Marketing is a discipline that is in constant flux, whether due to new platforms or software, consumer shifts or any other range of updates.
Traditional marketing used to just mean looking to connect with consumers, turning casual users into loyal brand adopters, or going out and finding new people in need of your company’s product or services. However, in today’s world of decreasing trust, and credibility wariness between brands and consumers, internal marketing has become just as important as the external marketing we have been accustomed to.
Consumer trust is at an all-time low, with people tuning out the constant stream of ads presented to them. Only 33% of buyers trust messages from a brand, while some 90% of customers trust product or service recommendations from people they know.
Your branded content is inherently more trustworthy when it is shared by a person, and your employees can be key to this type of messaging.
What is internal marketing?
Internal marketing is a cost-effective means of using company employees to be the brands' biggest cheerleaders online.
It's putting importance on a “new” market - the people that work with you at a company. It's marketing to your colleagues, your peers and those who hold titles that may be above yours in the brand’s hierarchy., in order to turn them into employee advocates.
Most companies are currently ignoring this important group, and missing the opportunity to create even more brand ambassadors which can be critical to the growth and success of your brand.
How will this help grow the brand?
As a marketer myself, in the past, I've often been in meetings with other members of the marketing team, members of the sales team, and often shareholders or investors.
When it's come the time for me to speak, I've recapped recent activity and upcoming promotions. The importance of my portion has always been about informing key people of how my department is supporting sales initiatives and contributing to the overarching strategy and goals of the business.
What I had not been doing, was working to get every member of the company on “my” marketing team, arming them with the same ideas, excitement and vision that I work to bring to consumers.
Members of a brand’s marketing team work day in and day out to find ways to connect with consumers through their emotions. Without that connection, your brand will never stand out in people’s minds when they're ready to make a purchasing decision - however, the team may not have always noticed that not every employee at a company feels that same emotional connection to the job they spend most of their lives at.
This doesn’t mean that people are just walking in, hating their jobs. It could simply be that no one has taken the time to motivate them, inspire them with a sense of purpose, or given them enough information to gain their loyalty.
When people love what they do, it shows outwardly. They're happier when speaking to consumers or vendors on the phone or in person, and they're more likely to take it upon themselves to post on their own social media pages promoting the company.
Employees, on average, have 10x more followers than their corporate social media accounts, and as organic reach on social media decreases, marketers need to find additional tactics to reach their target audiences.
Employees not only have larger organic followings, but their posts are seen by a higher percentage of their audience, and are inherently more trustworthy in consumers’ eyes. The more people that see your content, the more likes, comments, clicks and website visits your brand will get when posted by an employee, rather than simply on the brand’s own social media accounts.
The logic of employee advocacy in this respect is fairly clear.
How can a company get employees more involved?
There's a range of ways in which you can get your employees to care more about your company, and become brand advocates.
Here are a few suggestions if you are just getting started:
1. Ensure your internal and external messaging is consistent
I’m sure we can all think of an example from one or more jobs we've had where the public is told one thing, while employees know “the real story.”
Brands should strive to eliminate this confusing messaging as much as possible - employees and the public need to hear the same messages, and believe the same brand positioning. By gaining buy-in from employees on what information the company is releasing to the public, they're then better able to take the information and put it into their own words and understanding when speaking to consumers themselves.
This can help to build credibility within your organization - employees will feel better about what they're doing and who they're working for, and in turn, that transparency becomes more apparent to your target audience.
The more you can work with your internal staff to understand the company goals and unique value propositions, the more passionate they'll become, and the more they'll want to outwardly spread that enthusiasm.
2. Empower your employees
Think of what motivates you personally, as an employee. I’m willing to bet that feeling appreciated is close to the top of the list. Acknowledgment and appreciation may seem like small easy gestures, but they can go a long way when looking to turn employees into brand advocates.
Customers feed off your employees – when your staff are happy and fulfilled at work, they then transfer those feelings into everyone they come into contact with. If your staff feel like they're making a difference in the building of the brand, they'll be more likely to want to go above and beyond actually make a difference.
3. Get to really know your staff
What interests your employees? What do they like to do outside of work? What are some of their goals and values? What are their concerns?
The more you take active interest in your employees, the more interested in the company they become. Ensure that you're showing your employees how important they truly are (because they are) to the success of the brand, and they'll increasingly want to advocate for the brand that they feel “gets them.”
Regularly ask people what they need, or what questions they may have. Not everyone is born with an innate knowledge of the best way to speak on behalf of brands – perhaps they could use additional training that will help them become more confident in speaking with consumers, or perhaps they could benefit from spending more time with other departments or internal leaders, learning how you begin relationships with potential buyers.
4. Encourage social media postings
Social media is the fastest way to reach your consumers - we get that. We also know about how much trust is lost when brands post messaging, as opposed to when messaging is received by a trusted peer.
The extent to which your brand messages are able to be amplified when employees are asked, or encouraged, to post on social media about the company will go much further when your employees are given reasons to want to share.
Your employees ultimately are the face of your company, and many times the first to come to mind when people think of your brand. If you're not spending as much time motivating them and marketing to them as you are to the public, you are missing out on a huge opportunity.