Street Smart Martketing
Lou Lasday:Your Greatest Asset is Walking Out the Door
Employees are your secret weapon in today's economy.
With the growing emphasis on consumer "click power" in comparing providers of professional services, it's becoming increasing difficult for Gulf Coast enterprises to differentiate the advantage of their brand.
There's no question that high-tech marketing tools are effective, but this type of initial hit could actually be a big miss in communicating quality, service, value and corporate personality of your enterprise.
So where should we also focus our technology - enabled buyers? Leverage your greatest weapon: Your people!
Sybil Sterschic, former board chairman of the American Marketing Association writing in Marketing Management says that "in today's knowledge-based economy, the value of human capital has become greater than the value of fixed assets."
If you buy into this concept, it naturally follows then, that we must not only be effective in marketing the outcome of our human capital (the goods and services they provide), but we also need to be effective in marketing to our human capital. In other words, we must proactively educate and motivate not just the marketing staff, but all employees of the staff. In this thesis, then, everyone on your team is a member of the marketing department.
Consider the critical impact that employees outside your structured marketing staff have on the success or failure of your overall marketing effort. Customers, prospects and clients judge you, your organization and brand by how well they're treated by everyone on your staff with whom they come in contact. And get this: Nearly 70% of the reason customers switch loyalties from companies is not because of product quality or price, but because they rate the overall response they get as unsatisfactory.
Additionally, customer perceptions, attitudes and intentions are obviously affected by what employees experience in their own organization. If the staff doesn't feel valued, how will they make your customers feel valued? Your best marketing efforts to create a favorable brand impression can be inadvertently undermined by employees.
So, how do you take care of the people who take care of your business? And, how do you get employees to work with you rather than against you?
The answer must certainly be internal marketing. Establish a well-conceived and properly executed application of marketing inside your organization, to instill customer-focused values. This often overlooked type of marketing, targets and educates staff who provide your real competitive advantage.
Internal marketing on a continuing, meaningful basis is an important challenge in a larger Gulf Coast enterprise. In a small company, it's life or death! Products and services can readily be cloned. The relationships your employees can create and develop with your customers cannot.
Your internal marketing must encompass a variety of active educational and motivational activities that continually reinforce your proactive effort. It must clearly be an ongoing focus of your corporate culture and staunchly supported daily by senior management.
The big picture
An essential element is to ensure that your internal communications reinforce the big picture. Let your employees know where exactly they fit within your organization. And, let them know often.
Motivate the staff with incentives to sustain high levels of customer satisfaction. Tell them specifically and exactly what is expected of them in fulfilling the corporate mission and realistically how they can contribute to achieve your company's goals. I promise your employees will perform more efficiently when reminded of the value they bring to your organization and the direct traceable, tangible impact they have on customers.
Share customer information to help employees better understand and serve. Discuss targeted profiles, product and service usage; even "complaint training" with both contact and non-contact staff. Then engage employees to suggest actions improving customer satisfaction. Find ways to make tangible connections to customers, seeing them as real people and not just faceless wallets.
You can and perhaps should do this informally without big announcements, formal programs or three ring binders. Do it in short, periodic, informational sessions. You might even want to trade places or switch roles among employees to help build empathy for the frontline staff and reinforce team work with sense of common purpose. And if you embrace this profit-building strategy, you'll think of a dozen additional concepts to get the employees realizing their unique importance in delivering a job well done.
The final word
Competitors can often replicate your professional services, but not the relationship between your employees and customers. The greatest threat to this relationship comes from the employees themselves. If they don't feel valued, neither will your customers and clients. To preserve and multiply this critical relationship, think inside the box. Your proactive internal marketing initiative should be your absolute first point of contact to magnify employee-customer relations, satisfaction and loyalty.
Lou Lasday, an independent marketing advisor residing on Longboat Key, creates action-oriented Strategic Marketing Initiatives for Gulf Coast emerging companies. A career Direct Response Executive, he has been a general partner of a major national marketing communications firm and Regional President of the American Marketing Association. Mr. Lasday can be reached at [email protected]