By David McGorry
Despite the many technological tools available to marketers, engaged employees are still considered one of the most valuable assets to ongoing success.
According to a 2014 study by Harvard Business School, 74 percent of business executives rate employee engagement as one of their priorities for business success. If you are a regional or local business unable to invest the money required for a formalized program, there are still many actions you can take to keep employees engaged and helping to drive business growth.
Employee engagement means more than just providing employees with additional perks to keep them happy. It is about offering them opportunities to contribute to the success of the business, grow their experience and earn rewards for their efforts. It can be especially valuable if you run a small company where it is harder to offer employees regular opportunities for promotion.
If you provide incentives and rewards for the employees who are most engaged, it will help keep them motivated and feeling challenged in a positive way. In addition this can provide you with tools that make your business more competitive and aid you in making decisions that lead to growth.
Some simple tools employers can use is to regularly take time with each employee and ask them about experiences with customers and see if there are opportunities to strengthen the customer experience. Front line employees deal with customers every day and if they consistently get customer complaints about a practice or request for a product you don’t carry, it may be a chance to offer something new and lucrative for your business.
When talking with employees it is also important to ask them about good experiences with customers and what they find makes your best customers happy. Understanding what makes your most loyal and satisfied customers happy, gives you the chance to build a “persona” of your happiest and most loyal customers that can be the foundation of marketing promotions and deciding what products you should add to your portfolio.
A persona identifies the ideal customer, how they think, feel, when they are most likely to consider your products and what attracts them to your business. Uncovering this information will feed your own planning purposes. What products attract customers to your business? Are there seasonal events that make them think about your business? Are there life events that drive them to your business? Is location an issue? Have customers mentioned where they heard about your business?
Answers to these questions can help you build your own promotional calendar and help you build a content strategy that works best for your business. Having a discussion with employees and learning how customers discuss the business can also help you develop a voice and tone for promotional material.
Personas can help you decide what promotions will remind people it is time to think of your business. If specific products or services are noted as valuable by numerous customers, it can help you decide what information should be front and center in any marketing program.
Speaking directly to your customers is always important and will yield valuable information. But don’t underestimate the information gold mine that all employees become. Employees see customers through the jobs they do and they become experts on their part of the customer experience. They can be in sales, service, billing even maintenance. Together they provide a full picture of the customer experience and where problems or opportunity exist. It is important to document what they say so you can get a full picture of every opportunity to differentiate your business.
It is important to reward employees for helping you build your business. There should be a bonus program and every employee who contributes to the program should benefit. It is also important to let new employees know over time that they will play a role in growing the business. This raises their awareness to whatever they learn from customers.
It may be hard to keep your best employees in a small business because there may be limits to what you can offer them and they are the ones most likely to be sought out by other employers. Getting employees engaged can help you retain them longer though and make them more valuable while they are on your team.