Employee Branding: B2B’s Answer to Influencer Marketing

We’ve all seen them. Consumer brands fall all over each other to get celebs to endorse their brands – or better yet – star in one of their ads.

Which works out just fine. Until the celebrity spokesmodel slips up and gets caught driving down the wrong side of the street while they’re on a bender. Or the video ad producer goes tone-deaf and accidentally makes an offensive ad.

But employee branding takes influencer marketing to a whole new level. Here’s why: Influencer marketing works best when the influencer is a big shot in a company’s own industry. With a few notable exceptions, industry experts have more clout than some film star flashing his pearly whites.

Contrast fitness guru Jillian Michaels’ still-running Sodastream ad (for a calorie-free fitness drink) with reality star Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi disaster – and you can see why.

Expertise beats celebrity every time.

Expertise matters even more when it comes to brands that sell to other businesses – B2B companies.

When it comes to the goods and services they produce, there is no better source of expertise than a company’s own employees. Which is why we here at Marketing Insider Group believe that employee branding is B2B’s answer to influencer marketing.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Your employees can influence B2B purchases more than outside influencers – they’re your “internal experts.”
  • Keep great employees on the job and attract top new employees with an environment that makes them want to come to work each morning.
  • Tear down the silos that divide your teams so your employees feel part of a broader mission.
  • Empower your employees to become your best advocates.

But don’t just take my word for it. B2B recruitment marketing expert Tom Laine would even take it a step further. He advocates that B2B companies need to “stop employer branding” and “start employee branding.”

I couldn’t agree more. Of course, it’s important to attract the best talent your company can get.

But because getting the best talent relies more on employee-generated reviews than your glowing description of your company culture, it simply makes sense to start with your employees. When they start posting about what a great experience working for your company is, you won’t have to work like crazy to attract the right kind of talent. They’ll come to you.

It all goes back to one essential component: employee experience. Two main factors impact that experience: the employer’s ability to create an environment that makes employees love to come to work and its ability to facilitate communication internally.

Create an Environment That Makes People Love to Come to Work

As Laine put it, what makes employees feel good about working for your company are several factors: “how they feel about working for us, how we appreciate them,” and what impact they can have on their current job and their career pathway.

In other words, it all boils down to empathy. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes, and you’ll put their needs before your bottom line. That, in turn, drives employee engagement, productivity, and, ultimately, on-the-job happiness.

Provide the kinds of perks that make it more attractive for employees to stay on the job rather than look for a new one. When they have enough money in the bank to make their lives comfortable, encourage them to seek help for mental health issues and have more time for family and loved ones through flexible work arrangements.

On the job, give them all the educational tools they need to get ahead in their field – even if it might help them find a job with another company (but they won’t even look if you make them happy enough with yours). Encourage their ideas, reward them for great customer service, and they’ll provide all the Glassdoor reviews you need to attract the talent you need to scale your business upward.

In other words, when you treat your employees as well as you treat your most valuable customers, they’ll help you attract the kinds of customers and employees that will make your company grow. That’s not just my opinion.

In fact, Haley Aerospace’s Aly Yale considers employee branding “most important by a landslide” for B2B companies compared to customer-facing branding. Without a quality workforce, you can’t have quality products and services. To paraphrase that old Southern saying, “If the employees ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

Conversely, when your employees are happy, they’ll not only create world-class products and customer experiences. Even more importantly, they’ll share their pride in their work by spreading the word to their industry contacts, says Yale.  For B2B companies, that’s marketing gold.

Furthermore, a 2018 PostBeyond and Golfdale Consulting survey showed that employee-shared messages have a 561 percent wider reach than messages that your official channels share. When you make employee activation your priority, you’ll not only have more customers, but you’ll also attract all the prospective employees that will have your competitors “pea-green with envy.” That’s employee branding at its finest – and it’s essential to move ahead during the coming decade.

Make Cross-Departmental Communication Your Priority

The other factor that puts a smile on your employees’ faces as they drive to work every morning is great internal communication. Again, when you channel your empathy and put your feet in their shoes, you’ll realize why.

Nothing can be more frustrating for your employees than to work hard on a project, only to have another department come along and smash their sandcastle.

For instance, suppose your IT department works overtime to make your new web design deliver a superb user experience. Then along comes your graphic design team, who chucks it all, just to have a prettier home page.

That would be enough to make your entire IT team scream “I quit!” and walk out. Yet these sorts of snafus, both large and small, happen all the time in companies all over the world.

That’s because all too many companies still operate in the last century – in siloed departments that barely say hello to each other, let alone work on projects together. But in today’s agile economy, those companies that don’t break down the silos and encourage collaboration from start to finish risk losing their employees to another, more agile employer.

And – their customers, for that matter. No one wants a project held up for weeks just because the design and IT teams can’t come up with a design that works as good as it looks. Or because the finance team can’t dig a little deeper to provide the funds for a contract worker to help a project finish on time.

Building relationships among teams, as Mark Schmukler points out, is essential in your B2B marketing strategy – if you want to leverage employee branding and all the benefits it brings as a key part of that strategy.

After all, your employees are your internal experts. Take advantage of all they have to offer by providing them with all they need to put that expertise to work for your business.

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Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

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