Explore the Strategy of Internal Marketing
Providing exceptional customer service is just as important as providing exceptional products.
According to an American Express survey, 78% of consumers have bailed on a sales transaction because they received poor customer service. Even if they wanted or needed to buy a product, they were so put off by their experience with a company that they delayed their purchase.
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In this context, a company’s employees can be seen as their most important marketing tools. These employees are on the front lines, adapting a company’s marketing strategies to the needs of each customer they work with. Their attitude, appearance, and approach all communicate something about the company they represent.
If a company wants to provide an exemplary customer experience, they need to train their employees to provide that experience. But creating a workforce that is educated about the company's goals and enthusiastic about meeting those goals is not as easy as some would expect. Businesses must make serious efforts to distribute timely and relevant information so that every employee is working toward common goals. A disorganized workforce and an inconsistent marketing message are easy ways to lose business.
With an internal marketing strategy, employees are treated as “internal customers” who must be convinced of a company's vision and worth just as aggressively as “external customers.” The goal of internal marketing is to align every aspect of a company’s internal operations to ensure they are as capable as possible of providing value to customers. If a company can operate in a coordinated and standardized way, that company can provide a more consistent experience to their customers.
Internal marketing is based on the idea that customers’ attitudes toward a company are based on their entire experience with that company, and not just their experience with the company’s products. Any time a customer interacts with an employee, it affects their overall satisfaction. Everyone from a sales clerk to an over-the-phone tech support specialist helps to shape that customer's experience. Therefore, customer satisfaction is deeply dependent on the performance of a company's staff. (See also Call Center Marketing)
For example, Apple has a unique organizational culture that emphasizes innovation, creativity, and expertise. In order to promote this culture, they are highly selective when they recruit employees and extremely thorough when they train them. Apple realizes that the best way to promote the image of their brand is for every employee, particularly the ones who work with customers, to accurately represent that image. Anyone who has been to an Apple store knows that the employees are experts in the products they sell and are willing to answer an endless number of questions. They are smart, accessible, and knowledgeable, positively reflecting the company company as a whole.
Human resources professionals typically spearhead internal marketing campaigns. Since internal marketing focuses on leveraging the value of employees, strong communication between the company and the employees is crucial. Their primary responsibility will be to disseminate information about the company's goals and strategies, and to provide training and support to help employees achieve those goals.
Most internal marketing efforts provide incentives for their employees to hit certain targets. It is important that this incentive be something that actually motivates people. A 2011 survey by Harris Interactive asked respondents what bonuses they most wanted to receive from their companies around the holiday season. The survey reveals that people are best motivated by making more money and least motivated by company parties. Information like this is important for companies trying to create an enthusiastic workforce.
Strictly speaking, any company can implement an internal marketing campaign. Even the smallest businesses will want to train employees to project the vision and goals of the business. Think of a small bakery that trains its staff to greet customers with a smile and a positive attitude when providing service. Aligning the attitudes of employees with the mission of the business is crucial for any company that wants to engage with their customers.
It is typically larger firms, however, that are most invested in internal marketing strategies. Because they have so many more employees, often working in disconnected departments and offices, it is more challenging to enforce a company-wide culture. Firms with thousands of employees working in R&D, sales, marketing, production, and logistics must make a concerted effort to educate everyone about the company’s marketing objectives (See also Careers in Marketing). Retailers, restaurant chains, and other companies that interact with large numbers of customers will be particularly interested in internal marketing. They need to create an organizational culture that extends throughout the company and projects outward to customers.
Internal marketing is one of the most complicated forms of marketing there is. It involves creating persuasive and informative messages that resonate with every department and employee within a company. The best way to conduct internal marketing in an effective way is to create a comprehensive plan.
For example, consider Wachovia, one of the five largest banks in America. The bank was formed in the year 2001 after two smaller banks merged, creating a large bank that suddenly had to create a brand identity for themselves and instill that identity in a much larger new workforce. To help them reinforce a company-wide image, they developed an internal marketing plan that has had positive results.
The first step of any plan is to identify clear goals for the internal marketing strategy. This could be anything from increasing awareness of a new marketing strategy to promoting brand awareness amongst employees. In the case of Wachovia, their goal was to provide superior and seamless customer service as they went through their merger.
Once the goals have been identified, plans can be developed to meet those goals. These can be complicated and comprehensive, or relatively simple. If a company wants to promote awareness of a new product they might deliver presentations at staff meetings. But if they need to fundamentally change the culture of their company they may need to add staff, reorganize departments, or develop new product lines.
In the case of Wachovia, exceptional customer service was their end goal. They did this by providing comprehensive training programs, and using new technologies to improve efficiency. Their staff was prepared to meet the expectations placed on them after the merger.
Before the plan is put into action, employees need to be educated on its aims and goals. Everyone in the company must know what the goals of the plan are and how they are going to be achieved. Companies will use departmental meetings, newsletters, corporate retreats and blogs to help disseminate this information.
The plan should be accessible to any employee at any time. This step is important because internal marketing focuses on creating awareness and focusing efforts. Employees should feel like they are participants in the plan and their feedback and ideas should be respected.
Many companies also offer incentives like bonuses or vacation days to help motivate employees to meet goals. Wachovia appealed to their employees by offering comprehensive maternity leave and benefits for families. They also made a concentrated effort to acknowledge their employees as the reason for their success.
After the plan has been put into action, professionals should closely track and evaluate results to determine whether the effort was successful or not. Many internal marketing efforts use surveys and employee feedback cards to gain a sense of how employees feel about the companies they work for. Wachovia developed their own in-house survey to track employees attitudes about loyalty, job satisfaction, and company policies. This helped them to align their brand message with their company culture. Today, Wachovia consistently earns the highest customer satisfaction ratings of any major bank.
Marketing communications specialists are experts in crafting messages that are informative and appealing. It is their job to find the words, images, and ideas that will best communicate a company's marketing goals to the public they are trying to reach. Usually, these are customers, but in the case of internal marketing they are employees. All internal communications about marketing will flow from a marketing communications specialist.
All specialists will need to have a bachelor's degree in marketing. Many also have advanced degrees supplemented by years of experience in the industry. Additional training in English or public relations can help specialists to craft more effective marketing messages.
Human resources managers serve as the liaison between a company and its employees. They will recruit and train new hires, foster a company culture, and respond to any workplace issues that arise. Distributing information about company policies, initiatives, and goals is another important feature of their job. Most internal marketing effort use HR departments to help spread their messages
A bachelor's degree in human resources management will be necessary for any manager. A degree in marketing is not necessary, but will be extremely helpful. HR managers have to communicate with employees in the same way that salespeople have to convince customers. Additional education in business administration or public relations can also be relevant.
Brand managers will oversee the marketing efforts for a single brand. It is their responsibility to create an identity for a brand and then communicate that to customers through advertising. They will consider everything from the way a product is packaged, to its price, to the way it is represented in TV ads. The brand manager will educate others in the company about the identity of the brand and the marketing strategy behind it.
Brand managers will need to have at least a bachelor's degree in marketing. Typically, this is a senior marketing position and many brand managers have training in advanced marketing strategies. Experience managing a team and delegating responsibility will be crucial for any effective manager.
Internal marketing is one of the most challenging kinds of marketing because employees have more information about companies and their products than any customer does. Their insider's perspective makes them particularly shrewd when claims are made about products or services. Convincing this population takes a thoughtful and comprehensive marketing approach. A degree in marketing is vital for carrying out effective internal marketing efforts.
Over the last 25 years, the subject of internal marketing has become a hot issue in marketing programs. As companies have grown larger they have had to find new ways to spread their culture through huge workforces. The professionals who teach in marketing schools have examined companies large and small from around the world who have carried out internal marketing efforts. They know from experience what works and what doesn’t work. Learning from this experience is the best way for internal marketers to gain the skills they need to make an impact within their company.