Sharon Fishburne is CEO of the Sharon Fishburne Consultancy, which provides startups and SMEs with strategic marketing advice to take their businesses to the next level. An expert at marketing strategy, Sharon previously worked at a number of the biggest global consultancies, including PwC, advising multinationals on their expansion strategy.
For many startups, marketing is a problem. Even the word can send shivers through a founder’s spine. It conjures up images of expensive PR companies and slick advertising, big glitzy campaigns and gimmicky launch events. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Far from being out in the cold when it comes to marketing, startups have an often-overlooked advantage: their first few employees. In my experience, in the very early days, startup founders tend to take more time considering who to hire. Money is always tight, so it’s important to find people you trust and it’s vital to hire those who share your passion for the business.
Once you’ve found exactly the right people, you’ve got the perfect set of marketers on your payroll – and here’s why.
Your employees are your customers, too
Very rarely does anyone work for a startup whose products or services they hate. Your employees are passionate about your product or service, and are, essentially, your first customers. This gives you a big advantage when it comes to using their experience and passion for your business to drive sales. They are your inside track to understanding your customers in the real world.
But to do this effectively, you must trust them to help you plot the direction of the business. You have to listen to their ideas and give them the power to influence marketing decisions.
According to LRN, organizations with employees who are motivated by shared values and a commitment to a mission are nine times more likely to have high customer satisfaction.
It really does pay to listen to your people and give them a stake in your company and ideas, because the more engaged your staff members are, the bigger the results. According to figures from Gallup, highly engaged business units achieve a 10 percent increase in customer ratings and a 20 percent increase in sales. Andrew Nisbet, entrepreneur and founder of Nisbets, agrees, saying, “Ultimately, trust your team and give them your full support.”
Related: How To Motivate Your Employees
They can be your best online brand ambassadors
Brand ambassadors can be vital to the success of your business. Having customers who will go out of their way to endorse you, review your products or give you the thumbs up on social media can make all the difference. But today, it’s a cutthroat business. Companies will happily throw huge sums of money at celebrities and high-profile bloggers to get their products onto people’s radar.
In reality, it’s your employees who are the best brand ambassadors. But you have to give your employees the freedom to talk. The 2016 State of Small Business Report makes for depressing reading in this regard. Only a third of small U.S. businesses ask their employees to share content via their own social media accounts; only 30 percent showcase their employees in their marketing materials and a woeful 26 percent ask employees to help create marketing materials such as blog posts and videos.
This is odd when you consider that some of the world’s biggest brands have a different practice. Take a look at Nokia, for example. They put social media at the heart of their marketing and encourage all employees to become brand ambassadors.
“A key reason why Nokia is so visible and approachable across social media platforms comes down to an important business decision – every Nokia employee can speak freely online across social media networks. Of course we do have social guidelines and guidance in place, but every employee can make full use of their personal opinion online,” Becky Gloyne, Nokia’s top social media manager, said,
Your employees share your mission and customers trust them
Public trust typically only grows in an entrepreneur if they have been very successful over many years. Edelman’s yearly TrustBarometer survey has found year after year that rank-and-file employees are more trusted than the CEO; and while people do trust entrepreneurs, they only trust them based on their success. So as a startup, your employees are key.
You have a mission to be truly successful, and in order to do so, you need your employees to really believe in your mission. Turn them into true evangelists by giving them new opportunities to have their say; get them writing for your blog, ask them to share their own stories of your products and services or give them free rein on your social media account (within reason)! Loosen up, trust them and they’ll broadcast their passion for your mission.
Marketing your startup is a joint effort – you can’t do this alone. Above all else, take a leaf out of U.K. entrepreneur Philip Day’s book, who says to “Invest in your employees and the future of your company. Your employees and their jobs are more important than anything else.”
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