How do we engage employees who deliver on the brand when they have no clue as to what we really do and we have little or no authority over them?
By Sybil Stershic, President, Quality Service Marketing
I recently spoke to a group of marketers about our need to internally market the marketing function. Before we can begin to develop brand ambassadors or marketing champions, we need to engage all employees in what marketing does, since each employee impacts delivery of the brand promise.
To better engage employees with our marketing programs, it’s important to understand how we inadvertently sabotage our own marketing efforts. Here are a couple of examples:
1. We fail to recognize that marketing is perceived as creating extra work for employees. I learned this lesson earlier in my career as a bank marketer. Whenever the Marketing Department would launch a new deposit promotion – offering gifts to customers for opening new accounts – most branch people were less than receptive. On top of their regular duties of meeting daily operational standards for efficient transaction processing, business development & sales goals, customer service standards and customer retention goals, we expected tellers, customer service reps and branch managers to display, process, distribute and control inventory of whatever premiums that marketing had sent their way (stadium blankets, golf umbrellas, toaster ovens, VCRs, etc.). No wonder they wanted to bar the doors whenever they saw Marketing coming!
2. Just because the Marketing Department is part of the organizational chart doesn’t mean that employees know who we are and what we do. We forget that we need to continually educate others within the organization as to what Marketing really does…other than sitting around having a good time creating work for everyone else.
Develop and Strengthen
Our challenge is how do we engage employees who deliver on the brand when they have no clue as to what we really do and we have little or no authority over them?
As marketers we know how to develop and strengthen customer relationships; it’s not a stretch to apply this skill set to developing and strengthening employee relationships. The problem is, we’re usually so busy taking care of everyone else’s marketing needs that we neglect our own.
Breaking Down Silos
Marketers need to engage all employees who deliver on the brand, including those outside the Marketing Department.
To get employee buy-in, we need to break out of our silos and strengthen marketing’s relationship with employees – in other words, we need to do a better job of “marketing” Marketing within the organization. Here are a few ways we can accomplish this.
- Participate in new employee orientation to explain how every employee has an important role in delivering the brand promise. If someone from Marketing is unable to attend, educate whoever is in charge of orientation to share this message.
- Host a real or virtual “Open House” so non-marketing co-workers can get acquainted with Marketing and its resources. Invite key people from other departments to your staff meetings to learn what Marketing is doing and vice-versa.
- Share general marketing information info to let others know what’s happening in the marketplace, such as consumer/customer trends, competitive analysis, customer satisfaction results, etc.
- Find ways to effectively recognize employees who positively deliver on the brand promise; e.g., “Brand Champions” or “Marketing Heroes.”
Before, During and After
In addition to this general outreach, it’s important to get employee buy-in and cooperation for each marketing program we implement. Here are several tools of engagement you can use.
Before launching any marketing initiative or program…share the rationale and goals behind the initiative with employees. Clearly explain what you’re trying to do and why. Also, communicate how Marketing’s efforts in relation to the program help support the firm’s overall mission and strategic plan. Reinforce the message that “we’re all in this together” instead of contributing to the perception that Marketing creates extra work for people. Get employee input, and be sensitive and responsive to how their work will be affected by this program. Finally, provide the necessary training (and incentives, if appropriate) so staff can effectively support the initiative.
Once the initiative is up-and-running…you can’t just let it run its course and forget about it. As part of your monitoring efforts, stay in touch with what employees need to keep the program’s momentum going; share interim results and any fine-tuning that needs to be done and why; and recognize and reinforce employees’ support of the initiative.
And when the program is over…share final results and “lessons learned” – for example, what worked and why (to replicate success in the future ) and what didn’t work and why (what to avoid and what to improve the next time). Also, acknowledge employees’ individual and collective efforts in supporting marketing and organizational goals. And make sure you solicit employee feedback on how to improve future initiatives.
Employees who deliver on the brand promise can make or break Marketing’s effectiveness. That’s why we need to consider employees upfront when planning and implementing any marketing initiative – so they’ll work with us, not against us.
Sybil Stershic is the President, Quality Service Marketing (QSM) and the author of ‘Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care’ and ‘Share of Mind, Share of Heart.’ She is also the former Chairman of the American Marketing Association. For more information on QSM, go to www.qualityservicemarketing.com