Marketing has a Training Problem
By Christopher Wallace, President, InnerView
Training is not a topic that most marketing or brand teams spend a lot of time thinking about. The marketer’s job is to get the message to the customer, while internal partners in training or sales are responsible for getting customer-facing teams bought-in the to the story. But as we have written about previously, that message is not making its way to the front lines. Our research shows that two-thirds of marketers believe that their brand story is getting significantly diluted as it makes its way through the various channels with direct customer interaction.
This data indicates that marketing has a training problem. Marketers can’t afford to have the messages they’re spending millions to build and deliver externally misaligned with the story customers hear from an internal company representative. This includes sales, customer service, technicians or any other role with heavy customer interaction. Marketing needs to be more involved in owning this alignment with their frontline teams or their brand will struggle to turn demand into sales and/or repeat purchases.
Scrap the Old Way
The first step is for marketers to assert themselves in the process of improving internal brand adoption. They have to forget what they’ve done in the past. Typically, marketing plays one of two roles in the training process: 1) marketing provides details (product info, package details, etc.) to the training team, who repurposes it into new content and pushes it down to the front line teams or 2) marketing takes their external messaging and materials and distributes them to the customer-facing teams, expecting them to be used as quasi “scripts” for what to say to customers. These practices are ineffective because they assume the internal audience simply doesn’t know what to do and are waiting on “answers.” The information only flows in one direction.
Adoption requires a two-way dialogue. It’s called marketing!
You Don’t “Train” Customers, Do You?
Marketers don’t need to look too far outside of their own playbook to find an effective methodology for influencing their internal audiences. The way they reach their customer base starts with research, which is designed to help understand the attitudes and perceptions potential buyers have about their brand or products. If the messages they’re currently using in their marketing are not resonating with that audience, they adjust the message and, in some cases, the medium through which they are delivering the messages (a shift from print to digital marketing, for example). Rarely will marketers conclude: “The customers just aren’t getting it. I think the answer is to sit them down and tell them all the details about what our product does.” You can’t force customers to understand or to believe your messages, you have to tune the message based on their attitude, so it becomes intuitive and they arrive at their own conclusion. The same should go for internal audiences.
Treat Internal Teams as Another Marketing “Segment”
Effective marketers segment their target customers into different categories or personas, based on certain tendencies, demographic information, or needs. This is how the internal customer-facing teams should be treated. Start by measuring their attitudes and perceptions. At InnerView, we use our proprietary method called a Brand Transfer Study. Our approach applies customer market research principles to uncover not only gaps in understanding, but gaps in belief around the company’s marketing messages. If they don’t believe the story, they won’t tell the story convincingly –even if they understand it. By starting with measurement, you can build internal messaging strategies that address specific areas of weakness or lack of belief. This process makes the communication a dialogue, increasing the likelihood that the messages will resonate with your internal teams. It helps them synthesize the story for themselves and gives them confidence when it’s time to share it with a customer.
The authenticity of their delivery will outperform even the most perfectly-worded script.
Get Their Attention
As with any marketing effort, building the messaging strategy is just part of the battle. Delivering the message using fresh tactics is critical to ensuring increased adoption. Conducting a classroom-style training and handing them a 52-page product guide aren’t fresh tactics. Instead, marketers should build internal campaigns that introduce aspects of the story over time. A client of ours at InnerView recently deployed an internal campaign that was modeled after Apple’s approach to launching new products in their retail stores. The campaign started with a simple teaser message that something was coming. It left the employees wanting to know more. They proceeded to layer-in more information over time through a series of online videos, desk-drops and tools which
allowed the audience to digest the message in parts, rather than forcing them to adopt it all at once. The campaign was different. It got their attention and generated excitement. By the time the new product was set to go live, they had an army of advocates who were eager to tell the story to customers.
Marketers know the old way of equipping internal teams to represent their brand isn’t working. Training, as it exists in most companies, is designed to drive competency. But when it comes to differentiating a brand, competency is not enough anymore. Rather than try to fix the old way, marketers need to take matters into their own hands and rely on the principles they know best – identify the audience, measure their attitudes, customize the messages and deliver them in a compelling way. Aligning the perceptions of their internal and external “customers” will lead to true differentiation.