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Why Internal Marketing Should Matter to Your Business

Steve Surdez

When it comes to marketing, we tend to look outward. We build strategies to engage and bring people inside our world to show them what we have to offer. Once we draw them inside, we want to keep folks there and make them a devoted member of our brand community.

But what happens when a business engages someone and gets them to “come inside” the brand world and the people already there aren’t bought in or are unsure of the brand community’s values and purpose?

Well, they leave and they do so quickly.

Customers these days are informed and really smart--they will know when your marketing isn’t authentic and often the first sign of this is engaging with a staff member that’s not engaged themselves.

Our fixation outward needs to be tempered by some brand introspection.

Time and treasure spent drawing people inside while our employees are disengaged or ignorant about your brand culture and values is wasteful. Companies need to market internally to their employees so that they, too, believe in the brand; it’s tough to ask a potential customer to buy-in when your team isn’t a brand believer and can’t articulate why your company is great.

Companies need to look inward and allocate more energy and resources to internal marketing. Selling your brand and its culture to your own employees is critical to building brand loyalty in the public market.

What is Internal Marketing?

Well, it’s a pretty simple concept: In addition to marketing your brand outward to your customers, you turn these efforts inward toward your staff in an attempt to build or improve brand awareness and loyalty.

In a 2002 Harvard Business Review article--yes, 2002, but it still resonates today--author Colin Mitchell summarizes the importance of “Selling the Brand Inside”: “Why is internal marketing so important? First, because it’s the best way to help employees make a powerful emotional connection to the products and services you sell. Without that connection, employees are likely to undermine the expectations set by your advertising... We’ve found that when people care about and believe in the brand, they’re motivated to work harder and their loyalty to the company increases. Employees are unified and inspired by a common sense of purpose and identity.”

Why Does Marketing to Your Staff Matter?

Again, when boiled down to the basics, if there is a disconnect between what you market to the public and what your staff communicates to leads and customers you have a BIG problem.

This BIG problem is wide-ranging in that it isn’t just about marketing. It also impacts staff productivity, retention and the recruiting of new talent. In short, poor internal marketing and weak internal brand cultures are problems not just for sales. Operations is impacted as well.

Let’s talk a high-level look at how weak internal marketing, fractured business cultures and disjointed internal branding impacts these areas of your business.

Sales Process Impacts

Weak internal marketing will rear its ugly head within your sales process. It doesn’t matter if you have SalesForce or HubSpot and all the automation and software in the world.

People sell. People buy. In the end, a person persuades (or doesn’t) another person to buy (or not). Marketing might be able to attract hordes of leads. The question, then, is can your sales staff keep these leads engaged to close them?

  • If you sales staff is not engaged with your brand, or is confused about its mission and core values, how can they effectively sell this to an informed customer? They can’t.
  • There is a level of authenticity that is expected these days. People want to buy from people that believe not just in a product or service, but that are also believers in the brand itself.
  • Sales staff and other employees that truly buy-in to your culture and brand sell better and perform better because they’re authentic. This authenticity can even overcome faulty sales processes or a lack of sales tools whereas inauthentic staff can subvert the greatest, most well-funded Sales Enablement system in the world.

Internal team brand loyalty and cultural buy-in breeds authenticity, which in turn helps engagement and lead nurturing. Without internal marketing, authenticity diminishes over time and engagement suffers.

Operational Impact

If you have an effective internal marketing strategy, and you constantly improve your internal brand culture, you create an environment where staff members are not just working for a paycheck. They are working for a paycheck and because they believe in your company.

Mitchell, in his Harvard Business Review paper, goes on to frame the importance of internal marketing this way: “We have found that by applying many of the principles of consumer advertising to internal communications, leaders can guide employees to a better understanding of, and even a passion for, the brand vision. Applying these principles enables employees to ‘live’ the vision in their day-to-day activities. And when employees live that vision, customers are much more likely to experience the company in a way that’s consistent with what you’ve promised.”

At Illumine8 we are sometimes hired to assess a company’s branding. What we often find is that the brand, as it's presented to the market, is fragmented, meaning a cohesive brand narrative is not being projected to the public. The website takes a certain approach, emails go in a different direction and print materials take yet another tack. For a lead or customer this causes confusion and prevents deeper engagement.

When a company looks inward this same fragmented brand image likely exists among staff members. Marketing is projecting the brand this way, sales sells something different, and customer service teams deliver the brand in another way.

In both cases, damage is done to sales performance but there are consequences for operations as well:

  • Higher Staff Turnover. Employees that are loyal to your brand tend to be happier and more productive workers. Happy and productive staffers tend to stay on the team longer, reducing turnover and preserving team continuity. High staff turnover rates damage brand continuity; strong staff retention enables your culture to grow and brand awareness to strengthen over time. If you’re constantly replacing staff, it’s very difficult to make headway and build a strong culture.
  • Increased Hiring Costs. Constant staff turnover causes an increase in recruiting and hiring costs. And poor internal marketing and a weak company culture makes recruiting much more difficult.
  • Decreased productivity. Happy workers are more productive. Dispassionate staff that aren’t engaged are less productive. It’s a fact and it’s really that simple.

Benefits of Internal Marketing Investments

We’ve looked at the damage the lack of internal marketing can do. Let’s summarize some of its benefits:

  • Powerful internal marketing programs align external marketing claims with internal branding realities, presenting a genuine brand identity to the market
  • Strong internal marketing empowers sales staff to be authentic and increase customer engagement
  • Effective internal marketing builds a strong company culture where workers are loyal to the brand and work for more than a paycheck
  • Strong business cultures create happier workers that are more productive
  • Happy workers are easier to retain and provide a strong cultural foundation to build upon
  • Happy workers mean less turnover and reduced hiring and recruiting costs
  • Strong internal marketing and culture building are outstanding tools for beating your competition when it comes to hiring top talent

Finding the resources, time and human capital to focus on internal marketing can be a challenge. However, ignoring internal marketing isn’t an option for companies that want to grow. Always remember, internal marketing can’t just be passed off to your human resources person or department. Marketing expertise is required to do the heavy lifting required to build a strong program.

We can help. Reach out to us today. We’d love to learn more about your company and how we might be able to help with create an internal marketing campaign or improve a program that already exists. 

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