David talks about the importance of employees in the marketing and branding of your organisation, asking the question 'How much of your marketing budget did you spend on your employees?'
If I were to start this article by stating that employee brand
and communications play an important role in brand reputation, I
am guessing that you would say, 'Well yes, doh!' But are you
actively involved with those areas of your business? Perhaps you
might consider it a lower priority or perhaps you think that's an
issue for HR to manage, or perhaps you simply don't get it?
Whatever the case, there are significant reasons for making it a
At a time when product differentiation is low, when many products are well designed and when there are many more marketing channels available, it's clear that budget spent in traditional marketing communications is losing its effectiveness as it gets harder and harder to stand out from the crowd.
Assuming we take the conventional wisdom that your brand reputation is based on four touch points; the quality of your products or services, your marketing communications, the environments your customers experience and the behaviours of your people, how important is that last factor? Let's assume you have spent the lion's share of your budget on a campaign to raise awareness of a new product or service. ie. on advertising and supporting marketing and PR. This 'disruptive awareness' technique will get you noticed. Until the money runs out or the next campaign in your space comes along. It's expensive, but at least an increase in sales will demonstrate some level of success. What happens next?
Increase in sales on its own will mean you find the money to run the next campaign eventually. But that's not why people will stop buying from you. It's not because they are fickle; just drawn to the next new thing. 68% of customers will leave your brand or product because of the way they have been treated by your people (Tarp industry data). On one hand you'll hear the term 'cost of acquisition' while on the other hand customers are disappearing out of the back door
This is my story. A couple of years ago, a well-known internet service provider left my family offline for about 6 months. Every time we called we received poor service in broken English and were told to call back in a week while they ran line checks. After a month or so we tried to escalate the problem, only to be told this was the best they could do. This continued until we decided to move our account. Suddenly the company was all over us with promises, but by then it was too late. To make things worse we could not get a vital reference number to allow us to move the account. Eventually we managed to move another provider and were back online in just a few days. The opportunities for a great service experience were countless, but never taken. Guess what? Despite massive amounts being spent on advertising and marketing we won't be buying anything from that brand again.
But don't think that this is just about training in customer service driven by a creative campaign. That would be too simplistic a view (although it's an approach that some take). It is about the quality of talent in your organisation, whether they are culturally the right people for you and whether they are motivated. It is still about creativity, but applied in a very different way.
Talent has now risen to overall third as the perceived driver of growth (cited by 46% of senior managers), second only to the economic recovery and the availability of credit, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit - Companies at the crossroads' report . Please note that great creative campaigns are not in the top three. Despite this, it is still where the majority of marketing budget goes.
At the heart of this problem is the 'siloed' nature of organisational structure. Time and again the challenge is joining up the HR and marketing functions. It is about the challenge of where budgets have traditionally resided and still do because it's hard to change. It is about politics. But most of all, it's because it is just not seen as an important brand building activity by marketing directors; it's just outside of their experience.
We have spent many years trying to convince big organisations to apply the same levels of rigour, creativity and specialist expertise to internal audiences as their customers. It feels as if that message is starting to get through. Our parent group, Publicis, has backed us in forming a global brand and talent network because they can see the future. But there is a long way to go. Engaging your employees in your vision, and helping prospective employees to understand what kind of company they are joining and why they should join, is a big mind-shift from creating advertising campaigns.
If despite what I have said, you still are not convinced, consider these reasons to get involved:
Companies with high employee engagement financially outperform places where that is not the case by 300% (Source: Gallup Management Journal 2009)
Places with engaged employees are more than twice as likely to hold on to their people (Source: McKinsey).
It may not be high on your agenda, but it is high on your chief executive's and that will eventually hit your budget.
This article was published in Marketing Week's online publication, 'Pitch Design'.
News & Events
06 April 2011
Change through not to your people