Businesses, including smaller, family-run operations, can develop tunnel vision when it comes to shaping the customer experience. Intense competition, a highly educated, fickle consumer and an increasingly global marketplace compel business owners, marketing leaders and sales teams to always look outside for ways to shape, influence and capture their respective target audiences.
Focusing only on placing ads, sending emails, speaking at public events, attending conferences, and other outward-looking tactics to generate leads is a mistake many companies make.
Why is this a mistake? Because projecting your brand and attracting leads is only part of the customer experience picture.
A strong internal marketing strategy will get your team on board with your brand and inspire them to deliver on its promises. Effective internal marketing execution aligns the external and internal versions of your brand and empowers your company to deliver a true, seamless customer experience and increases employee retention.
If your external marketing is saying one thing, but your internal team is not living up to these brand promises, your brand image looks more like a lie than a tie that binds your company to its audience. This will invariably lead to poor lead conversion rates and higher customer attrition rates, which will undermine and diminish even the most effective external marketing efforts.
Aligning external brand promises with effective, authentic internal delivery of these promises creates powerful customer experiences. Any disconnect along the brand chain does the opposite; that’s why internal marketing investment, both in time and treasure, is so critical to building and nurturing a customer experience ecosystem that converts leads and retains customers over the long haul.
What is Internal Marketing?
Well, it’s a pretty simple concept: In addition to marketing your brand outward to your customers, you turn these efforts inward toward your staff in an attempt 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, because 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 when people care about and believe in the brand, they’re motivated to work harder and their loyalty to the company increases. Employees are unified and inspired by a common sense of purpose and identity.”
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 in that it isn’t just about marketing. It also impacts staff productivity, retention and the recruiting of new talent. In short, poor internal marketing and weak internal brand cultures are problems not just for sales. Your entire operation can be negatively impacted.
Customer Experience Impact
Weak internal marketing will rear its ugly head across all aspects of your business, reducing the effectiveness of external marketing and weaking the customer experience overall.
It doesn’t matter if you have all the automation and software in the world: People sell and people buy. In the end, a person persuades (or doesn’t) another person to buy (or not). Marketing might be able to attract hordes of leads. The question, then, is can your sales staff keep these leads engaged to close them? Can they keep existing customers happy and generate strong Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) from them?
This is not rocket science. It’s more about having better awareness of the risks of poor internal marketing practices and taking steady, consistent action over time to address these issues.
Consider the following points:
- If your staff is not engaged with your brand, or is confused about its mission and core values, how can they effectively reinforce the brand that an informed customer has come to know via your external marketing tactics? They can’t, which then leads to a lack of trust. Leads and customers are smart; they will know when there is a broken link in the customer experience chain.
- Highly educated, discerning leads and customers have myriad options when it comes to purchasing products and services. Authenticity is an expectation these days. People want to buy from people that believe not just in a product or service, but that are also true believers in the brand itself. Without authenticity and trust, your team cannot deliver a great customer experience.
- Effective internal marketing strategies educate staff on your brand values and how to deliver on its promises when interacting with the market. Team members that buy in to your culture and brand perform better because they’re real with leads and customers. Reinforcing brand values comes off as genuine because it actually is. This authenticity can even overcome faulty processes or a lack of tools whereas inauthentic staff can subvert the greatest, most well-funded marketing and sales system in the world.
Internal team brand loyalty and cultural buy-in breeds authenticity, which in turn helps engagement, lead-nurturing and customer retention. Without internal marketing, authenticity diminishes over time and lead engagement, customer retention and CLV suffers.
How Can You Measure External and Internal Brand Alignment?
As defined by the website Medallia, a Net Promoter Score “measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others. It is used as a proxy for gauging the customer’s overall satisfaction with a company’s product or service and the customer’s loyalty to the brand.”
There is a way to peel that brand onion after all.
Essentially, a Net Promoter Score (or NPS) is a survey that gauges brand perceptions and customer satisfaction levels, providing actionable insights into what your business does well, does okay and, well, where its struggles.
So, you send out your NPS question and get your data back. Here’s how to slice and dice your data:
- “Promoters” are those that provided a 9-10
- “Passives” are those that gave a 7-8
- “Detractors” rated your brand a 0-6
To calculate your NPS, it’s simple math:
- Get a total respondent number
- Determine the percentage breakdown of promoters, passives and detractors
- Subtract the percentage of “detractors” from that of “promoters”
- As an example, if you received 20 responses and 5 were detractors and 15 were promoters your NPS would be 60 (75% promoters-15% detractors=60)
The best possible NPS is 100 if every respondent was a promoter. Worst is zero if every respondent was a detractor. Your NPS slides on a 0-100 scale.
Benefits of Internal Marketing Investments
Fragmented external and internal branding disrupts a seamless customer experience, leading to lower lead conversion rates, higher customer attrition and a decrease in CLV. Strong alignment between external and internal marketing strategy creates authenticity and trust, leading to a host of powerful benefits for your organization, including:
- Powerful internal marketing programs align external marketing claims with internal branding realities, presenting a genuine brand identity to the market
- Strong internal marketing empowers 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 engaged with customers and more productive overall
- Happy workers are easier to retain and provide a strong cultural foundation to build upon
- Happy workers mean less turnover and reduced hiring and recruiting costs
- Strong internal marketing and culture-building closes more leads, retains more existing customers and generates more business from these existing customers, increasing revenues while reducing marketing costs
Finding the resources, time and human capital to focus on internal marketing can be a challenge. However, ignoring internal marketing isn’t an option for companies that want to grow. Always remember, internal marketing can’t just be passed off to your human resources person or department. Marketing expertise is required to do the heavy lifting needed to build a strong program.
As the website Kapost so eloquently put it, “The normalization of the ‘Age of the Customer’ — in which customers control their own buyer’s journey and research solutions independently of the vendor — has affected nearly every function in B2B organizations. It has fundamentally changed the way business is done, leaving B2B marketers at an important fork in the road: turn left and continue creating marketing content in siloed factions and get mediocre results, or turn right to align your organization around a consistent, marketing-driven customer experience and lead the way to business growth and better customer retention.”
Executing a strong internal marketing strategy that’s aligned with external marketing and branding efforts is essential to your organization’s survival in a customer-dominated marketplace. Ignore the internal and focus too much on looking outward at your own peril.
We can help. Reach out to us today. We’d love to learn more about your company and how we might be able to help with creating an internal marketing campaign or improve a program that already exists.