“Control the narrative, or someone else will. Audit your own personal brand and then invest in it.” George Bradt, Learning from the CEO Connection Mid-Market Convention
More and more large firms are implementing personal branding programs, increasingly aware of how their employees’ online presence can help generate leads, close sales, and build the company brand.
Mid-market firms have been slower to adopt personal branding initiatives, despite the fact that these organizations are in an even better position to benefit from such programs.
Why Mid-Market Firms Have a Unique Opportunity with Personal Branding
Large companies may have gotten a head start with personal branding, but the bureaucratic nature of these organizations puts them at a disadvantage compared to smaller, nimbler firms.
The success of your personal branding program rests upon your employees’ motivation to participate. As such, mid-market firms have the following elements working to their advantage:
1. Sales Are Driven by Relationships: most leads and sales are acquired through word of mouth, so employees will understand the benefits of using their online presence to connect with prospects and provide them with evidence of their professional credibility.
2. Employees Are Enthusiastic: employees tend to be more enthusiastic about their workplace, translating to a greater inclination for advocating for their firm on social media.
3. Teams Are Small and Agile: employees have more freedom to build their online presence as they see fit, can be more responsive to conversations and trends if they can share content without needing approval from gatekeepers.
4. Company is an Early Adopter: mid-market firms can benefit from implementing a personal branding program earlier in the game, relative to competitors of the same size.
Below we’ve elaborated on how each of these traits can help mid-market firms gain a sustainable competitive advantage through employee personal branding.
1. SALES ARE DRIVEN BY RELATIONSHIPS
Employees at mid-market firms tend to foster strong relationships, since networking is a critical component to their business success. These firms rely less on a well-known corporate brand and more so on word-of-mouth and referrals.
As such, a personal branding program can be a way to supercharge your employees’ networking efforts and help them stand out from the competition through an online presence that inspires greater trust in potential clients.
A study by IBM showed that leads developed through employee social marketing initiatives convert 7x more frequently than other leads.
The network-driven element of mid-market firms puts them in an even stronger position to leverage personal branding for generating and closing leads.
2. EMPLOYEES ARE ENTHUSIASTIC
One of the most critical components of an effective word-of-mouth driven sales funnel is that your employees are enthusiastic about your company.
Employees at small and mid-size firms tend to be more enthusiastic about their work and workplace. As a result, they will be more inclined to participate in a personal branding program and publicly align their online presence with their company brand.
This involves listing their workplace on professional social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as regularly sharing content from and about the company.
This enthusiasm breeds trust in potential clients: according to research from Forbes that sales reps that use social media as part of their sales technique outsell 78% of their peers.
3. TEAMS ARE SMALL AND AGILE
Mid-market firms can be more innovative than their larger counterparts since decisions are made by smaller teams and tend to require fewer layers of approval.
An effective personal branding program relies on employees developing their own online presence in such a way that benefits the company.
If every profile update or social media post requires approval from someone else, employees will be less motivated to participate in the program.
Ideally, a firm would be comfortable establishing general guidelines for how employees can build their online presence, then giving them the freedom to build their profiles and share content as they see fit.
Considering brand messages are re-shared 24x more frequently when distributed by your employees versus your brand, companies would be wise to reduce any red tape that delays or prevents employees from advocating for their company.
4. COMPANY IS AN EARLY ADOPTER
Mid-market firms that implement a personal branding program earlier in the game stand to benefit over their late adopter competitors.
While larger companies have started prioritizing personal branding programs in the last few years, they are at a comparative disadvantage due to corporate cultures that aren’t as conducive to employee participation.
A mid-market firm that launches a personal branding initiative can differentiate itself from both larger competitors and those of the same size, who tend to have either ineffective or nonexistent online presence management programs.
A study by Cisco showed that employees have 10 times more followers than their corporate social media accounts.
This number is likely to be even higher for employees at mid-market companies, who tend to have much fewer followers than their big firm counterparts who have large budgets they can invest into social media advertising.
As such, mid-market firms have a tremendous amount to gain by motivating their employees to be advocates for their companies.
HOW MID-MARKET FIRMS CAN GET STARTED WITH EMPLOYEE PERSONAL BRANDING
Step 1: Analyze Your Team’s Current Online Presence
Before launching a personal branding program at your company, analyze your employees’ online presence as it currently stands.
Check to see to what extent your employees are:
- Discoverable: Easy to find in relevant search results
- Credible: Showcasing their skills and experience
- Supportive: Building their personal brand in such a way that supports your company brand
Doing this for each individual employee then aggregating the results would be a cumbersome and inefficient process. Kredible’s Kdna™ reports give you visibility into your employees’ online presence across the personal brand touchpoints that matter most to your target audience:
1. Search Results: quantity and quality of links about your employees in the first page of search results for their name and location.
2. LinkedIn Profile: number of connections and presence of key information about your employees’ current and prior professional experience.
3. Twitter Profile: number of followers, quantity, and relevance of their tweets.
Step 2: Formulate a Strategy Based on Employee Online Presence Analysis and Industry-Specific Buyer Research
Combine the results of your firm’s Kdna™ report with industry-specific research on which elements of your employees’ online presence matter most to your target customers.
By marrying data on your team’s strengths and weaknesses from an online presence standpoint with research on what your prospects prioritize when vetting vendors online, you can craft your firm’s ideal personal brand management strategy.
Step 3: Identify Key Personal Brand Improvement Metrics
Part of formulating the ideal personal branding strategy for your firm is to clearly define your goals. Identify the key metrics you will be using to measure the program’s success, such as:
- Employee adoption rate: what percentage of your employees participate in the program?
- Profile improvement rate: how much have your employees’ online profiles improved since starting the program?
- Content sharing rates: how much company and industry content have your employees been sharing since starting the program?
- New business: how many new leads and sales have been generated by participating employees?
- Repeat business: how many renewed contracts and customer upsells have been generated by participating employees?
Step 4: Empower Employees to Build Their Personal Brands
In order to get your team to participate in a personal branding program, it is critical that employees understand what’s in it for them.
Hold a training session or series of workshops designed to get your team motivated and educated about building their online presence. Show them how they can build their personal brands by improving their presence in search results, optimizing their social media profiles, and regularly sharing content.
Position this as a way for employees to establish thought leadership, make valuable connections, and gain more professional opportunities.
Step 5: Implement a Personal Brand Management System
Without a personal brand management system, it would be a daunting, if not impossible, task to manage the online presence of all your employees across all digital touchpoints.
The Kredible platform gives executives top-level visibility into how your employees’ collective personal brands are helping to build the company brand.
It also gives employees a single platform for managing all the key elements of their personal brand.
Kredible’s personal brand optimization features give employees industry-specific, research-backed guidance on how they can improve their presence in search results and optimize their social media profiles according to what matters to your buyers.
Our Share Center lets employees browse the latest company and industry content, then seamlessly share it with their professional social networks.
Features like personal brand scoring, company leaderboards, and sharing reminders help to motivate employees to continuously participate in the program.
By providing employees with clear expectations for how they should participate and a one-stop-shop for conducting all personal brand building activities – you can help increase the chances that your program will be a success.
Where Do I Go From Here?
As a mid-market firm, you are at an advantage over large companies with bureaucratic structures that disincentivize employee participation as well firms of your same size, most of whom have yet to try implementing a personal branding program.
As we outlined above, the first step to helping your employees build their personal brands is to analyze their online presence as it currently stands.
Contact us here to set up a quick call and learn how to get your company’s Kdna™ report,which will uncover your firm’s greatest areas of opportunity from an employee personal branding standpoint.