When you love the company you work for, you likely enjoy talking about it to others. Family or friends. Strangers or the Starbucks’ barista. It’s really easy to scream to the rooftops how much you love what you do and the people you get to work with every day.
I can say this with authority because I’m one of those people.
As a founder, you should always ensure that your team know how to effectively pitch your product and your company, because they will ultimately become your front-line brand ambassadors. “Anyone who gets hired at a startup has to be an evangelist for the product,” says Elli Sharef, cofounder of HireArt, to Forbes.
So how do you turn even your most introverted team members into the ultimate company publicists?
Hint: It’s easier than you think.
1. Self-Starters Are Always Switched On – Use It to Your Advantage.
I’m always pitching – whether it be clients or my own founders. A smart publicist is always switched on, looking for the next hot opportunity to slide their client into the spotlight. While I’m in a unique position as this process is part of my job description, this is a great side project for your community manager, social media pro or marketing intern.
Help your team learn to identify a perfect opportunity when they see one. Monitor the competition. Competitor appeared on an industry podcast? Notice a conference is looking for speakers? Inc. magazine need experts to weigh in? Pitch your founders. If your team members know the pitch – as they should – selling your company when an opportunity arises should be easy.
2. It’s OK to Pimp Out Your Team Respectfully.
You hired great talent. You know that and you realize you’re incredibly lucky to have the team you’ve assembled. Don’t be afraid to share them. I’m speaking to those talented content writers who make your blog worth subscribing to. Allow them to stretch their wings and guest post elsewhere. Or if they are a great public speaker, let them travel and speak at events.
While you may selfishly want to keep them all to yourself, there’s value in encouraging your team to become contributors on third party publications. Here’s why: in their guest author or contributor by-line, it’s going to say where they work and what their role is, and believe it or not, that’s going to drive traffic to your website. It will generate leads.
And you’ll have your team member to thank.
3. Your Team Can Lend to Your Credibility as a Startup.
“People who can help you the most are actually smarter than you,” says Martin Zwilling, CEO and Founder of Startup Professionals. It’s a common heard expression in the startup world – hire people who are smarter than you. Which you’ve probably done. So trust your team to answer for you.
One of the strategies we’ve identified as a successful trick for startups to position themselves as experts and gain credibility (and great leads) is to be present online and offer insight and answers in a timely manner. Between product development and scaling the company – you may not have time to be monitoring social media accounts or acting on keyword alerts.
So engage your team!
Think of where everyone is already weighing in (Quora, LinkedIn Groups, etc.) and challenge your team to think of new areas their voice should be heard. Whether it’s identifying up-and-coming blogs, startup community forums or just adding their two-cents (and shameless plugs) to some of the biggest tech pieces on TechCrunch, Inc. or Forbes.
“Encouraging your employees to openly discuss your brand online can have a “humanizing” effect, ultimately increasing positive consumer perception,” says Marketo Programs Manager, Jason Miller. Chances are, they’re already reading industry blogs – give them the OK to chime in on behalf of the company.
4. The Best Startups Rock Swag
Never underestimate the power of a startup t-shirt. Startup culture may not come with its own uniform or dress code, but most startups do include the perk of having wicked t-shirts and hoodies for your employees to wear and represent your brand. These pieces of swag help your employees show off who they work for, everywhere they go – at work, on the town, on vacation! Your team become walking billboards and chances are, with the right swag, they’re stoked about it.
If you’re designing your startup clothing from scratch, get your team involved in the process. Get ideas on colors and styles. Make sure your startup wear is not only something your team will be proud to wear but something they’re comfortable in! Co-Ed team? Order women and men’s tees so everyone has the chance to have a great fit!
Startup clothing is a small investment with a big gain – employee pride. It’s just another great way your team can tell the world - hell yeah, I work for this startup!
5. Let Your Team Be the Talk of the Town.
Networking event coming up in your city? You’re too busy to attend? Send one of your employees. Remember what I said about how we love to talk about how much we love our company? This becomes particularly advantageous when in front of the people that matter the most – potential investors, acquirers, competition, and industry influencers.
While your introverts may not jump at the idea of socializing on your behalf, I bet many of your team members would love the opportunity to attend an event representing your company or to be sent to a conference on the company’s behalf. Not only is this great positive reinforcement for team members – it’s highly effective. According to a recent study, reported by Forbes, “41% of people believe conversations with company employees to be the most credible specialist sources of information.” Furthermore, “Employees rank higher in public trust than a firm’s PR department, CEO, or Founder,” says Edelman’s 2013 Trust Barometer.
Got a great team? How do they excel as your very own brand ambassadors? We want to hear about them!