Market internally

Just last week I came across an advertisement for a new scheme for iPhone from a leading Telco and called them for signing up. After going through four layers of irritating and long IVR, I finally got to speak to a human being at the call centre that was outsourced by the Telco. I asked for the iPhone package and the person did not have a clue and I was handed over to three different sections before connection timed out. I could not help marvel at the lack of fundamentals of services marketing in this firm even as Jio was disrupting the entire industry. How would they ever compete with Jio when they could not even build a strong marketing process internally!

It is imperative that companies market their new launches and new services to internal employees first. Before and during marketing campaigns, let your staff know what’s going on. After all, many of your employees may be the ones answering the telephones when all those calls, generated by your astounding and effective campaign start coming in. If your staff knows what is going on, you look good. Nothing tarnishes a company’s image more than an employee telling a prospect, “Oh, I didn’t know we were doing that!”

Nothing boosts that image like having everyone who answers the phone – assistants, secretaries, receptionist – speaking confidently and being capable of handling any marketing inquiries that your campaign generates. Take the time to make sure they understand how the programme works and know its intended outcome. If you think bringing staff up to speed is a difficult task, think again. It is actually very easy to achieve. Keeping staff informed sounds simple enough, but too many businesses overlook this one very important detail. Campaign planners and those who implement the marketing programme can get so wrapped up in deadlines, production and what-have-you that they forget to let the front line employees know about the programme, what to expect and when. Just count how many times in the last six months you have forgotten this.

Before you get too wrapped up in your marketing programme, take a step back and get your employees up to date. Call a regular marketing meeting with department heads so they can tell the rest of their staff, or send out a marketing memo or email broadcast to all personnel. Whichever vehicle you use, make it a point to let the staff know on a regular basis what marketing campaigns you have planned and how they are progressing. A regular basis may be weekly, monthly or whatever is appropriate for your business. For instance, if you are in retail business a daily programme might be appropriate. If you are in service business of some kind, perhaps a weekly promotion you may be holding and you will want your staff to be fully involved.

Speaking of services, it is THE most important thing — making your staff know about every aspect of a marketing programme. If you are in manufacturing, perhaps a monthly update is all you need. Whatever be the case, once you get the routine established it would be much easier to keep everyone informed.

Communication is always a two-way street and not one-way. If your employees know what to expect from the marketing campaigns they will let you know how the campaign is progressing from their perspective of dealing regularly with customers. The information they provide could be valuable enough for you to tweak your campaign to make it more effective. For instance, a medium sized company selling shampoo recently launched a consumer promo of a freebie with one of their leading brands. The marketing team in fact made a mistake of printing the wrong MRP of the SKU in all promotional material and sent across to all the sales folks. It was only after the advertisement began appearing that sales people noticed this big blunder and informed the marketing team. By then the POS (Point of Sale) materials have gone to the retailer level. The damage was complete. They had to destroy the entire POS, resulting in a lot of wasted resources.

In another example, the marketing team of another company went ahead and changed the packaging of an existing product without informing the sales team. From the marketplace only the sales people came to know about the existence of the new packaging! Their first reaction was that the product was spurious. Imagine how such a scenario will instill the sense of ownership among employees. The training division can go on doing training but blunders such as these will never help bring in mindset changes.

Buy-in is the other important benefit when you share your campaigns and packaging designs with the internal employees. In many instances employees could be your customers too, purchasing your products for their own use in appropriate industries.

By keeping your own people involved early, they become more concerned with the campaign’s outcome and will work to make it succeed. Besides that, nothing builds a team like a strong information and communications channel.

If you want your firm to measure up and compete successfully, remember to take out your handheld devices and shoot off that wonderful idea you have to your people first.

(The author spearheads execution and innovation for clients@CustomerLab)

M Muneer