I was reading an excellent article from Bill Taylor, who writes the Game Changer blog at Harvard Business Review. This post, entitled, “Why Should I Do Business with You?” uncovers some key aspects about the importance of internal marketing and communications.
In a study of bank branches, a researching team set off to ask employees a simple question:
“As a customer, why should I choose your bank over the competition?” And two-thirds of the time…front-line employees have no answer to that question—they simply “make something up on the fly.”
Bill goes on to ask the question: “How can any business expect to outperform the competition when its own employees can’t explain—simply and convincingly— what makes them different from the competition?”
This goes back to basics on internal marketing and communication. Don Schultz, in pretty much every book he’s ever written, discusses the importance of internal marketing…even more important than external. In a 2003 article in BtoB magazine, Schultz writes:
“Internal marketing is more vital than external marketing. Customer-touching and customer-facing employees, not external marketing, drive acquisition and retention. Solution: Invest in internal marketing, branding and promotion. Work with HR, IT and operations to get employees involved in the demand chain.”
Schultz’s words still hold true today, and uncover the root problem in Bill’s situation with retail banks. At the end of the day, all the external marketing and branding won’t work unless the main customer touch point (the employee) clearly understands what the company’s vision and brand statement encompasses.
Here are some activities to consider if your company is lacking in the internal marketing department:
- CEO blog. Create an internal only blog or regular email to employees on the state of the business.
- Newsletter. Create a print or electronic newsletter, at least quarterly, that clearly discusses what the company stands for. Include customer case studies and wins. Also include the vision statement of the company on a regular basis.
- Quarterly All-Employee Meetings. In-person is great for a small company. Large companies can do webinars. Be sure to share the financials of the company and discuss why the strategies within the company link directly back to the vision.
- Internal Forum. Integrate your CEO blog with an internal forum where employees can share best practices.
These are easy-to-implement steps that may make the most difference in all your marketing activities. Remember, if your employee doesn’t understand your brand, how can you expect your customer to understand it?