I was enjoying lunch with some colleagues at a nearby park last summer when a young man walked up to our table. He introduced himself and embarked on a sales pitch for discounted kitchen-cleaning products.
At first I was annoyed. All I wanted was a quick break, and now I was being forced to sit through a sales presentation. But it soon became clear that if anyone was born to be in sales, it was him. He was charming and engaging. He handled our initial brush-off with humour, and he quickly sized up the kind of audience we were and adjusted his pitch accordingly.
We didn't buy anything. But we did start talking about his career ambitions. One of my friends was so impressed she even offered him a job at her company (which he declined).
I often think of that unnamed salesperson whenever I walk into a store and I am greeted by less-than-enthusiastic staff. It reminds me that who we have on the front lines can make or break our best marketing efforts. The right people – knowledgeable, passionate – bring a company's brand to life. We remember them long after we've left the store, and they make it much more likely that we'll be repeat customers.
Conversely, the wrong people can lead to negative word of mouth, and that can be hard to combat.
The issue is a timely one. With summer coming, many of us will be hiring students or part-time help to cover a seasonal spike in business or to cover for vacations. It's important to remember that we need to hire people who are good at what they do, but who can also act as brand ambassadors.
That prospective waitress may have experience and a good work ethic. But will she also be true to the image you're trying to project? It's worth considering.
Building a solid brand starts with the people touching the customer. Make sure the impression they make is one you actually want.
Special to the Globe and Mail
Mia Wedgbury, president and co-founder of High Road Communications, operates Canada's largest public relations agency focused on technology and digital lifestyle. The company, which has been recognized as one of the best workplaces in Canada for two years running, has offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal and San Francisco. A seasoned PR expert with more than 18 years of experience, Ms. Wedgbury has directed global brand positioning programs, handled crisis communications, managed international product launches and developed PR strategy for companies across the entire tech and lifestyle spectrum. In 2006, she also helped the agency launch the High Road Connect practice – a social media, Web 2.0 and marketing services group – to help companies transcend conventional communications. Ms. Wedgbury's clients include Microsoft Canada, MSN, Canon Canada, Disney and LG Electronics.