Why your small business needs an employer brand strategy.

Employer branding isn’t just for the big guns. It’s for any business that wants the best of the best banging down its doors to work there. So if you’re a small company or start-up thinking ‘client-only’ when it comes to your reputation, while relying on an ad-hoc approach to recruiting and keeping employees—welcome to the biggest mistake you may ever make.

Because here’s the thing: Today’s clients decide to work with you—or not—based increasingly on what employees say about your business. Investors pass or play on the same premise. No matter your size. You can thank (or blame) social media and the very real reach and clout it gives people to build and crush brands, at breakneck speed.

And some of these people work for you.

Which means you can’t afford to let your reputation evolve by default. You must shape it deliberately. And if you’re on the smaller side, you’ve got to give it more gas than the big guys because you don’t have their visibility and recognition (yet).

So what’s a small business to do?

First, know that you already have a brand. Even if you haven’t thought about it. Or paid anyone to create copy or a logo. You have a brand because you and your team are out there in the world, interacting with it. You’re building things, pitching people, creating products, changing lives. Your brand is the sum total of all this. It’s how someone sees and experiences you.

The good news? As a start-up or small business, you may well have an edge when it comes to an entrepreneurial, friendly, flexible culture where the future’s exciting and untapped and employees have a direct hand in crafting it. And that’s an employer brand with serious sex appeal today—especially if Millennials or Generation Z are your go-to targets. (Of course, there are big companies with the same benefits but frankly, you’ll find fewer of them.)

The best brands don’t stop there, though. They’ve made marketing their friend—and are making the most of the melting pot that is now corporate, consumer and employer branding, and the client and employee experience. We’re seeing employee stories in consumer campaigns, and top-notch employer brands nurturing talent—who in turn, become more engaged and give clients better service. It’s a win-win that pays off in brand power and a fierce boost in shareholder value. (At least 36 percent or higher over five years, according to a recent study by LinkedIn and Lippincott. While the research focused on Fortune 500s and the rate of return is presumably less if you’re a small business, the point’s the same: Get it right with employees and clients, and watch your results skyrocket.)

You don’t have to be big to attract rockstar talent. But you do need to be strategic. Make no mistake: Employees are the foundation and firepower of the best brands. Don’t forget yours.