Being Your Brand Ambassador 101

Large businesses spend millions – even billions – to get their brand out into the world. Companies like Nike, Apple, Amazon and Proctor & Gamble spend a significant amount of money on television and print ads, or work with social media marketing and influencers.

Companies are trying to increase the exposure of their brands, and for good reason. A recognizable brand typically sees an increase in both customer loyalty and sales.

You don’t need the budget of a large business to get your brand in front of customers. Brand ambassadors can help spread the word about your business across their networks, but remember that you and your employees are also brand ambassadors, the living embodiment of your brand.

Whenever you or your employees interact with the public, it’s an opportunity to gain brand recognition. Whether it’s working with customers, or vendors, in person or communicating through a business letter, these interactions build brand trust.

Embrace your brand

Small business owners are aware of the important things they need to get started: a business plan, business insurance and money. Small business owners may sometimes put off having a brand strategy. Whether you’re the sole proprietor, or have employees, your business could appear more professional with a solid brand identity. When consumers see your business’s logo on a car, ad, business letter or apparel, they’ll recognize it as reputable.

One of the first things to do for your business is to create a logo. A logo is a great way to increase a business’s recognition. For some of the biggest companies, a logo is all you need to recognize the brand. Think, Apple’s logo of an apple with a bite mark, the swoosh-like check mark of Nike, or the golden arches of McDonald’s.

When you’re designing your logo, you want to make it eye-catching, but also easy to understand what your company is about. Your business’s logo probably won’t carry the same weight as Apple’s, Nike’s or McDonald’s, but as your business grows, it becomes familiar with consumers, and easier to recognize.

Once you create your logo, it can be put on apparel for you and your employees to wear and business cards, but remember that your business’s brand is more than the logo. You need to figure out what your company stands for, and how it should be represented. Having your employees buy into the brand culture is important. They have to understand the brand, as they’re on the front lines with customers forming opinions of your brand.

Think about companies like Whole Foods and Costco. Both companies put an emphasis on employees helping customers in their stores. Over time, consumers started to affiliate those two brands with great customer service.

Online presence

Don’t forget about your business’s online presence. If you’re not on social media, your business is missing out on a lot of customer interaction. Social media platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, make it easy for businesses to engage with consumers and build its brand. It’s not uncommon to find a business using a profile on Instagram or Facebook to serve as the company website. That’s because it’s easy to create and setup.

You’ll have to create an account on each platform. On Facebook, you can choose your type of business, and fill in the necessary information. When your business page is up and running on Facebook, create a profile on Instagram. Instagram makes it easy by letting you connect to your business’s Facebook page.

While a social media profile gets you interacting with customers quickly, you still need a full website, at least in the future. Having an actual website for your business allows you to offer a more engaging experience. You can put more information about your business, yourself, and your team on a website.

Maintaining your brand’s online presence is more than just operating social media profiles and a website. Customers that interact with your business write online reviews that other consumers can see. Online reviews and ratings are used by consumers to research businesses. Despite your best efforts to make every customer happy, you may come across some negative online reviews. How you interact and respond to positive and negative customer feedback has a lasting effect on your business’s brand.

Personal interactions

The service you provide and how you interact with customers is a huge part of your brand. No one wants to support or associate themselves with a business that has a reputation for being disrespectful and rude. You and your employees need to deal with upset or difficult customers, or with unhappy vendors.

In both situations you should handle the situation professionally, and respectfully. Upset customers can share their frustrations with their friends and family. Vendors also speak to each other about their experiences with businesses. If you don’t handle the situation properly, you could find your business in an unfortunate situation.

If you come across a difficult customer, listen to their frustrations and apologize. As a business owner, you should try to make things right for the customer. If you can show them you put an effort into fixing things, they may give your business a second chance. If you have to tell a vendor you’re not happy, be clear and to the point.

Handling these situations professionally can go a long way for your brand. Companies like Whole Foods and Costco pride themselves on stellar customer service. On its website, Whole Foods states: Our customers are the lifeblood of our business and our most important stakeholder. We strike to meet or exceed their expectations on every shopping experience.

Costco’s site states: Our members are our reason for being – the key to our success. If we don’t keep our members happy, little else that we do will make a difference.

The benefits of having customer service standards led to consumers recognizing both companies for treating customers well. Having a set of customer service standards like Whole Foods or Costco shows your employees what you expect of them. It can also help customers form a favorable view of your brand. When you’re creating your standards, try to think from the customer’s perspective. How would you want to be treated by employees? What are your expectations of the business and its employees?

Community service and philanthropy

One of the fastest ways to gain publicity for your brand is to participate in community service and philanthropy. Giving to your local community shows local residents you care about the neighborhood, and the people living there.

If you decide to deduct your charitable donations, you want to make sure the organizations are qualified. A helpful tool you can use is Guidestar. The tool makes it easy to find charitable organizations and groups in your area. It also provides contact information for the groups. If you find a group you’re interested in, reach out to ask about any opportunities to volunteer.

If there are local events going on for the public, ask about setting up a booth, or other ways to participate. It’s a good way to meet and introduce your brand to the people living and working in the community. It’s important to remember volunteer hours, donated by you and your employees, can’t be deducted from your taxes.

Live your brand

A brand is an important piece of your business’ success, and if you and your employees live your brand, you become its brand ambassadors. Build a presence in the community, form meaningful relationships both online and in person, and value your customers to build up the public’s perception of your brand. Create and enforce your brand strategy so people begin to recognize your company’s worth.