The proliferation of information has empowered consumers like never before. There are all kinds of third-party resources at their fingertips for them to get the skinny on brands, products and services, and more ways than ever before for them to share their own experiences and opinions about those same brands, products and services as well. The scary thing about this for marketers and CEOs isn’t that so much information as out there, it’s that this information is unregulated and unfiltered. They feel they’ve lost control of their message, and to a point, they have. But the real issue managers and leaders should be concerned with isn’t control- it’s communication.
Consumers no longer have to go on your word as a business, but that doesn’t render your word meaningless. According to the Edelman 2013 Trust Barometer, the way businesses need to communicate their message has changed greatly. Influence no longer takes place as a fixed monologue dictated by the few with goal of control. Instead, it’s flexible dialogue co-created by many that is all about empowerment.
The key to operating in this new environment is to engage employees in brand advocacy. After all, your employees are the ones executing on your message, from sales to marketing to customer support. The more employees participating in the conversation, the easier it is to get your message out. In this way, you’re not dictating the conversation, but you are managing it and guiding it in the direction you want it to go.
This notion is especially important when you consider what Edelman concludes about trust in general – that consumers are wary of corporate messaging. Employees working with prospects and consumers on a personal level will have a better chance to establish this trust versus messaging coming from the “faceless corporation.” Think of employees as your branding foot soldiers. Consumers are doing more research about companies and sharing the insight they find among each other. Your employees have the ability to get in front of the consumer through social media, e-mail and other means to insert themselves into the conversation to counter negative messages and reinforce positive ones.
This raises other issues, however, such as how do you control what your employees are saying and how do you make sure they are staying on message. Marketing technology, such as marketing resource management systems, can provide oversight options that allow managers to ensure their marketers and sales staff are sticking to the brand talking points while enabling customization of the message to their specific audience.
As consumers are becoming more proactive in researching their purchases, businesses need to become more proactive in disseminating positive messaging and reinforcing their brand image. The best way to do this is to engage employees in brand advocacy and make them a part of the conversation among the audience. Employees can do this informally through social media and online forums or formally through campaigns and other organized marketing initiatives. For the latter, marketing resource management systems can be valuable in keeping the message on-point and ensuring brand consistency.