Marketing To Your Employees

Examine your company’s selling process and you may find a strategic gap in your marketing efforts.

By now you’ve built your web site and are working a marketing plan that includes some combination of social media, collateral, drip campaigns, sales promotion, public relations, and the like.

Your high visibility causes sales leads to pour through the door. Yet you find many of these leads aren’t converting into sales. Or worse, you’re seeing an increasing percentage of customers leaving you, sometimes after many years of loyal patronage. In either instance there’s no clear pattern.

The answer may be in your own backyard. You may need to market more to your own employees.

Employment doesn’t equal a vested interest

It’s a common misperception that anyone getting a paycheck automatically knows about – and buys into – the employer’s corporate and marketing philosophy.

Yet nothing is further from the truth, as most employees want to collect a paycheck, preferably without breaking their back to do so. Depending upon whom you ask, this could be caused by generational issues, poor work ethics, or supervisors with inadequate people skills. To such employees, the concept of being a true and contributing part of the company culture is an alien one.

According to Gallup’s study Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders (2013), 30% of Americans with full-time jobs are engaged and inspired at work. Another 20% are actively disengaged, and the remaining 50% are “just kind of present, but not inspired by their work or their managers.”

Obviously, having 70% of the American workforce partially or completely disengaged is, at best, problematic.

It also helps explain why, when a long-term groomer left the Petco store in Escondido, CA, the staff not only failed to reach out to the groomer’s customer base (including this author), but willingly agreed with these customers that they should find someone new to handle their business.

The suggestion that the business should remain with Petco, and preferably at that location, was never even made. Follow-up calls, coupons, or other customer enticements may have been considered but were never implemented. This string of failures led Petco to lose several customers to a lower-priced competitor with good social media reviews.

Improving your odds

Whether your business is a multi-billion dollar concern like Petco or a start-up in its infancy, odds are against everyone automatically accepting the company’s message at face value…unless you can provide a compelling reason to do so.

With this in mind a few years back, Standard Register Co. tried providing that reason to their employees by distributing a brochure bearing the message: “We need you to make it work.” Management was determined to make sure all 9,000 workers knew they were part of the same team, and that all of them had a vested interest that extended beyond a paycheck.

Standard Register’s recent filing for voluntary Chapter 11 reorganization suggests the reliance on a brochure was less than effective over the long-term.

Equally ineffective was a strategy utilized by at least one management team leader for Gateway Computers with a fondness for telling staffers; “Shut up, put your head down, keep working, and you’ll do well when the company does well.” The promise of eventual corporate profitability, rather than rewarding individual initiative and results, actually helped contribute to lower profits and an eventual 90% shrinkage of Gateway’s workforce.

As the first line of sales and defense, your employees – from administrative assistants to managers – need to understand the importance of your position in the marketplace. Observed Keith Fox, former Vice-President of Worldwide Corporate Marketing of Cisco Systems: “Your people have to understand what their job is and how they fit into the formula overall.”

Making your employees want to take their place in the big picture comes from a host of little things on a daily basis that all add up. Ask about their families. Buy them a soda. Sit with them at lunch. Give ’em an “Attaboy!” now and then.

In other words, treat them like you’d like to be treated and show them some respect.

Assuming your efforts are sincere, they, in turn, will start to feel like they’re part of the family and look for ways to help the company. They’ll try to cut waste. They’ll work a little harder to clear their desks at the end of the day.

Most importantly, their positive feelings for you – and the company – will become apparent to the community, the press, and to prospective customers. You’ll learn the truth of the theory that you can hear a smile over the phone.


Help them help you

There will be side-benefits as well. As morale improves, turnover should go down. Talented people (like those working for the competition) will begin to seek out your company as a good place to work. You’ll find yourself with a happier, more profitable business.

While he was VP/Sales & Distribution for MediaOne Group, Dan Hillen once observed: “Every time we touch a customer is an opportunity to exceed the customer’s expectations.”

And with every member of your staff potentially touching the customer in some form, you can potentially turn each team-member into part of your sales force.

Still, the question remains: How do you persuade all your employees to serve your customers better? Beyond the human factors mentioned above, the two easiest roads to follow are education and incentive. Here’s how to make each one work for you:

Education – Any management consultant will tell you to increase training programs for staffers at this time. It’s become critical to make sure everyone working for you knows who you are, how they fit in, and why they benefit when the company benefits.

Make sure employees know what’s going on – good and bad – before it becomes public. Give them a chance to satisfy their questions and have a comfort level, rather than taking a “Just do it!” attitude.

This outreach effort may include brochures, newsletters, internal publicity, and motivational posters. Larger firms should consider developing a YouTube channel to share news and keep employees all going in the same direction.

And never overlook the benefits of one-on-one conversations with the boss.

Incentive – Motivating employees to go a little bit further on your behalf can go a long way, and such recognition for a job well done needn’t be an extravagant affair.

Some companies get by with a simple thank-you note with a gold star (Believe it. And they’re VERY effective). Others take high performers out to lunch or send flowers. Still others give a gift certificate to the local mall to employees who help them reach certain goals.

And of course, the most powerful incentive is still a chance to win a free trip to someplace exotic.

The bottom line is the bottom line

There’s no downside to having all your employees become your marketing messengers, perhaps with a financial incentive attached to new customers brought in by non-traditional sales people.

Which explains why Media One found their pay-TV channel sales up 6% after an incentive program was instituted that included all levels of employees, rather than just sales people.

In fact, pick any successful company – from AT&T to Wal-Mart – and odds are good they’ll have at least one type of communications program going on that is geared specifically to selling the company to the employees.

Whether you educate or incentivize (or both), here’s the bottom line: Workers need to be inspired to maximize your company’s success. Getting a paycheck isn’t enough for them to buy into the whole corporate culture. They need to know that what they do matters, and that they are making a difference.

Treat them like they matter, and they’ll return the favor many times – straight to your bottom line.

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