Every company wants raving fans who love their product, service, or cause. But beyond our customers and target audience, most of us also want to be a part of something bigger too. We desire to work with, or to lead those who also have similar goals – those who are aligned with us in a common purpose.
While most organizations do a pretty good job of understanding their external customers, far too many fall short when it comes to connecting with their internal ones. I often see companies invest huge sums of money in the “branding process” only to miss the critical step of really understanding their internal audience.
One organization I met with not long ago had just spent tens of thousands of dollars creating an entirely new brand identity, but less than six months later was desperately seeking help because most of their staff (and half the board) “just didn’t get it”.
The Problem: They hired a company to craft a beautiful visual. It looked good. Even had the right elements based on the objectives given, but the message didn’t resonate with the staff in the field. What the home office thought the organization was all about, and what the staff in the field thought they were about, were two completely different things. Even the CEO and the EVP didn’t really see eye-to-eye on the vision when I pressed them (yikes).
This organization made a critical, but all to common, mistake of not properly engaging their internal customers during the development of their new brand. This ultimately created a far more complex (and potentially damaging) situation than they originally had on their hands with just an outdated visual.
Success happens from the inside out
For an organization to be successful, every member of the organization must understand and embrace, the brand story (click to tweet). Team members need to “get it”. They need to understand what they are trying to achieve every day.
Employees want to know why you are asking them to get out of bed in the morning. They don’t need to become “Kool-Aid drinkers,” but everyone in the organization should be able to articulate who and what the company is all about, and what it is you (the company) wants to achieve. Without that, you can spend as much money on marketing and advertising as you want – there will be no long-term success.
…on average, 95% of a company’s employees are unaware of, or do not understand, its strategy. If the employees who are closest to customers and who operate processes that create value are unaware of the strategy, they surely cannot help the organization implement it effectively.
For the example company, and for many others, a simple dialogue about what the internal customers believe the organization’s mission to be, and how it applies to them, may have eliminated this issue all together.
Alignment involves the entire organization
While any successful brand or alignment initiative begins as a C-Level activity, as leaders we have to remember it touches everyone on the org chart.
The entire team needs to be on the same page about the direction you are headed. Does everyone understand the goals and objectives of the organization? If you have confusion or disagreement – address it.
If you want to harness the power of an aligned brand, start by addressing these seven components of creating internal brand advocates:
- Share the Vision – Create and/or articulate a compelling vision that inspires both your target audience, and the members of your team.
- Identify the Mission – Give people a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Layout what problem are you asking them to solve.
- Establish Values – Outline the guidelines or the ethical framework your team is being asked to operate within. Make sure everyone is on the same page about how to engage customers and each other.
- Articulate the Personality – Articulate what the company would sound like if it were a person. What is the style, voice, tone of the messages the company offers? Tell staff how you are asking them to communicate with the outside world, don’t leave it up to interpretation.
- Cohesive Offerings – The complexity, or the simplicity, with which you craft company offerings says a lot about your brand. Help your staff understand why you offer the things you do, and why you have the packages or options you do. They can’t communicate to the outside world if they don’t understand.
- Outline Processes – Are your processes complex and detailed, or simple and streamlined? Does everyone understand why you are asking them to create the reports they create? Do the things they do? Help them understand these things and you’ll eliminate frustration and increase compliance.
- Consistent Leadership – From the top down, creating a leadership structure that fits the brand essence of the organization is important. Make sure that middle managers understand what you want to accomplish and how to go about it. Creating consistency and coherence is a key to managerial success.
Remember, researching and understanding what is really taking place in the minds of your internal customers is the key to creating the kinds of raving fans you want for your organization. Don’t skimp on the effort because you think you know what they believe. Engage your most important resource and empower them to become the raving fans you want. Then watch them go out make more.
Question: How have you seen organizations successfully engage their internal customers and create raving fans out of their employees?