I recently spoke at the Colorado Marketing Summit (#COMKTG) on a panel entitled “The Colorado Brand”. During the session I mentioned an employee engagement program I introduced as a grassroots marketing strategy. After the session I received 10 emails and LinkedIn messages from marketers wanting to know more about the program and how they could replicate it at their companies. Since so many people were interested, I thought I would share it here.
Back when I was head of marketing for zColo, a Zayo Group sub-brand specializing in the data center industry, we were noticing more competitors coming into the Colorado market. Considering this is our home turf, we were all understandably annoyed by the influx. I remember being in a meeting where we discussed the lack of local brand recognition and saying, “This is not acceptable in our house!” And so the program #OurHouse was built.
#OurHouse was a grassroots campaign designed to leverage our large staff in Colorado in order to get the name “zColo” out in the market. It was comprised of a few pieces.
- Train employees on the elevator pitch
- Get our brand name out and about
- Introduce ourselves to other Colorado brands
- Communicate internally using a simple message
Training employees on the elevator pitch
You would be shocked at how interested your employees are in building the brand. My quarterly marketing plan presentation always had great attendance from, strangely, the engineering side of the business. Data center technicians, electrical engineers and software developers would show up in mass (85% attendance) to hear what marketing had to say, while sales averaged only a 15% attendance record.
When you have engagement like that from curious employees, leverage it. These are the people talking about the company, interacting with end customers and representing your brand on a daily basis – so turn them from employees into advocates.
The easiest way to do that is to teach them the elevator pitch. I’ve written instructions for writing a simple and memorable elevator pitch in the aptly named blog post, “How to Write an Elevator Pitch“. By giving your employees, all your employees, the tools to quickly and eloquently describe your brand, you’re inadvertently creating a field marketing team. They will feel more confident speaking on the brand and you can be assured they’re doing it correctly.
Ask yourself, how big your field marketing team could be if every employee was a trained brand advocate?
Get your brand name out and about
After you have taught them how to talk about the brand, give them something cool to wear that also has the brand. We made jackets that read zColorado and gave one to every data center tech and employee in Colorado. The jackets were a HUGE hit! I would walk around town and see employees wearing them proudly on the weekends.
The key is to create something people will want to wear. We got nice jackets that were actually warm and fashionable. Since state pride is a really big deal in Colorado (think on par with Texas), incorporating the state brand also made local employees want it all the more.
Plus it was a unique piece of swag that was made only for them. I even had a director pull me aside once to tell me how much the field employees appreciated the jackets and how they felt they were more involved in the company culture as a result. It made me feel amazing.
Introduce Ourselves to Other Colorado Brands
After all our Colorado employees got a jacket, we made a list of all the Colorado companies we would love to work with but didn’t have a relationship yet. Then we packed up the jackets and mailed them, along with a signed letter, to the CIOs at each of those companies. The letter introduced zColo and asked for a meeting with our Vice President. We received several thank you notes and a few meetings out of the campaign. Since brands rarely send you a $30 jacket just to say hi, you can understand why they were understandably appreciative.
Communicate Internally Using a Simple Message
As the program grew legs of it’s own after a while, it was important to have a simple way to communicate internally about how we were reaching the Colorado market. Zayo uses Salesforce for everything, including internal communication. We would use the hashtag #OurHouse on any internal communication about the program, which was easy to remember and understand. Since it was also the name of the program, it made a lot of sense.
Now it’s your turn. Ask yourself the following questions as you’re developing an employee brand engagement program of your own.
- What will success look like?
- How do I want employees to talk about the brand? How can we train them to do it correctly?
- What are ways we can get employees excited about the program and feel they are owners in its success?
- What are other ways we could utilize the program to build the funnel?
- How long do we want the program to last?
After you’ve designed your program or are in the planning stages, leave me a comment below and tell me how your company is turning employees into brand advocates.