The word ‘marketing’ usually brings external branding to mind – reaching out to your target market and creating an awareness of your brand in order to foster strong customer relationships.
Every year, companies invest significant money and resources into their external marketing efforts, and with good reason – you might have the most fantastic product or service in the world, but that doesn’t mean much unless your brand resonates with a potential customer base.
However in order to create an overall successful brand, there’s another very important audience you should be concentrating on – the one within your own office space.
Managers often assume that their colleagues believe in the power of the brand. But when they’re working on the inside, your external marketing alone isn’t always enough to convince them of its uniqueness. In fact, Forbes found that only 50 percent of employees believe in their company’s brand idea, while “even less are actually equipped to deliver on it.”
This might have something to do with the fact that employees only ever engage with the brand side-on – very little is directly addressed to them. Often, where a marketing department communicates a new ad campaign to the team, the intention is simply to keep them up to date, rather than to sell the team on the company’s mission. Most managers forget to direct resources at convincing employees that their company delivers a unique product or service, assuming it’s a mere given arising out of a job contract.
Industry leaders such as Starbucks and IBM, however, are leveraging the power of their internal branding strategy to great success. Here are two big reasons why it’s important to develop your inside story:
1. Internal branding fosters company culture
While it seems logical that companies should ensure their employees believe in the brand, why is it necessary to separate marketing into ‘external’ and ‘internal’? Many managers ask – why can’t branding efforts simply cater to both customers and employees?
That’s because they serve two very different purposes: external marketing creates a connection between your company and the customers. Internal marketing serves yet another function: it fosters a strong company culture around which employees can organize, motivating them to maintain and grow those connections. It creates an organization that naturally helps its team deliver the brand promise.
That results in tangible benefits for your business: Harvard Business Review argues that employees who believe in their brand have a higher degree of productivity and loyalty to the company.
One example of this approach is high-profile UK food vendor Pret-a-Manger, which has enjoyed skyrocketing success despite its highly unconventional marketing approach – it doesn’t spend big bucks on advertising. Rather, the marketing is conducted in-house and almost entirely directed at the in-store experience, including fostering a unique work environment which aligns with the Pret brand. Employees are empowered by flexibility and the power to vote on new members of staff, delivered as part of the wholesomeness, community ethos embedded in Pret’s approach to food.
A focus on internal branding strategy ensures that all stakeholders – employees included – push the company in the right direction. By providing a common sense of purpose and identity via your brand, your colleagues will perform better at their job.
2. Your employees become frontline marketers
Internal marketing serves another critical function: it transforms your employees into brand ambassadors, which means more manpower selling your brand’s story. Suddenly, you have an extra team of promoters: your employees.
When trying to connect with today’s media-wary audience, employee brand advocacy has been found to hold greater weight with potential customers than a marketing manager. A 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer found that “employees rank higher in public trust than a firm’s PR department, CEO, or Founder.” It also found that 41 percent of surveyed respondents believe that employees are the most credible source when it comes to information on the business.
Meanwhile, today’s employees are active social media users who can potentially communicate about your brand, provided they engage with your story and share your values. By connecting them with your corporate vision and providing unique content that they can share, you can harness their online channels and maximize your outreach.
As a personal branding expert put it, “strong brands aren’t built by the marketing department alone; every employee in every department has a role to play.”
That’s the philosophy behind marketing at Pret group. Marketing director Mark Palmer is a firm believer in the power employee brand promotion: “I have 9,000 workers and if they are inspired by the brand that is the best advertising in the world.”
It makes sense. After all, your teammates are at the heart of what you do, making them the best possible advocates for your brand – if they believe in the mission, they will make it come alive.