By building a tribe, you can build a brand following between your people and your company. The question, of course, is how you can accomplish this.
Building internal tribes
This idea is at the centre of tribe-building, brand advocacy, or employee evangelism. By mobilizing teams to spread a business’s message, companies increase the reach of their marketing efforts and authenticate their brand in the eyes of consumers.
Changing the employee experience transforms the customer one. But while many companies obsessively monitor their Net Promoter Score and overall customer satisfaction, they only dedicate a single, annual survey to the question of employee engagement. When your company focuses its effort on actively listening to your employees and finding solutions to improve their work experience, you will be well on your way to enabling your evangelist tribe.
Enabling internal tribes and employee evangelists
It’s not just a question of having happy employees. You also have to get your people to go out into the world and sing your praises—easier said than done. Anger is a greater spur to action than happiness is. That’s because angry people want something to change—that is, whatever has peeved them off in the first place. By contrast, happy individuals are content with the way things are and so there’s less incentive—or need—to act.
If any publicity is good publicity, then this would seem to be one case where happy employees cause the business a disadvantage. But honestly, we’re not convinced that having disgruntled team members are the best way to build your brand. Instead, we believe in converting a happy employee to a brand evangelist. We believe in building a tribe.
That’s a term borrowed from marketing guru Seth Godin. Back in 2009, he argued that it’s far more effective to unite people around a shared passion or vision—what Godin calls a “yearning”—than to try and sell them on something.
Build a tribe, he insisted, as opposed to a customer base. Don’t launch a product—instead, lead a movement.
That same mindset can be applied to the work of people and culture pros as they rally their teams to spread the company message.
At the best companies, people find more than just a paycheck and as a result, they buy into the company’s mission and invest in its success.
It’s about purpose
Do team members buy into the company vision? Do they feel empowered to do their best work? Can they see that their contributions make real, tangible impact in a way that matters to them?
“We try to find a piece of the status quo—something that bothers us, something that needs to be improved, something that is itching to be changed—and we change it,” Godin said in 2009, explaining how leaders find a following. “We try to make big, permanent, important change.”
That’s what your people need to be doing too, as part of a larger team. It’s that sense of purpose that will inspire them to advocate on behalf of a corporate brand—whether by recruiting friends, recommending the product, or sharing company content on their own social media channels.
People want to feel like they’re part of something great—and when they do, they’ll spread the good news of their own free will.
Where to start?
Think about why people do what they do, not what or how. That’s a concept we borrowed from another marketer, Simon Sinek.
Salespeople don’t want to sell a product—they need to spread a message, empower others, or grow a company to new heights. Developers don’t want to code—they long to solve problems, expedite processes, or make something better than it was before. Writers don’t want to meet their word count—they’re compelled to create something beautiful, educate an audience, or spark a conversation.
The list goes on. But what it adds up to is this: whatever your people do doesn’t matter. Why they do it does. Building a tribe means focusing on team members’ passions, not their professions.
It’s critical that your people's passions—or motivating ‘why’—can connect to and further the company’s overarching mission.
That mission might be simplifying investments for people or making organic produce more affordable. It could be about overhauling an industry or powering the future of work. But whatever it is, your people need to connect to it—and they must see how their unique passions forward that mission.
Therefore, a culture of transparency and autonomy becomes key. How can individuals commit to a company’s success if they don’t know what the goals are and how close the team is to achieving them?
An individual knows better than anyone what gets them excited. If you afford people the independence to approach an objective in their own way, amazing things will happen. Why not open up brainstorming sessions beyond the executive level? When everyone gets a say in creative, buy-in naturally follows.
Over to you
The customer journey continues to be king—but these days, companies understand that investing in the employee experience is actually the best way to increase client satisfaction. Happier, engaged staff provide better service and support. But more than that, they actually attract new customers by virtue of being brand evangelists.
It takes more than happy employees to build a tribe and the solution can’t be found in perks or pay. Instead, companies need to invest in their people’s passions and purpose: that’s the surest way to see your staff speak up and out, spreading the word of your business.