Take a moment to consider your existing team. Is it filled with people who are championing your services and promoting your business? Or, are they order-takers counting down the minutes until the end of the day? In other words, are your employees brand ambassadors, or do they show up simply to clock in and out on a busy day?
Put simply, the difference between an employee and a true brand ambassador is how they dedicate themselves to the company and, in turn, how you dedicate yourselves to them. It’s equal parts who they are and how you treat them, so it comes down to your hiring process and your internal employee engagement levels. A true ambassador is committed to your brand and the growth of your company, bringing new ideas and fresh perspectives to the table.
Sounds great, right? If you’re trying to figure out how to build a team of brand ambassadors, read on to understand the process from start to finish.
1. Nail down your company and its brand.
Before anything, you need to determine the key values of your company and how they fit into your future goals. When you think of your brand, how would you describe it at its core? Those qualities are what will help you to find your people. Write your job description and craft your interview questions around those characteristics to pre-qualify the candidates.
For example, in my company, we value being approachable, professional, relationship-driven, passionate, educational and able to execute. All of these terms drive the business, so anyone who joins the team must align with these qualities. If you skip this step and go right to hiring, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with someone who isn’t the best fit.
2. Hire the right people.
When you being the hiring process, keep in mind the expectations of a brand ambassador. You’re seeking people whom you can send to networking events and trust them to be the face of your brand. They will represent you in a professional capacity, but they’ll also sing your praises in their personal lives, because your company will mean that much to them.
It’s worth noting that it’s not a clone you're looking for--you don't want someone with all of the same traits and who thinks the same as you. Instead, you want someone who complements you and can fill the gaps in your business. If you're introverted and prefer to stay behind the scenes, find the person who exudes bubbliness and is excited to go out and meet people on your behalf. We all have strengths and weaknesses; the best brand ambassador is the one whose characteristics meshes seamlessly with your own.
3. Be strategic with onboarding.
The onboarding process is a significant factor in defining a brand ambassador's role as opposed to that of a basic employee. It's your chance to set expectations and immerse a new hire in the company’s brand--from its values to the work environment.
One thing that can speed up—and simplify—the onboarding process is having an employee handbook ready to share with any new team member. It should cover your company’s mission, values, standard operating procedures, and any detailed processes as needed. This provides your employees with a resource they can rely on for questions. You should still be an open resource for them, too, but a self-serve component will help to teach and empower them quickly and efficiently.
4. Empower your employees.
On the topic of empowerment, it is the key to turning employees into brand ambassadors. Show them they have a stake in your company by sharing the inside scoop--discuss the current status of your accounts, touch on where you stand financially, and share your goals and fears for the future of your business.
Employees become brand ambassadors when they genuinely feel like they are a part of the fabric in your business. Sign them up for educational opportunities or take them with you to your next industry conference; the more you are willing to invest, the more you'll get out of them.
5. Become their brand ambassador.
At the end of the day, even the best employees are still people who are trying to figure it out in life. Thus, your most committed brand ambassadors might still leave your company to pursue their passions. It's a change that can hurt, both financially and emotionally, especially after all that you've invested in their growth.
However, this opens up the chance to become their brand ambassador and support them on their journey. Sit down and discuss what they’re looking for, then see if you can refer them to another business, or help them find their next step. At the very least, assure them that you will be a glowing reference. Keep nurturing that relationship and, you never know, they might even come back.
A team of brand ambassadors adds more value to your company than merely their output. They are loyal, engaged, and dedicated members of your brand and will be the first to network, promote, and sell on your behalf--even while they're off the clock.
Jennifer Taylor is the owner and founder of Taylor’d Event Group, a leading event planning company that serves local and destination clients in Washington State and Maui, Hawaii. She is also the principal of Jen Taylor Consulting, a consulting firm that works with creative businesses of all sizes to implement streamlined workflows and organized systems to find more time and space for business growth and personal development.