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.
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
- 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:
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
- Upgrading the quality and appearance of all marketing
materials coming from the business.
- Changing your advertising program and/or advertising
- 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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.