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Gain Staff Support For Marketing Initiatives
By Strengthening Internal Communications

 

When it comes to successful marketing, the most important allies you have are located right within your business. They are the members of your staff. They are instrumental in helping you strengthen and sustain positive marketing for your company. In order for this to happen effectively, your staff must be included in the marketing process.

 

Why Employee Buy-In Matters

If management launches a marketing improvement plan or implements new marketing initiatives without communicating its rationale for doing so to the rest of the staff, employees are bound to will feel vulnerable and uncertain. This, in turn, can lead to low staff morale, retention problems, poor customer service and low productivity. Effective internal communication correlates to improved employee performance and, ultimately, the success of any new marketing initiative. If implemented correctly, an internal communication plan will accomplish the following:

  • Promote a clear, shared understanding of the marketing improvement plan
  • Generate enthusiasm for the plan
  • Minimize rumors and inaccuracies
  • Counteract unnecessary anxiety
  • Improve knowledge and understanding of the changes that will occur as a new marketing plan is initiated.

The manner, format and vehicles used to communicate the message to your staff can make or break the success of a new marketing effort. Therefore, before you announce your company’s new direction, be sure you have determined the following:

 

What Do You Intend To Communicate?

Certainly, sharing the results of a recent customer feedback survey would provide a good starting point for announcing changes within your business. Based on the data you have collected, employees should be told:

  • What your company’s strengths appear to be.
  • What areas or aspects of the company are weak.
  • What specific steps will be taken to make improvements within the organization.

Your organization’s marketing improvement plan, of course, should be based on the feedback derived from customer surveys and might range from broad to specific. Within any industry, aspects of a marketing improvement plan might include:

  • Creating a new mission statement which all staff members support.
  • Upgrading the quality and appearance of all marketing materials coming from the business.
  • Changing your advertising program and/or advertising outlets.
  • Modifying the manner and demeanor in which customer service calls are answered.
  • Improving the response time on returned calls, the generation of estimates and other customer service matters.
  • Altering the physical set-up of your customer service department or waiting area to make it more desirable for customers.

These are just some ideas. Customer feedback data might yield the need for other modifications.

 

Internal Communication Mechanisms

An effective internal communication program should be multi-faceted in order to maximize its effectiveness. The following approaches have a track record of success and should be given fair consideration:

 

Company-wide meeting:

This downward approach to communication is most effective if your goal is to inform, persuade, explain, motivate, prompt action and provide a sense of direction. Such a meeting is particularly important in a time of change and should be led by your company’s management or leadership team. Company-wide meetings are valuable because employees are given a sense that management values them sufficiently to take time to talk to them directly and respond to their questions or feedback.

 

The disadvantages of such a meeting are that some people are reluctant to ask questions in large-scale open meetings; planning and organizational efforts are required; and all employees are taken 'off-the-job' simultaneously to participate in the meeting.

 

Department or Team briefings:
Departments or Teams should be briefed by their manager about how the marketing improvement plan applies to their department specifically. For example, if phone skill training is part of your plan, a team meeting between the customer service department and its manager (or an outside trainer) would make more sense than providing this training during a company-wide meeting.

 

Team briefings are important because they allow more opportunities for two-way communication than company-wide meetings; information can be tailored to meet the needs (and concerns of) particular teams; and most people feel less constrained about asking questions in small groups. In addition, these smaller meetings give people confidence that they will hear the full story.

 

The disadvantage of team briefings is that their success depends on the manager being able and willing to communicate messages in a brief and interesting way. This requires particular skills, which may need developing.

 

In smaller businesses, where it is unlikely that departments have their own managers, the owner should plan to meet with individual groups of employees and provide them with the training and direction needed to make appropriate changes. While the communication approach in a small company may be less formal, it is just as important.

 

Internal newsletters:
An internal newsletter is an excellent resource for introducing a company’s new initiatives. The core message should contain the fundamentals of the initiative. However, this does not prevent the information from being dressed up and launched in a format that captures employees’ attention and creates a buzz about the initiative. Encourage employees to invest in the initiatives by running contests and asking them to create a slogan for the marketing effort.

 

Since change often yields uncertainty, try to anticipate concerns and present them in a question and answer format in the internal newsletter. If you suspect that your employees might not react positively to a new initiative, don’t ignore this concern. Be sure to acknowledge your employee’s feelings and craft an informative and positive response that will ensure employee buy-in.

 

The internal newsletter should not be used as the sole vehicle for communicating news of a new initiative to your staff. Communication through the newsletter is one-sided and does not allow employees to have pressing questions and concerns answered immediately, leaving room for misunderstandings and frustration. The internal newsletter is best used as one of several tools to circulate information.

 

Intranet:
The Intranet has a great capacity for facilitating the exchange of information during the introduction of a new initiative. Whether you choose to keep employees apprised of changes through daily e-mail blasts or by establishing a questions and answer component to your internal website, the Intranet can be empowering to your employees.

 

Companies without intranet access can just as effectively convey this information via e-mail or even Q&A sheets inserted within paycheck envelops.

 

Be sure not to let written or electronic communication replace face-to-face contact, however, which is essential to determining how employees are reacting to change. We have all been in a position where we have misconstrued the tone of an electronic communication. In order to ensure that you are reading your employees accurately, personal contact is still important.

 

Signs and posters throughout work areas:
An effective sign and poster campaign can capture the attention of your employees. Pique their interest with teasers — posters and signs that suggest that exciting changes are brewing. Opt for a clever, catchy and imaginative campaign intended to present the basic facts in a positive light and to steer the reader to other sources for more information.

 

When implementing a sign and poster campaign it is critical to remember to stay on message.

 

Communication Inside Ensures Success Outside

At first glance, generating support among employees may appear to be a complex, sensitive and significant task. Is it worth it? Absolutely! The initial investment that your company will make to inform your employees and help them feel connected will pay dividends as you move forward with your marketing initiative.

 

 

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