Marketing – It’s Everyone’s Business

September 26, 2011 at 7:12 pm Leave a comment

If you think marketing is the sole province of your Marketing Department you’re missing a lot of opportunities. In fact, in today’s world, marketing should and must be the responsibility of everyone in your company – from the person who refills the salad bar in the cafeteria to the president of the company.

The Salad Bar Lady? Really? Yes, really. Let me give you an example: When we were on the college search for my son, our first stop was Wake Forest. If you haven’t looked at college since you were in bell bottoms, you’re in for a surprise. Searching for a college is like looking for a time-share – it’s marketing on steroids. Colleges woo you with everything from dining halls (no more cafeterias) to the wireless in the dorms to dryers that email the students when their clothes are done. And they obviously understand that getting that message to prospective students is about mobilizing everyone who sees (or could see) your kid and their parents.

So, back to the dining hall at Wake Forest… As I grabbed my tray and began a walk-through of my dining options — from stir fry to gluten-free alternatives to custom-made sandwiches — my confusion must have been obvious. “Can I help you, Hon?” came a lilting southern voice in a crisp white uniform. “You look a little overwhelmed. Let me show you around.” And, so she did. Me, the marketing professional and she, the well-trained marketing ambassador.

And that’s what everyone in your company needs to be…. A well-versed marketing ambassador. Why? Because it is the people who contact your customers day-to-day who are the living, breathing face of your brand to them. Think Starbucks. Think UPS. Think Nordstrom’s. Who does the customer see in these entities? The VP of Marketing or the people who deliver their products and services? So why would you leave the communications of your marketing messages to chance with these customer-facing people? And yet, most companies do and the result is that highly engineered, pricey brand strategies are sunk by ill-informed workers who simply didn’t get the message.

How do you mobilize everyone in your company as a brand ambassador? By treating them as your first and most important target audience. Make them understand just how critical each and every one of them is to your marketing and business success. Make sure they understand your brand and can give voice to it in their sleep. Do your employees understand what makes you the best place to come for your products and services? Do they understand how you stack up against your competition and where you beat the pants off of them? Do they know which customers are best served by what you do and why? Can they tell anyone about the latest and greatest development in your company? In other words, do they understand the elements of your brand?

How many times have you found yourself on hold listening to the message “Your business is very important to us”? How credible is the company that brags about their devotion to their customer service and puts a sour-faced clerk in the Returns Department who treats every customer like they are trying to get away with something? Doesn’t work, does it? There’s a disconnect and it makes you leery of doing business with that company.

Whenever we research and build a brand with our clients the first thing we do is to explain just how important every one of their employees is to carrying that brand forward. We like to create three to five simple talking points and an elevator speech that’s specifically for employees. This enables everyone in the organization to vocalize it. Then, it’s a matter of charging those employees with carrying that message into their daily business practices and empowering them to do just that. You’ve got to get the message to everyone in the organization that they are the living, breathing embodiment of that brand. In the way they talk about what the company does and their role in it. In the way they treat customers. In the way they dress and comport themselves on the job. Because if the customer-facing members of your company aren’t living your brand, how can you expect your customers to believe it?

The bottom line is this (and believe me it is THE bottom line). Treat every employee as the guardian of your brand. Arm them with your marketing messages. Train them to live the brand in every interaction with the customer and each other. Make sure they understand that marketing is a critical part of their success in the organization and that they will be evaluated by how well they handle that responsibility. Empower them to do what it takes to live the brand and reward them for their part in carrying your company’s marketing efforts forward. That’s how you build a company that customers want to do business with, over and over.

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Andrea Obston, President


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