Internal Marketing

Articulation of purpose and processes is key to effective employee engagement

Internal marketing is the means by which businesses achieve buy-in from employees regarding their mission and values and lead them to become brand ambassadors. It can be a significant element in a business’ success.

Indeed, successful internal marketers provide their customers with an experience that may differ markedly from the attitude and approach that people encounter at the offices or establishments of their competitors.

“Here’s a very tangible example of that difference,” said Daryl Green, the agency director at Compass Marketing & Consulting in Tallahassee. “People often compare McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A. I would submit to you that the employees of Chick-fil-A understand the company’s mission and core values, and that is very clear in the way they operate and the language they use. You don’t always get that at the golden arches.”

Green is surprised at the percentage of businesses that do not have mission statements or may have statements that are too long to be effective.

“If you are a business owner and cannot tell yourself why you spend your time selling a product or providing a service, how can you effectively explain it to an investor or a customer?” Green said. “And, likewise with employees. You want for them to be able to articulate a purpose for going to work other than making ‘X’ dollars an hour.”

That purpose can be elusive if it is buried in a mission statement that is too complicated. Green has seen mission statements that are three pages long.

“Your mission statement needs to be concise and easily remembered,” Green said. “Who you are, what you do, why you do it and maybe how you do it.”

Owners and stakeholders should craft the mission statement because a business is ultimately theirs. Efforts to involve everyone, Green said, “can be messy because you have so many individual agendas in the room.” His agency does not write mission statements for businesses but facilitates small-group meetings that bring them about.

Once a mission statement is established, it must be communicated. Management should discuss it with employees, build it into new employee orientations and put it on display.

Like a mission statement, a business’ core values are critical to its identity. A mission statement may change or evolve over time — and many have been changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Green believes — but core values do not.

“They are set in stone,” said Green, who explained that core values provide a test when a business considers a new direction, new partnerships or new offerings: Is the new activity consistent with a company’s core values or not?

“The values support the mission, and they are incredibly important,” Green stressed.

“Employees need to know that they are part of a business’ mission, and they need to know what is expected of them,” Green said. “Once those expectations are set, monitor and measure to make sure they are met. If you were to put internal marketing into a neat little package, it really boils down to having everyone on the same page.”

Green has used an exercise where he asks people to list a few businesses who provide outstanding concierge service, some that provide middling service and some whose service is poor. The Ritz-Carlton will be top of mind for many people among the best service providers.

Green then asks people to identify key similarities among businesses in each of the three categories. “The processes and practices that characterize the best businesses are the ones you want to emulate,” he said.

“It’s critical that businesses be process-oriented, that they make sure the ways in which they accomplish their work and the tasks that make up a job are literally written down,” Green said. “At any given time, an employee may leave or someone might be hit by a bus. A business needs to be able to carry on that employee’s function after they are gone.”

Management needs to engage closely with employees in order to document exactly how they perform their jobs.

“Place that documentation in a central binder, and revisit it from time to time to make sure it remains valid,” Green advises. “Things do change.”

That binder can be helpful when things go wrong or goals are not met. That is, if a problem occurred despite employees “going by the book,” the process may need to be changed. When appropriate, Green said, management should invite jobholders to suggest better ways of getting things done.

“Few businesses have that binder,” Green said, “but I will tell you that the Ritz-Carltons of the world, they have it.”

By communicating who they are, why they do what they do and how they succeed, business leaders can provide for a unified workplace that is both consistent and adaptable when it needs to be.


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