With all the attention and investment marketers are putting into audience segmentation, there is one critical audience that marketers tend to overlook – their own employees. Employees, specifically customer-facing representatives are the link between the company’s marketing strategy and the actual customer experience. Too often, brand advertising tells customers it will deliver one thing, but oftentimes, customers don’t end up experiencing what the brand promises. How can companies expect customers to be committed to their brand promise if their own employees aren’t? Just ask United Airlines!
Why Are Employees Being Overlooked?
If the link between marketing and frontline employees is so critical, why aren’t marketers focused on delivering their brand messages to this group? From years of experience in the trenches with sales, customer service and retail teams, here are some reasons I have seen:
- Marketers are focused on driving demand. In the past, if marketers could make the phones ring, drive web visits or foot traffic into retail stores, they were considered successful. However, as marketers become more accountable, ensuring that demand converts into sales is now part of the marketing equation.
- Employee “engagement” is someone else’s job. Marketing has been content to do a handoff to HR or training when it comes to driving internal buy-in with the hope that the sales and service folks can execute. There is growing frustration in the marketing suite that their internal partners are not translating the messages appropriately.
- Employees HAVE TO do what the company tells them. There is a line of thinking that delivering the “party line” on product or marketing messages is the employee’s job. Employees will either get on board or face the consequences. This thought process leads to a lot of mistrust between corporate teams and customer-facing representatives.
- They don’t fully understand the customer interaction. Marketing teams don’t typically spend a lot of time in the field, so it can be hard for them to understand the dynamic of every different type of customer interaction. However, the rise of customer journey mapping and the growing focus on optimizing every touchpoint has increased the awareness about how critical each contact point is. Whether it is a salesperson, technician, customer service rep or front-counter employee, all play a significant role in delivering on the brand promise.
Making the Connection
While all of these are legitimate reasons why marketers might have shied away from internal engagement efforts in the past, they start to sound like excuses in a marketplace where companies are battling so hard to make their brands sticky. Driving demand is great, but misalignment between brand story and customer interaction is going to drive down conversion.
The good news is that successfully reaching employees doesn’t require marketing to do another department’s job. All the marketing team must do is account for this internal audience the way they would any other segment:
1) Listen – Marketers ask potential customers what they think of their brand, their products, their messages, etc. The goal is to align company offerings to customer needs and wants. The same should be applied to the employee audience.
2) Customize Messages – Employees have a different set of needs and biases than customers. If the messaging delivered to them is only tuned to the mindset of the customer, they will fail to fully understand the application of the message. Words matter, and when it comes to building frontline advocates, all the information should be customized to their role and the way they interact with a customer. Context is critical!
3) Distribute – The methods marketers use to engage customers has evolved far past the tactics companies use to engage their employees. Why? If experiential marketing, influencer strategies, virtual reality immersion and pro-social campaigns are being used to influence customers, why are companies still relying on boring computer-based training modules to reach employees? A little bit of creativity around internal marketing tactics will drive a lot of attention simply because it is different!
Customers are empowered in today’s marketplace and their demands are forcing companies to knock down their internal silos so the customer experience is seamless. The brand promise and the customer experience need to mirror one another. In a world where silos are coming down, marketing needs to step up and mobilize their internal stakeholders to close the loop between promise and reality.