Friday, March 8, 2013

Relentlessly Market to Your Own People

It's no secret that I'm a corporate employee.  I like to study and read about management of companies (well, not to the point of getting an MBA or actually doing the management, but I'm fascinated by the discipline).  I love to share things that I learn from the perspective of the employed to the employer.

It's usually something about morale.  Today it's not.

Today, I have something that benefits not just the employed, but the whole company - relentlessly market to your own people.  I talk to lots of people in corporate IT, who suggest that working for one company is no different than any other.  That the same problems plague all companies. Almost as if the different companies are completely interchangeable.  And these same IT people move jobs a lot.  They're not emotionally invested in the company they're working for.  They're interchangeable cogs.  Their work is not their passion.

By relentlessly marketing to your own people, you can inspire them.  You can energize them.  You can get them to evangelize for you.  And you can do this relatively cheaply, easily, quickly.  I mean, you already have a marketing department, right?  Can they not take a few minutes a quarter to make sure your brand message reaches every single employee?

They're a Captive Audience

Your employees are in your building everyday.  They're surrounded by the workspace you provide for them.    They can't help walking by the front desk, or going into or out of the elevators.  They use your restrooms (if you're not in a shared toilet situation).  You control what they see.  If you can't market to these people, you can't market to anyone.  Put up banners in your lobby.  Put your quarterly ad campaign pictures above the urinals, or in the stalls in the bathroom.  Hang them up in the lunchrooms.

You Do Not Want to Lose Them

Employee turnover costs companies lots of money.  It's not cheap to replace a good person that leaves, and it's even more expensive to search out a replacement, train them, and get them productive.  If your company looks like the same cube farm they've been through five times in the last ten years, you're not going to keep them.  You want them to feel like family, not mercenaries.  You want them to be invested emotionally in your company.  If you can't get them invested in the well-being of the company by profit sharing or an employ stock option plan, at least make sure they know the products well and understand your company vision and their place in it.

They are a Free Source of Marketing

The more they know about the product and your message, assuming they agree with it and you make them happy in other ways, that message will leak out in places all over their lives.  People go to events all the time where the most frequently asked question is "So... what is it you do for a living?"  If you have primed them with an excellent elevator speech, then your message gets out, and you haven't had to pay for it.  Their family will know what you do, their friends, their kids' friends' parents, and so on.  Having an army of marketers in the community where your business is free marketing.  And with social networks, that message can extend far beyond the local community.

It's Easier to Attract People Who are Inspired by What You Do

If your employees understand your vision and share it with others, there's a greater chance you will find people with whom that vision personally resonates.  The most motivated and inspired employees you can find are the ones that share the vision of the company, ones that believe in the company's mission.  Building organizations is really finding that optimal mix of talent, passion, motivation, and mission of employees that can maximize delivery of that vision for your customers.

They are a Great Test Market

If you're a product company, make sure they use your product.  Give them products for free.  Give them crazy discounts.  Make sure that you make it difficult for them to say no to your product.  In doing so, you get free beta-testers.  Take surveys of your employees and ask what needs to be improved.  Ask if they use competitor products, and why (I'm not suggesting here that you should require them to use your product, but if they're not, you should find out why not.  You may be missing a market segment that you thought you were targeting).  They, more than any other customer, want you to succeed.

Why wouldn't I do this?

Well, I can almost hear the arguments already:

"My employees aren't my target market; we make stuff targeted at seniors (or tweens, or some other non white-collar job having subset of the population".  True for sure.  And these people have fathers, mothers, grandparents, siblings, kids.  They know people.  You tell them who your target audience is, and the people they know that fit the bill will pop into their mind.  They may think to themselves, "Oh yeah!  I have to remember to tell Uncle Charlie about that!" 

"Giving away our product isn't financially possible."  Granted, Ford can't go giving away C-Max hybrids to everyone in the organization to show off their wares or get feedback, but they sure can offer an employee discount program.  And really, are you going to get more honest feedback from people anywhere?  These employees have their jobs tied to the success of the products.  They may have profit sharing that incentivizes evangelism.  They will tell you what your product needs.  Ask them.  Listen to what they say.

Call to Action

Market to your people.  Relentlessly.  They can be your greatest advocates.  They can be your best test market.  They can work harder for you if they are truly sold on what you do.  Don't mess this up.

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