments that excuse spending time and effort (and possibly money) on educating our staff about the brand experience of our product or services.  And it is a severe oversight.

Your customers or consumers certainly don’t have the same view. In my mind, everyone who works for a company represents that company and is held responsible by me, the consumer, in providing the product or service I expect. I am sure you are all the same. I don’t separate the Caltex petrol attendant from the Caltex fuel that goes into my car. They are all part of the perceived brand experience, and leaving staff out leaves huge gaps in what consumers experience.

We must make sure that our staff are all behind our brand experience, that they understand exactly what it’s all about so that they can help deliver the full service. What’s more, your staff are an excellent testing ground for how clear and effective your marketing communications are: if your own people don’t understand you – people who work on and with your brands every day – how can you expect the public to? So how do we market to our own staff?

Here are 5 tips for turning staff into brand ambassadors:

1) Include staff in your marketing strategy: ensure they are part of your marketing strategy, treat them as a sub target market if you like, allocate some budget to bringing your brand alive for staff.

2) Train your staff on your brand experience:  You can’t expect a consistent brand experience delivery unless you train your staff first. Brand experience training should be part of every staff member’s induction and repeat training carried out for each staff member at least once a year (for customer facing staff I would do this every quarter).

3) Treat staff as “insiders” with preferential access: People who work in a company are expected to have inside info on new developments and secrets. Give them the inside track so that they feel like they are special and have special knowhow on your brands.

4) Ask staff for input: Secretly your staff believe they are experts on your brands, and believe me, they are seen as the experts by their friends and families. So ask them for advice and input every now and then, and if you  get them to contribute you may just be surprised at what value they can add. Also, nothing boosts morale (and fuels office gossip) like the story of the office cleaner who came up with the last marketing campaign (and got recognition for it!).

5) Give staff the tools to be your ambassadors: Just like any target market, you want to give your staff ambassadors the tools to promote you. Tell them about your events, show them your ads and PR articles, share your facebook posts. They can’t spread the word alone, so give them the tools of the trade.

The 5 tips are just the start, but I hope you have realised how important your staff are in your marketing strategy and brand experience delivery.  Creating Brand Ambassadors in your business can often be the difference between winning and losing in this tough market place, and it’s one of the most cost effective strategies out there!

Please share any other strategies you know for turning staff into effective brand ambassadors …