B2B tech companies are fueled by innovation. The common goal is to make the day-to-day easier and more efficient for clients. Everyone involved in operations brings something special to the table and plays a role in improving the status quo — both internally and externally.
In the tech world, employees can be the most powerful weapon in expanding brand awareness, spreading value and, ultimately, making sales if used correctly. Advocacy marketing campaigns, which deal with brand advocacy by customers and other stakeholders, have been growing at a staggering rate of 570% over the past year in B2B companies, according to a 2017 survey from IDC.
Employee advocacy, a critical component that falls under the umbrella term of advocacy marketing, is all about creating meaningful, genuine relationships between workers, companies and ultimately, customers. Let’s discuss a few areas where employee advocacy is critical, along with some good strategies to implement it.
Within The Company Culture
Culture and advocacy are both influenced greatly by employee engagement. After all, engagement is all about how everyone in a company feels about their leadership and contribution to the business as a whole. Therefore, it affects how they act as brand advocates.
This type of culture is not created overnight, nor should it be established by force. It must be naturally built into a business via day-to-day practices. By incorporating beneficial strategies and systems, companies can create a better internal culture that pushes for productivity, involvement and innovation for the ultimate betterment of the customer.
Many tech companies have found that using Agile and Scrum principles are especially beneficial, since they encourage teamwork and self-management. Teams breakdown large projects into attainable chunks called “sprints,” where the entire team strategizes together to accomplish each task. They then meet regularly to go over everything that was accomplished and discuss ideas for improvement.
A remarkable 87% of employees who use Scrum agree that the practices significantly improve the quality of their work experience. Adopting a practice that has such a positive effect on the company as a whole will inevitably help to improve the internal culture of the organization.
Since culture can only exist through the people within it, every new team member will make a positive or negative difference to the big picture. Therefore, one of the clearest ways to create a healthy culture is by starting it off on the right foot from the very beginning. An AI-based recruiting tool lets you make data-backed assessments to gauge a candidate’s unique capabilities and personality traits. Soft skills like problem solving, leadership qualities, situation judgement, etc. play a big role in company culture, so identifying these characteristics during the hiring process can result in better additions to the team.
In order to develop an advocacy program that is authentic and effective, practices that push for advocacy must be built into the company culture and day-to-day operations.
On Social Media
One of the reasons why the tech field is so fascinating is because the people involved are constantly discovering new breakthroughs and solutions to common problems. In a B2B tech company, your employees on the front lines are your most valuable source of new information. Why not encourage them to share their expertise on social media?
Hinge Marketing measured the results of social media-based advocacy programs from various businesses, and concluded that it actively increased brand recognition, website traffic and conversion rates by up to 79%.
The reason social media outreach works for employees is because they are genuine people, not a brand or business. People identify with people, so posts from employees are typically seen as being more honest and reliable than paid marketing messages. Therefore, it is best to not force employees to share content, but rather encourage them to get involved in more authentic engagement.
Authenticity is the key to making social advocacy work. While employees may be happy to share their experiences with their networks online, they may not think to share this information unless they are kindly asked to do so by someone in the company. Leaders should encourage their workers to share pictures or stories, especially during fun or exciting events such as company get-togethers or business conferences. Creating a unique hashtag for everyone to use is a great way to inspire social sharing.
Hootsuite is well known for its social media monitoring system, but they also offer a program specifically for employee advocacy called Amplify. The tool gives employees access to links, materials and pre-approved social messaging that they can then share on their personal accounts. Managers and marketing teams can also easily track the results and engagement of every post and reach out to potential leads on their own.
Many companies these days are promoting the idea of personal branding for their executives. This is a great way for employees to not only expand the reach of the company, but also improve their own online presence. Putting together a library of content, such as articles featuring the company’s valuable messaging, makes it easier for everyone to share accurate information in an instant.
The key to making employee advocacy successful is to make it fun and natural. However, it is still important that companies have tools and systems in place. Adopting an ongoing employee advocacy program that provides content and incentives for social sharing will make it easier to encourage action. People on your team will be inclined to post messages about your brand if there is something that they think is worthy of sharing. While these posts may need to be approved or moderated by branding or legal teams, it is best to let your employees share things in their own words to keep things authentic and genuine.
On Niche Blogs And Review Sites
Having your employee’s work, interviews or writing featured on blogs related to your B2B niche is a perfect way to capture the attention of future customers. If your website has a blog of its own, consider asking your employees to submit a piece to be published that focuses on different aspects of the industry.
An example of a company that does this really well is Degreed. The company itself offers online certification programs for businesses to encourage life-long learning within a company, but its blog section really shows how invested their own employees are in the industry. Many posts are written by team members who are experts in their domain and offer personal insights without being overtly promotional.
Another way to get your employees to share their experiences is through review and referral sites that are designed to provide an honest look into the way a business is run.
Sharing honest reviews, whether positive or negative, creates greater transparency throughout the organization. This, in turn, helps leadership understand what practices are beneficial to the company as a whole and identify areas that could use improvement. Creating an environment where everyone can safely share their honest opinions will help businesses to continually grow and improve.
Sprout Social is a business that really pushes for this type of honest advocacy and encourages its team to share their stories. The company regularly sends reminders for its employees to post periodically on Glassdoor. The entire leadership team takes the time to check out each review and address any issues or problems (they even bought one employee a sweatshirt after he complained that their AC was too cold.) Remember that 70% of job seekers now check Glassdoor before they make a final career decision, so this strategy can also be used to attract great talent.
Again, any reviews that are left should be absolutely genuine and not salesy. Ideally, they should result from the employee’s own desire to share, rather than being asked.
At its core, B2B tech companies are all about long-term relationships – both internally and with clients. Since the sales cycle for B2B is longer than B2C, it often requires multiple interactions with sales teams. Therefore, advocacy programs are an essential part of generating leads.
There is nothing worse than forcing workers to market your brand outside of the office. In order for employee advocacy to really create positive engagement, your employees must have a real connection with your business that makes them want to share their experiences. Encouraging employee advocacy is a perfect way to start a sales conversation in a roundabout way that is truly engaging.
By building a company culture that prioritizes engagement, businesses can create an environment that employees enjoy and want to spend more time in. From there, they can move ahead and provide the tools and platforms to help employees share their thoughts in professional and personal circles.
Tracy Vides is a content and digital media strategist who firmly believes in the power of communication and collaboration to grow businesses online. Tracy is also a prolific writer – her posts on analytics, social media, sales and customer service are regularly featured on publications such as Digitalist Mag and Business2Community. Follow her on Twitter @TracyVides!