Employees as the most powerful brand ambassadors


James Kyd is the Head of Global Brand and Marketing at Xero. Before joining Xero, James was CMO at founder-led global business Coretex and before that CMO at one of New Zealand’s largest tech companies, Tait Communications. Prior to that at IBM over more than 15 years he had global sales and strategic marketing roles including focussing small business markets, along with running Asia Pacific brand and communications.

In an interview with Connect Intelligence, James shares why being ‘human’ is especially important in a digital world and how his employees are the best brand ambassadors.

1. What strategies do you employ to turn your employees into brand ambassadors? How do you model this?

Employees can and should be your most powerful brand ambassadors. Our approach is to think about our employees in the same way we think about our customers. How can we make sure they have a great experience? These are the strategies we employ:

  • Align to the company purpose: We ensure our staff understand and feel a real sense of alignment to our purpose and mission. If your purpose is clear and relevant to your people then they are in a better position to help champion the brand.
  • Build a strong sense of brand and culture: We’ve built a strong brand and culture, and that’s empowering our staff to drive our passion out through the range of channels they use for work and to communicate in on a personal level.
  • Hire the right people: To empower our staff, we need to trust them. It’s therefore been crucial for us to hire the right people. We look for employees who are well-aligned to the company’s vision and values so they naturally operate with in the right framework when they represent the business. Many of our managing directors meet every person before they are hired. Why? At that stage it’s not about deciding whether they have the skills for the role but ensuring they have the right values.
  • Get feedback: Asking our employees how they’re feeling and what we can do to make things better is really important. Every week we seek feedback online using Officevibe to try to better the Xero workplace.]Model behaviour: Xero leaders are passionate about our business and brand and we actively demonstrate this. Recently I found myself in a room with 20 CMOs from Australasia. I had thrown on the jacket I wear to work most days which happens to have a Xero logo. I looked around the room and realised out of the 20 or so senior marketing leaders present, I was the only one touting their brand. It made me realise if the leaders charged with championing their companies’ brand aren’t doing so, how can they expect their employees to? Having a genuine love and passion for a brand is rare – but it must be built and ingrained in the culture from the top down.

2. How do you best connect with your consumers via technology? Are there are emerging technologies that you are going to implement like chatbots or AI?

For a brand like Xero, connecting with our customer via technology is in our DNA. It’s how we are wired. The power of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform is that we have the ability to observe behaviour at a fine level, 24/7. But what we focus on more than past behaviour is really understanding our customers’ motivations and creating an open dialogue with them. We use tools like social media, discussion boards and our in-house customer experience channel to connect with customers. Staff are empowered to to be present in communication channels like social media and have direct dialogue with customers on their own account.

As a technology company, we are relentless in experimenting with emerging technologies to uncover value. For instance, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are very significant capabilities being used in our production environment to enable our platform and ultimately increased customer value.

We won’t always take the technologies we test into full production. Timing is important when experimenting with new technologies, but what’s most crucial is to have an agile mindset and be open to learning and improving.

3. How do you plan to remain a ‘human’ brand in a digital world?

First we need to ask what being human really means. I’d call it a state of mind. We’re living in a human world. We believe that digital is an enabler for business that doesn’t take away the primary place of people.

For us, human is not just something we just talk about. It’s a core value for the business. Being a technology company that prioritises the human aspect helps makes our brand unique and draws people to us.

How do we build human into our brand? It starts with letting our staff to be themselves, to be individual. You don’t want brand robots but people who talk to your customers like one person to another. This behaviour manifests itself in the customer experience and helping them feel more connected to the brand.

4. How do you ensure consumers have a positive brand experience with Xero?

We put our customers first in everything we do, and we don’t flinch from criticism when we fall short. We actively keep a look out for unsolicited feedback on how we can improve.

We’re guided by a strong set up brand values and empower our staff to deliver the experience in the best way possible.

Beyond that, we look at the wider network effect and how we can empower other groups whose work relates to what we do. We’ve built a community of accountants and bookkeepers that supports small business and acts as an extended channel and feedback loop. It all helps consumers to feel valued and part of something vibrant and caring.

James Kyd, Head of Global Brand and Marketing at Xero will be expanding on his insights at Brand Forum, 21 & 22 February 2018, Sofitel Wentworth, Sydney. Register now to be part of a decision making audience. 

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