Word of mouth is given the royal treatment within marketing blogs and serves as a fundamental building block within the description of a marketing mix in any textbook. Little wonder, really, when
“92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising” (Nielsen).
After all, our trust as consumers is innately better placed in our fellow consumers than in the shiny words that arrive in the latest glossy brochure or on that pixel perfect website.
And yet despite the powers of persuasion that this medium holds, little to nothing is done by brands to leverage this tool – instead, it is seen as a natural by-product of good customer service, high quality products and simply doing things well. This is in spite of the deadening impact that negative word of mouth can have on a brand – and the fact that it would be logical to counter this, if only as a prudent step toward balance. To highlight just how large a divide there is between the power of word of mouth, and the notable lack of action plans, consider this:
“64% of marketing executives believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. And yet just 6% say they have mastered it” (WOMMA).
Brand Drivers – Looking beyond The Usual Suspects
Pricing, packaging, positioning and distribution are just some of the influencers on pushing for consumer brand preference over and above others. But amongst the day to day tasks and month to month analysis for your marketing department, it’s likely that dramatic changes aren’t undertaken on the core of your marketing mix. In the process, this ensures that the most powerful, persuasive and compelling business asset you have is unharnessed and overlooked for driving the power of word of mouth marketing.
We talk, of course, of your employees – those who can be your strongest brand voice and the biggest advocates of your brand. They are capable of making your message personal, and are privy to scores of social connections which together add up to a follower count that your marketing department could likely only dream of. There is power in numbers – and when your employees are your advocates, you benefit from an incredible audience reach.
“Employee networks are up to 50x larger than corporate accounts” – DSMN8 Whitepaper “The Social Employee” (2016)
Consumers trust company employees over and above the official voice of the brand, such as the CEO – and trust is what makes for repeat purchases, consumer loyalty and the potential for consumers, themselves, transforming into brand advocates.
“60% of employees said they would be more likely to create or share company content if employers made it easier to do so” – DSMN8 Whitepaper “The Social Employee” (2016)
Content creation, conversations and customer interactions
Capitalising upon employee advocacy can mean interactions by email, social media, forums, discussion boards or blogs – but you must empower your employees to allow them to do so, breaking away from archaic social media user policies and encouraging them to get out there, in the digital world, to spread the word.
“Overlap of employee social networks with brand networks is less than 8% – a huge opportunity to reach new audience” – DSMN8 Whitepaper “The Social Employee” (2016)
If we take the stat above, we come to appreciate the vast potential of employee advocacy – and beyond reach, lies something that brands could spend thousands or even millions on purchasing – and that’s trust. But even then, the slickest of PR campaigns really can’t come close to the authenticity that is generated by employee advocacy.
KPIs and a clear view ahead
Clarifying your KPIs and marketing objectives are the critical first steps to crafting an effective employee advocacy strategy. It’s time to ask some pretty important questions:
- Who is your target audience?
- Are you aiming to improve the perception of your brand?
- Are you seeking to boost brand awareness?
- Are you looking to influence new customers?
No matter the ultimate aim of your employee advocacy strategy, the point of it comes down to this: your employees can amplify your brand voice and create invaluable brand equity through trust and credibility. For the pioneers of employee advocacy, rich pickings await, whilst for those who lag behind and consider this brave new world of marketing too much trouble, there exists only opportunity to be overtaken by companies that have nailed down this powerful, persuasive medium of marketing.