Building Brand Advocates


Have you ever wondered what motivates people these days? Bet you thought it was the golden carrot, right? But you are wrong – it’s being appreciated, recognized and rewarded for hard work.

If you want to improve your company’s bottom-line results, appreciating your employees is critical. Take it from Sam Walton, someone who knew this and, perhaps, explained it best when he said, “There’s absolutely no limit to what plain, ordinary working people can accomplish if they’re given the opportunity, encouragement and incentive to do their best.”

If you want to build a workforce that is engaged and focused, recognition and reward is essential for driving desired employee behavior and performance. By establishing programs that award your employee assets, you can create a culture of appreciation and recognition that increases levels of employee engagement within your organization.

While “thank you” is a great place to start, recognition is much more than that. Companies boasting best practices in this area know this, and they’ve created a variety of ways to reward their employees meaningfully – trips, special discounts, company-specific catalog shopping sprees. In addition to providing real added value for employees, these programs also result in increased employee satisfaction, improved performance and a reduction in turnover. Simply put, employee recognition is essential to business success.

Over the years, these programs have evolved to accommodate the ever-changing needs of businesses and their employees. Currently, there are exciting new developments in the world of employee recognition programs – developments that have the potential to impact your business and your branding success in a big way.
All employees are not motivated in the same way. And not all recognition programs serve the same purpose; however, the most common are length-of-service (5, 10, 20 years of service recognition) and performance-based (employee of the month, department, etc.) At present, nine out of ten companies have employee recognition programs in place, and employees are taking notice. In fact, these programs play a significant role in recruitment efforts. Oftentimes considered an important component of total compensation, they can also play a crucial role in differentiating competing companies from one another.

At Inward Strategic Consulting, we call this Recognition 3.0

Getting the attention of potential employees isn’t all these recognition programs do. They tend to have a significant impact on keeping existing employees engaged. It’s been noted that companies with high employee engagement had a +19% in operating income and a +28% in EPS (Earnings Per Share) while companies with poor employee engagement had a declining operating income and a -11% drop in EPS (Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study, 2008). It’s no surprise companies are willing to invest in these types of programs.

Recognition 1.0 – Company to Employees

Typically this type of program recognizes an employee with an award (e.g., employee of the month, years of service, etc.). While this recognition may provide the individual with a badge of honor, it may not necessarily be motivating or require any above-and-beyond performance.

Recognition 2.0 – Company to Employee and Peer-to-Peer within Company

These programs build upon the foundation of Recognition 1.0, incorporating an additional level of recognition from peers/coworkers. Being recognized by those you work with on a daily basis lends itself to solidifying respect among team members as well as recognition on a potentially more frequent basis.

Recognition 3.0 – Employee to Social Network

The newest approach, and the one we’ll shift our focus to, takes recognition to a whole new level, beyond the walls and firewalls of the organization and into the realm of the social network. It engages employees and encourages them to share the pride of recognition from their workplace with their entire social network. They become advocates, reaching out to the people that matter to them inside and outside of the workplace. And both the individual and the company benefit from the power of exponentially extended recognition.

Today through social networking, people love to share their experiences with one another, and with an average of 455 people within their social reach, someone is always out there to listen to what they have to say. An innovative company, Blue Calypso, delivers a patented mobile social marketing and advertising platform that enables brands to leverage customer relationships, encouraging brand loyalty and increase spending by having your employees promote your company. Why not recognize your employees when they advocate and endorse your products and brands? 

If you want to build a workforce that is engaged and focused, recognition and reward is essential for driving desired employee behavior and performance.

Innovative recognition programs leverage the power of social media by encouraging employees to personally endorse your brands and/or services and receive recognition in return. These programs also encourage colleagues work to their social circles. As their calls to action are delivered, you gain the mind share of your employees, their friends, their friends’ friends and so on. You also gain personal endorsements, generate buzz, ignite conversation, drive purchase intent, increase loyalty and attract new customers.

In addition to rewarding employees for endorsing, sharing and enjoying your brand(s) with others in store and/or online, this type of program also recognizes employees by giving them a voice and a stake in your marketing success. As advocates, they earn special perks by sharing, through texts and social posts, their personalized company endorsements about the brands they love . And your company reaps the benefits of the trackable incremental sales your employees drive along with increased brand advocacy, deepened loyalty and return spending opportunities.

Ready to start your Recognition 3.0 upgrade? Here are some guidelines for helping you get started on transforming your employees into your best brand advocates.

1. Define Your Business Goals, Results and Behaviors

• Demonstrate the company’s commitment towards appreciation in a tangible way, one that shows employees the company genuinely cares about them.

• Maintain clarity when designing your program. Be sure it includes opportunities for immediate and periodic recognition that triggers repeat behavior.

• Create a performance culture that encourages improved performance and motivates employees at all levels to strive for excellence.

• Provide employees with a social media platform that allows them to easily share their success internally or with their social network.

• Allow them build their own community and blogs as a platform. Let them dish out the accolades and ‘atta boys’ to their colleagues.

2. Build Your Program with Business Goals, Results and Behaviors in Mind

• Select an approach. Be sure it will have an impact that is appropriate for the size of your organization. What’s right for a 50-person company is very different for 500- or 500,000-person companies.

• Communicate expectations. It’s no good if no one knows about it, so be sure to provide communication that is clear and consistent. Since buy-in at all levels is critical, be sure messaging is also relevant and appropriate for your audience.

• Keep it simple and fun.

3. Stay the course

Once you launch the program, stick with it. Let it go viral internally. It’s up to you and each other to ensure your employees are being recognized for the right reasons. Consistent execution is key for employee engagement, participation and program success.

• Recognize and repeat. The beauty of recognition is, what gets rewarded gets repeated. When this happens within your company on a regular basis, business goals are met, employees behaviors/attitudes change and you get results.

4. Evaluate

There’s always room for improvement, so measure results along the way. In addition to celebrating what’s working to make your program successful, you’ll have the opportunity to identify areas needing improvement and the ability to make necessary adjustments.

So what are the keys to success in today’s environment? Begin by understanding what motivates your employees to become more engaged with your brand and your strategic initiatives. Second, acknowledge that old ideas of cash and gift incentives are no longer enough – consider, instead, innovative ideas of recognition that give employees a voice and say in how things get done. Peer-to-peer and social networking can facilitate higher levels of engagement and greater recognition. Recognition does not always need to be given from the top. In fact, it is more meaningful when it comes from a colleague or someone across the sea who may be a stranger altogether. Remember to monitor the plan, seek feedback from the participants who are the recipients of the recognition and awards, and make changes to improve effectiveness accordingly.