In a company of any size, it is your employees who make or break your business–they are the ones who speak to your clients and potential clients, the ones whose motivation and rewards will determine the efficiency of your business. Clients are important, of course, but it can be easy to forget that word of mouth marketing comes not ONLY from clients, but ALSO from employees, and in many cases a good or bad word from “the inside” can count a whole lot more than the word of one customer. What are your employees saying about you?

Ask yourself:

  • What are my employees saying about me, and my company? How can I positively influence this?
  • What information do my employees have about my business I wouldn’t want customers to know? How am I controlling that information?
  • Do my employees like working for my business? A happy employee is unlikely to bad-mouth you. An undercompensated, overworked employee is already complaining about you on Twitter.
  • What can I do to make my employees more satisfied? A satisfied employee speaks highly of their employing company.
  • How can I encourage employees to be good word-of-mouth? What can I do that will encourage them to passively bring in new business (remember, you don’t have to pay for this!)?

Furthermore, consider:

  • How am I controlling my reputation on the social web?

As an online marketing professional, I see many companies that have little awareness of the social web beyond “I know I should be on Facebook” (actually, maybe you shouldn’t, but that’s another blog post). If that’s where you are now, you need to broaden your view. Even if you haven’t put yourself on Facebook (or whatever social channel), you are already there. Your customers and employees are likely already talking about you. While there’s a limit to how much control you will ever have over your social web presence, careful management can head off problems before they affect your business. Be aware. And for many companies, having a social media policy that outlines how employees may talk about the company on the web is an appropriate step.

As a final point (but a big one): How am I making my business accessible to my employees?

Small businesses tend to have a greater “friendship” with their employees–the business seems more “human”. As a business gets larger, it becomes easier for your employees to see it as “working for ‘the man’/the industrial complex”, which in turn makes it easier to badmouth the company (online or offline) without feeling the guilt that comes with badmouthing an individual. As your company grows, make sure you’re still connecting with your employees on a personal level. Remember, no matter how big you get, your employees still make or break you.

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