Why internal marketing should matter to your manufacturing business

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When it comes to marketing, we tend to look outward. We build strategies to engage and bring people into our world to show them what we offer. Once we draw them inside, we want to keep folks there and make them devoted members of our brand community.

But what happens when your manufacturing business engages a prospect and gets them to engage with the brand, but internally, your team needs to be fluent in your brand's story, community, or purpose?

The customer or manufacturing partner may leave, and they do so quickly.

Customers these days are informed and intelligent. They will know when your marketing could be more authentic, and often the first sign of this is engaging with a staff member that needs to be more engaged themselves.

Our fixation outward needs to be tempered by some brand introspection.

Time and treasure spent drawing people inside while our employees are disengaged or ignorant about your brand culture and values is wasteful. Companies need to market internally to their employees so that they, too, believe in the brand; it's tough to ask a potential customer to buy in when your team isn't a brand believer and can't articulate why your company is excellent.

Companies must look inward and allocate more energy and resources to internal marketing and creating internal brand advocates. Selling your brand and its culture to your employees is critical to building brand loyalty in the public market.

What is internal marketing?

Well, it's a simple concept: In addition to marketing your brand outward to your customers, you turn these efforts inward toward your staff to build or improve brand awareness and loyalty.

In a 2002 Harvard Business Review article—yes, 2002, but it still resonates today--author Colin Mitchell summarizes the importance of "Selling the Brand Inside": "Why is internal marketing so important? First, it's the best way to help employees make a powerful emotional connection to the products and services you sell. Without that connection, employees are likely to undermine the expectations set by your advertising... We've found that people who care about and believe in the brand are motivated to work harder, increasing their loyalty to the company. Employees are unified and inspired by a common purpose and identity."

Why does internal marketing to your staff matter?

Again, when boiled down to the basics, if there is a disconnect between what you market to the public and what your staff communicates to leads and customers, you have a BIG problem. 

This BIG problem is wide-ranging because it is about more than just marketing. It also impacts staff productivity, retention, and recruiting new talent. In short, poor internal marketing and weak internal brand cultures are problems not just for sales. Operations are impacted as well.

Let's talk about how weak internal marketing, fractured business cultures, and disjointed internal branding impact these areas of your business.

Internal marketing impacts the sales process

Weak internal marketing will rear its ugly head within your sales process. It doesn't matter if you have SalesForce or HubSpot and all the automation and software in the world.

People sell. People buy. Ultimately, a person persuades (or doesn't) another person to accept (or not). Marketing might be able to attract hordes of leads. The question is, can your sales staff keep these leads engaged to close them?

  • If your sales staff is not engaged with your brand or needs clarification about its mission and core values, how can they effectively sell this to an informed customer? They can't.
  • There is a level of authenticity that is expected these days. People want to buy from people who believe in a product or service and the brand itself.
  • Sales staff and other employees that genuinely buy into your culture and brand sell better and perform better because they're authentic. This authenticity can even overcome faulty sales processes or a lack of sales tools, whereas inauthentic staff can subvert the world's most incredible, well-funded Sales Enablement system.

Internal team brand loyalty and cultural buy-in breed authenticity, which helps engagement and lead nurturing. Without internal marketing, authenticity diminishes over time, and engagement suffers.

Internal marketing impacts your company's operations

If you have an effective internal marketing strategy and constantly improve your internal brand culture, you create an environment where staff members are not just working for a paycheck. They are working for a wage and because they believe in your company.

Mitchell, in his Harvard Business Review paper, goes on to frame the importance of internal marketing this way: "We have found that by applying many of the principles of consumer advertising to internal communications, leaders can guide employees to a better understanding of, and even a passion for, the brand vision. Applying these principles enables employees to 'live' the vision in their day-to-day activities. And when employees live that vision, customers are much more likely to experience the company in a way consistent with what you've promised."

At Illumine8, we are sometimes hired to assess a company's branding. As it's presented to the market, we often find that the brand needs to be more cohesive, meaning a coherent brand narrative is not projected to the public. The website takes a particular approach, emails go differently, and print materials take another tack. For a lead or customer, this confuses and prevents deeper engagement.

When a company looks inward, this fragmented brand image likely exists among staff members. Marketing is projecting the brand this way, sales sell something different, and customer service teams deliver the brand in another way.

In both cases, the damage is done to sales performance, but there are consequences for operations as well:

  • Higher staff turnover
    Employees that are loyal to your brand tend to be happier and more productive workers. Happy and productive staffers stay on the team longer, reducing turnover and preserving team continuity. High staff turnover rates damage brand continuity; strong staff retention enables your culture to grow and brand awareness to strengthen over time. Making headway and building a solid culture is challenging if you constantly replace staff.
  • Increased hiring costs
    Constant staff turnover causes an increase in recruiting and hiring costs. And poor internal marketing and weak company culture make recruiting much more difficult.
  • Decreased productivity
    Happy workers are more productive. Dispassionate staff that needs to be more engaged are more effective. It's a fact, and it's really that simple.

Benefits of investing in internal marketing

We've looked at the damage the lack of internal marketing can do. Let's summarize some of its benefits:

  • Robust internal marketing programs align external marketing claims with internal branding realities, presenting a genuine brand identity to the market
  • Strong internal marketing empowers sales staff to be authentic and increase customer engagement
  • Effective internal marketing builds a strong company culture where workers are loyal to the brand and work for more than a paycheck.
  • Strong business cultures create happier workers that are more productive
  • Happy workers are easier to retain and provide a solid cultural foundation to build upon
  • Happy workers mean less turnover and reduced hiring and recruiting costs
  • Strong internal marketing and culture building are outstanding tools for beating your competition when it comes to hiring top talent

Finding the resources, time, and human capital to focus on internal marketing can be challenging. However, ignoring internal marketing isn't an option for manufacturing companies that want to grow. Always remember, internal marketing can be passed on to more than just your human resources person or department. Marketing expertise is required to do the heavy lifting required to build a strong program.

We can help. Reach out to us today. We'd love to learn more about your company and how we can help create an internal marketing campaign or improve an existing program. 

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