In our latest episode, Jon sits back down with our President and Co-Founder, Chris Wallace, to see what’s changed since their last conversation. They discuss why a gap still exists between marketing strategy and frontline teams. It is in large part due to the high expectations of customers across all industries that organizations are just not able to keep up. This trend is forcing companies to adapt and presents a big opportunity for how they engage their internal teams. Jon and Chris also do a status check on the state of the podcast. Chris turns the mic over to Jon to find out what he’s learned since launching the show. To put it simply – A LOT! The good news is by taking a pause and identifying what we’ve learned, we’ve also been able to determine where we can improve. Stay tuned for a new format coming soon. We will continue to feature leaders who are turning marketing on its head, but it is our goal to get to know these change agents on a much more personal level. We can’t wait to unveil our next episode soon!
Chris Wallace is the President and Co-Founder of InnerView, a marketing consulting firm that helps companies transfer their brand messages to their customer-facing employees and partners. InnerView ensures the people who represent your brand have the tools and strategies to tell your company story confidently and consistently. Chris has more than 15 years of sales, marketing, and corporate leadership experience. You can connect with Chris on LinkedIn.
Jon Gaul: Welcome to the Brand InnerActions Podcast. I’m Jon Gaul and I’m excited to be your guide as we go behind the scenes with some of the brands you know and love. This podcast will explore the moment of truth for these brands, the customer conversation. We journey inside the minds of the brand architects to learn how companies are rethinking human to human interactions and mobilizing their employees to be brand ambassadors. I’ve had my boots on the ground with frontline employees and have seen firsthand how company communication impacts the ability of teams to deliver a strong, consistent message to their customers.
Chris, welcome back and congratulations on becoming our first recurring guest. In today’s podcast, we want to talk through what we’ve learned since we’ve launched the Brand InnerActions podcast. My first question for you is in the last few months, what has inspired you to think differently?
Chris Wallace: I think the thing that always inspires me to think differently is just conversations I’m having everyday with clients, prospective clients, professionals, just learning about their challenges, learning about their day to day, hearing what they have to say. And I think that the real inspiration for me has come when we’re sharing the conversation, the story about what we do at InnerView, and to see people’s reaction to it, and for lack of a better phrase, sort of the hope that they have that what we say we do can actually be done, really inspires me to want to push the boundaries of what we do, come up with new ways to do it. Really find ways to inspire a better connection between a company’s employees, their frontline employees, and the brands that in many cases are so exciting. So I really do think it’s those everyday conversations and the connection that people have to our story, and again, just their hope that we can actually pull it off, that inspires me to want to do better for them.
Jon Gaul: Absolutely! I love what you said and you’ve shared some of the feedback from those conversations where prospects, clients, whoever it may be, have said that they have an awareness that this problem exists. So awareness and the gap between the marketing strategy and the frontlines, yet the problems still exist. Why do you think that’s the case?
Chris Wallace: Again, I think my answer to that is inspired by some conversations with professionals out in the market. The answer comes down to really one simple thing, and it’s not that companies aren’t trying hard. I think that the expectations of customers across all industries have ramped up so quickly that it’s been hard for organizations to catch up. And when we think about where organizations can make better connections with their people, their methodologies, their tactics, just haven’t adapted as quickly as the customers are forcing companies to adapt. So I really think it’s around the ideas that what they’re doing today, it’s not that they’re not trying, it’s not that they’re not necessarily even doing enough, it’s that they need to look at other opportunities, other options to maybe accomplish the same thing. And we talk a lot about pushing information out and people say organizations need to communicate. Well, what we’re finding is they’re communicating plenty and the communication is actually getting to the point where it’s almost too much. And when they say there’s a gap, the natural inclination is to say, well, let’s fill the gap with more information. And when I talk about what inspires me, I’m inspired to find a better way than just pushing more words out, more information. How can we deliver it in a more interesting way? How can we deliver it in a more fun way, a more inspiring way than just pushing out communications through the traditional channels?
Jon Gaul: That’s a great point and actually ties into something that I’ve seen and heard recently where not only marketers, but also frontlines, when asked how they want to consume data, the feedback is we want more product training. So it seems like it’s not only an old school approach from a marketing standpoint, but that’s also what frontlines hope to get in terms of consumption. Why do you think that’s the case?
Chris Wallace: I think that organizations have conditioned their people to look for certain things, to be very honest. When you only give them a certain diet of things to consume over a long period of time, that becomes all they know. So it’s hard to ask somebody who doesn’t have a concept of what’s better, to ask for what’s better, they don’t know what to ask for. And when we think about the product training, we’ve seen this in many instances, where organizations will say, we need to train our people more. Well, how do you know that? Well they said that they don’t understand. And I think that it becomes a loop where if you keep filling that void with more information, you run a serious risk that you’re just pushing more noise out, you’re not actually moving the ball further downfield. You’re just creating more noise and potentially more confusion. You might be driving a bigger gap by pushing more information into it as opposed to filling it.
Jon Gaul: Yeah, it’s a great point and product training, albeit, is appropriate in some circumstances, can also weaken the overall message because it’s harder to sift through all of that information that’s being sent out.
Chris Wallace: Well, I don’t think that you can train people to love a brand. I had a conversation today with a marketing professional that I respect a tremendous amount and we were talking about this idea of the link between a brand and its customers is so much fun. You think about the brands that you love, think about the things you wear, the gear that you buy. The relationship with that brand is so much fun and whether it’s the commercials that you love or what it feels like when you put that gear on or the stunts that they do or whatever those interactions between the brand and the customer, it really is fun and it should be fun. People should ask themselves, marketers should ask themselves, is the relationship that the brand has with its employees fun? Are they enjoying it? Does it compel people to want to be around it? Does it compel them to want to tell their friends about it, to evangelize it, for lack of a better phrase. And if we’re being honest with ourselves and marketers are honest with us all day long, they tell us it’s not fun. The relationship between our employees and our brand is not a fun one, and that’s where we see a tremendous opportunity not to fill it with information because a lot of times training’s not fun. Is it necessary? Sure, but it’s not necessarily fun.
Jon Gaul: That’s interesting that marketers feel that creating brand love for employees isn’t as fun as it is for customers. Employees can be the company’s harshest critics and typically are the company’s harshest critics and their love has to be earned, not learned. All right Chris, I have a hypothetical for you. You’re a CMO, you understand there’s a gap between the marketing strategy and the frontlines. You’ve made a decision to prioritize addressing this issue. What are your next steps?
Chris Wallace: I think marketers need to do what marketers do best. And when you think about how organizations, how companies reach their consumers and how they make that fun connection with them, the first thing they do is they ask for input. They’re asking the people who might buy their products or services, what they think, what’s important to them. We strongly believe here at InnerView that anytime you have the opportunity, anytime you take the first step of asking the employees, asking the frontline teams what they think of the brand, the world of knowledge that’s going to be opened up to you is tremendous. It’s not something that organizations are typically used to asking. They ask their people all the time whether or not they’re engaged, are they happy with their work environment, things like that. Employee engagement surveys are incredibly important, but organizations are not taking the time to ask their people what they think of their brand. So we look at it in terms of a first step, marketers should do what marketers do best, go and find out where the gap is. Find out what your audience thinks, because once you know what they think, it’s much easier to address that problem in a more surgical way than it is to just start trying to fill it with information.
Jon Gaul: What prevents a marketer from having that conversation or trying to gather that feedback from the frontline employees?
Chris Wallace: Probably just a willingness to try. We do get direct feedback that people at the frontlines have survey fatigue. Part of the overall effort here, the overall thought process is, people at the frontlines are overloaded. So I would say it’s mindshare, it’s their time. There are legitimate reasons why it might be difficult to say we’ve got another thing that we need you to take, but organizations have to ask themselves, are there things that they’re doing right now that might be less valuable and really understanding whether or not the person who represents the brand everyday actually cares about it. They have to ask themselves if their reasons are good enough. You can always come up with a reason why not to do it, but I really do think it just has to be a strong willingness to try and really a strong desire to hear information. It might not be easy to hear, but to learn something new because if you learn something new, you gather new information, it becomes an opportunity to improve something.
Jon Gaul: Since we last talked, with a microphone of course, what has changed your point of view?
Chris Wallace: As a team, we’ve put a lot of thought into what is it really that we are doing, what are we trying to accomplish and what are we asking people to do differently? What is internal communications do, what’s employee engagement, what are the differences between all these things? And, the groundswell that we’ve seen over the course of the last several months is really this idea of internal marketing. There was a great article the other day on Forbes about the difference between internal marketing and employee engagement. I think that what’s really shaped my opinion in the last several months is this idea that all of these things are needed in different shapes and forms. It’s all about what challenge is it that you’re trying to solve. If you want people to be happier at work and feel good about the work they’re doing, you absolutely need employee engagement. Employee engagement initiatives are absolutely critical. But this idea of internal marketing, this idea of taking the brand, the products, the promises, all the things that go into making the brand what it is and the concept of taking those and marketing them or selling them back to your employees, not training them, cause you can’t train somebody to love a brand, but marketing it back to them. This idea of influencing people rather than telling them what they’re supposed to do or say. To me, that’s a very compelling thought process. It’s a very compelling concept and it almost seems too simple. It almost seems too simple because there are so many great marketers, so many smart people who are finding ways to reach their customers in new and authentic ways, and to think that organizations can reach their customers that way, but struggle to reach the people who work inside their four walls that way is sort of a confounding challenge. But it could also be one of those things where the answer may have been right underneath their nose all along, which is go back to doing what marketers do great. Find ways to make that emotional connection with people, win the hearts and minds. You do it with customers. Why can’t you do it with your people? So in terms of what’s different, I’ve seen the emergence of that concept and I think it’s simple, it’s intuitive and almost seems too simple to be true.
Jon Gaul: That’s a great point. And I’ve seen articles too on the concept of internal marketing and how important it is. What’s been the reception from clients, perspective clients in terms of that internal marketing piece.
Chris Wallace: People recognize that something needs to change because we never run into a marketing professional who has supreme confidence that their representatives are on message, on brand, all the time. There’s always room for improvement in their mind. The reception is, if you’ve got a better way I’m open to it, because they can’t afford to miss with their brand. Brands can’t afford to take a single conversation off, whether it’s over the phone or in a retail store. A lot of the investment in this space is digital, but there’s a lot of person to person contact that companies can’t afford to waste or take for granted. So, I really do think that marketers are open to a new and different way just as they’re open to all the new channels that they have to communicate with their customers and reach their customers. They’re always looking for innovative ways to drive that dialogue. We know that this is a challenge and we haven’t solved it yet, so we’re open to a new way.
Jon Gaul: Which is great and there is awareness that this is a problem. There’s a desire to change. It really comes down to the knowledge of how to change, which marketers currently are struggling with.
Chris Wallace: I completely agree and I think that one of the things that we hear a lot from the people that we talk to is, how does what you do relate to NPS, Net Promoter Score and customer satisfaction and things like that. There’s a lot of momentum around customer experience programs and measuring customer satisfaction and customer experience, which I think is a fantastic trend. But now we’re coming up to a point where it’s so ubiquitous in the marketplace, there’s so much of it out there in the marketplace, now companies are looking at it saying, now what do we do with it? We have this information, we know what our customers think of us, but how do we actually impact what our customers think of us? It’s fine to know what the lagging indicator is, but what are the leading indicators that we need in order to be able to impact it and make a positive impact on the customer experience. I think there’s a lot of recognition out there that there’s a lot of good ideas and there’s a lot of good insight, but you still have to take that information and turn it into actions that are going to have a meaningful impact on your customers.
Jon Gaul: To your point, there’s surveys, a ton of surveys that frontlines get, that companies get and there’s a lot of data and it’s how do you harness that information into a simplified brand story that’s repeatable, but more importantly, that frontline people can actually get behind as well.
Chris Wallace: I had a conversation with an executive from SAP recently and the feedback from that executive was, data’s 30% of the equation. And that’s coming from somebody at SAP and they’re a data company, recently bought Qualtrics and Qualtrics is another company that’s gathering a lot of data. That insight is really key coming from somebody at that company. That 30% is having the information and then somewhere in between having the information you need to turn it into insights and then you’ve got to turn it into actions. Where the real opportunities are for these brands in the marketplace is to sift through the data, which they have no shortage of, figure how to use it in a way that’s going to have a meaningful impact for their customers. That’s really what we focus on. We want to be in the 70%. There’s a part of our approach that is rooted in the data, and we want to collect data, but you’ve got to close that gap in between the information you have and turn it into more meaningful experiences for your customers. Jon, you’ve given me a great opportunity to talk about what I’ve learned over the last six months since we launched the first podcast. I want to give you the chance to do the same thing. You’ve talked to folks from great brands like Comcast and Xfinity Mobile and the former head of global marketing for Cadillac, IKEA, with an incredible launch that they had during pride month this year. What have you learned through the conversations that you’ve had about brands, about conversations, about what’s important to these professionals?
Jon Gaul: Absolutely. I’d say the first thing that stands out is titles don’t create change, people do. We’ve had guests on that do have lofty titles and have important roles, but it’s the people behind the titles that are really driving that change. I think the second point is there are multiple ways to turn traditional marketing on its head. I think it all starts with a willingness to understand that there is a problem and then to also think differently to attack that problem. And to your point, we’ve seen it with approaches with Cadillac and Comcast, that were out of the norm of what they’ve typically done, but really drove that understanding of brand love as well as a new approach to an age old question.
Chris Wallace: The word of the day today from all the conversations I’ve had is change. Change has come up in just about every conversation that I’ve had today. And you mentioned change and you talked about people make change, titles don’t make change, people do. When you think about that idea of change, is that something that these organizations really recognize is needed? Does change frighten people or is it something that they see as a new opportunity?
Jon Gaul: After identifying that change is needed, it’s no longer scary. I think it’s that in between phase that definitely is a fear, where they realize we can either go down the path we’re going or we may need to overhaul and or take a step back to really evaluate what we’re doing. So that first step of we’re going to make this evaluation, bridges it to, this is a chance for us to course correct. And conversations that I’ve had with clients, they really relish that opportunity, I don’t want to say right a wrong cause I think that’s unfair, but to make a good situation even better.
Chris Wallace: Jon, over the last six months in hosting the Brand InnerActions Podcast, you’ve had the opportunity to build out a platform to highlight a part of marketing, a part of branding, that you believe, we believe, is and should be important to marketers. We also talked about change and when you think about this platform, what are the things that you think might need to change from your end in order to make this platform even more valuable for the listeners and for people who want to engage on this topic?
Jon Gaul: Yeah, great question. I think the first point comes back to what I said when you asked about what I’ve learned and that’s, I want this to be more people focused. I really want to have our listeners learn who our guests are, what their thought process is and how they think. I think really taking the time to get to know them better on a personal level is going to paint that picture really well. I think the next piece is really getting to learn about their campaigns, the campaign strategies, and what were the outcomes. So having each guest dive deeper into what they’ve encountered, what their solution was, and then also what did they learn from it? How did that campaign change their perspective. I think lastly, it’s what are their proudest moments? What has made them the person they are and the marketer they are right now and really furthering that conversation. We want to get to know what gets people going and what energizes people.
It’s hard to believe that more than six months have passed since my first conversation with Chris. It was great to sit down with him again and discuss all that has transpired since our first recording. It was also fun to have him turn the mic over to me to answer some questions on what I’ve learned since launching the podcast. As you heard from our conversation, I’ve learned a lot! Primarily, that it’s the people behind the titles that drive change within an organization and also that there are a lot of different ways to turn traditional marketing on its head. We’ve taken some time to evaluate how we can make this platform, our podcast, even more valuable to our listeners, and in doing so, we want to focus more on our guests. Who are they? What inspires them? What’s their thought process? What are their proudest moments? In short, we want our listeners to come away from each episode knowing more about the marketing leaders who are truly creating change within the industry. You can connect with Chris on LinkedIn. The Brand InnerActions Podcast is brought to you by InnerView Group and hosted by me, Jon Gaul. To learn more about InnerView or to obtain a transcript, please go to innerviewgroup.com. Make sure you subscribe to get the latest episodes.