by Susan Drake
Susan Drake, the author of Light Their Fire: Using Internal Marketing to Ignite Employee Performance and WOW Your Customers, is a speechwriter and marketing consultant to major corporations. This talk is one she gives herself and she delivers it quickly: this is 3,557 words, but takes her only 20 minutes to get through (that is the maximum amount of time she believes most audiences can pay optimum attention). This is more of an informational speech than the previous persuasion one, but Drake also strives to persuade the audience of her point of view: that companies need to start their marketing with selling their goals to their employees and aligning their practices accordingly. She uses liberal doses of humor, repetition, memorable phrases, and anecdotes. This also has attention-getting opinions, examples, interesting statistics, quotations, tips, and interaction with the audience to make an impact.
A month or so ago I met a guy. It's not what you think. His name is Brad and he's a server at a Mexican restaurant. My husband and I go there because it's close, the food is okay, in spite of the fact that there's always something wrong. It's the margarita blender or the ice cream freezer or, once, it was even the Coke dispenser. You can't have chips without a Coke. Southerners can't even have breakfast without a Coke.
So on my last visit, when Brad told us about the broken equipment du jour, I said, “Brad, we love to come here, but every time we do you don't have something we want. Can you mention that to the manager?”
Boy, I had made Brad's day. He lit up like a Christmas tree. He scooted into the booth next to me.
“You wouldn't believe how they run this place. I'm a marketing major, and I could tell them a thing or two about how they SHOULD run it.” (Lean away) I might mention that although Southerners are known for their hospitality and friendliness, that does not extend to inviting our server to join us for lunch.
As we say in the South, “Bless his heart.”
I was at the airport last month headed for San Antonio. At our gate, a little old lady on a walker was waiting to board a plane. She could barely stand up. But when she got to the gate agent, the woman said, “I have NOT called for boarding, and it would be better for ME if you stood back.”
Bless her heart.
I went to a car dealer and explained that I was prepared to buy a car on the spot provided that they didn't put me through their usual sales routine. Within moments they were doing their dance. So I walked out. The salesman chased me outside asking, “What can we do to make a deal?” Guess he hadn't been listening the first time I told him.
Bless his heart.
Maybe you think that these three stories merely show the difference between good and bad employees, and they don't have anything to do with sales or marketing. Or that I'm a lightning rod for horrendous service.
Or you could surmise that training would take care of the problem. That could be part of it, but there's oh so much more to the story. The moral of the story is that none of these employees realized that they were totally responsible for the loss of a sale and for creating a poor image for their company.
Down in my neck of the woods, there is a lush, green, beautiful vine known as kudzu, brought to the U.S. in the 1930s to help control erosion. Kudzu could be the subject of a horror movie, because it devours everything in its path … including automobiles.
When I'm driving down the interstate and I see that beautiful, ubiquitous kudzu, I automatically think: sales and marketing. It's true. Because sales and marketing is an intertwined process in which every corporate leaf is linked, from how you hire people to how you relate to customers.
We're all guilty of platitudes like, “A stitch in time saves nine,” and “The early bird gets the worm.” How many of you have said, “At our company marketing is everybody's job.” Sure, that sounds nice, but what's the reality? Is anybody doing anything deliberate to make it true? If marketing and sales is what your entire company is about, then every single team member must understand your brand, believe in your brand, love your brand and protect your brand. In most companies, it just ain't so.
In my experience, the reason it ain't so is that while most companies are investing millions trying to convince consumers that their toothpaste will give them whiter, straighter, cavity-free teeth, they're spending less than one percent of that to make sure employees believe that every single person in the company contributes to making toothpaste that will give the consumers whiter, straighter, cavityfree teeth. And all at a good value to the customer.
They have lots of external marketing and sales. But they don't have internal marketing and sales. So tell me this: If your employees don't know that they're sales people, how do you expect them to sell?
Internal marketing means selling your company to employees just as you do to your customers. We turn traditional marketing techniques inward to create employee engagement and loyalty. First sell to your employees, then sell to your customers.
One of my clients is Hampton Inn hotels. Hampton's culture is driven by their dedication to satisfying every guest, no matter what it takes. They even have an unconditional satisfaction guarantee that every employee is empowered to invoke. They advertise the guarantee, and research shows that customers are influenced to choose Hampton because of the guarantee.
So here's what happens when you have employees who understand, love and support your brand.
A woman had a problem with her hair dryer, so she called the front desk for a replacement. When the maintenance engineer brought the hair dryer up, she opened the door and her cell phone immediately rang. She turned to the man and motioned to him (indicate her talking on the phone and gesturing). She wanted him to blow dry her hair while she talked. And he did.
He understands that his job isn't delivering hair dryers or repairing equipment. His job is to satisfy every guest every time, no matter what. And he knows it because Hampton does an absolutely phenomenal job of communicating it not just to guests, but also to employees. Their internal message to employees is a mirror image of their exterior message to customers. As a result, every employee — and I mean EVERY employee — understands what it means to do whatever it takes to make the guest happy.
Hampton's maintenance engineer is the product of internal marketing. He knows what the company's goal is, and what he does ultimately convinces the guest that Hampton is the best place to stay.
Sometimes a consultant surprises herself with results. And when I learned about this story I said, hey, if I can get a maintenance engineer to blow dry my hair, I am an even more passionate evangelist for internal marketing.
Can I get an amen?
Let's do a little experiment. Could I have two volunteers please? Thank you. (shaking their hands) Hi, I'm Susan. And your name is? Wonderful. Either of you married? Well, let's overlook that for just a moment. (Man), would you please take this ring, and propose to (Woman)?
Why did you (accept or reject) his offer?
Now what was that guy doing? He was SELLING! He told her what the benefits would be if she married him. And as a result of his selling, they got engaged.
When you get engaged with a romantic partner, AND when you get engaged with your employees, you base the relationship on trust and shared values, and you sustain it with enthusiasm and success.
Thanks. I hope you'll live happily ever after!
According to a poll by Gallup, some of your employees are not fully engaged in their jobs. That's right. They either don't know and understand your values, or they're not buying your toothpaste.
Let's see what you think about how big the problem is: How many of you think that 25 percent of your employees are not fully engaged? How many think it's 60 percent? 70 percent? You're all WAY too optimistic.
Studies show that 80 percent of employees are not fully engaged in their jobs. Eighty percent. And what does that mean? Well, there's an excellent chance that the vast majority of your employees are only moderately loyal, they're probably not selling, and, if they're like Brad, they could even be doing your company harm.
Some years ago I was consulting with a financial services company, exploring why employees felt dissatisfied. A recurring theme in focus groups was that the tellers were often embarrassed because customers came into the bank and asked them about new products or special offers they'd never heard of. Yeah, they're cool when you're sitting at headquarters dreaming them up, but they go nowhere fast if you don't let employees know how cool they are, too. Employees cannot sell if they don't know what they're supposed to be selling.
If you're not engaging employees in the vision, the product, the service and the brand, you're missing a chance to recruit a great sales team. And that will absolutely be obvious on the bottom line.
The employees we interviewed were not engaged. In fact, they were angry at management for not communicating with them. (Turn to an audience member and ask, “What do you think an angry employee says to a customer?” “What would an embarrassed, humiliated employee say?”)
Exactly. Bless their hearts.
Let's say you slip up once, and the employees didn't get the word about the new campaign. Even without knowledge of the products, a teller can sell. Here's how: “Yes, Mr. Trump, let me get some information about that new program for you,” and scrambled to find out the details. A loyal employee would have done everything he could to protect the company's reputation and serve the customer. A loyal employee would have shared the information with his co-workers so they wouldn't be caught off guard. And the customer would never know that there was a small glitch in the system.
The quickest way to lose customers is to short change your employees in the areas of knowledge, training, tools and empowerment.
I've been around for thirty years in business, and I've seen management fads come and go and come back around again. We've empowered teams, optimized resources, grown our people, one-minute managed them, and turned them into raving fans … well, raving, anyway. Go on
With that many experts coming up with so many, many theories, why are companies struggling to differentiate themselves, crying about employee defection, and fighting tooth and nail for sales?
I don't mean to go all Zen on you, but perhaps the answers lie within, grasshopper, which is where true sales begins. Fairfax Cone said, “Advertising is what you do when you can't go see somebody.” What he was really talking about was relationship marketing. He was talking about building connections with people. And that's what customers today are looking for: a bond with a brand, with the people who make up the brand.
So guess what: Employees are the people who are going to build relationships. They're the ones who go see somebody — customers. They answer the phone, send out a package, help a co-worker and in many, many ways contribute to the well-being of the organization's relationship with customers. This is no different than what Dale Carnegie wrote about in 1937 followed by Zig Ziglar in 1975. Even Barbra Streisand talked about People who need people.
Relationships and connecting with people is the sales and marketing of the twenty-first century just like it was in the nineteenth or twentieth century. But it goes way beyond the traditional employees who are technically “sales” people on your team.
This kudzu-ish marketing and sales is truly a holistic discipline that involves everyone in your company. And it's the only totally effective approach to creating loyal customers. Since I started out in business thirty years ago, I've always believed that companies are best served by combining internal and external marketing approaches, thus selling from the inside out.
There's a passage in
Take a moment and imagine this impossible thing: Suppose you could turn all of the disengaged 80 percent into engaged employees. What would the result be? Today you're successful with only 20 percent of your employees turned on and performing well. Think what you could do if you could turn even half of the 80 percent into engaged employees?
I'll tell you what could happen. Engaged companies have 38 percent better productivity, are 56 percent more likely to have higher than average customer loyalty and enjoy about 27 percent more profitability. Maybe you're like Alice, and you think that's an impossible thing. I can assure you it's not. I've seen it.
I've seen manufacturing employees break every one of their production records while reducing their lost-time accidents. That was after we spent just about six months working on internal marketing. I've seen a restaurant chain increase employee enrollment in their benefits plan by 30 percent in one enrollment period after one project-oriented internal marketing campaign. I've seen Hampton Inn undertake a brand-wide initiative that involved 4 million operational changes in 1,300 hotels. All that in just nine months supported by internal marketing.
Want to know how we do it? My associate and I define four characteristics to what we call “E” employees. These are people who are engaged, enabled, empowered and ensured.
(show E Employees slide)
E employees are engaged because they care about their companies. They are enabled because they've been given the tools and knowledge they need. They are empowered to make decisions that benefit the organization. Their performance is ensured because they're held accountable for achieving goals, and they're rewarded and recognized for their success. These are people who are ready to receive their 007 license to sell.
When I started my career in Memphis at Holiday Inns, the company was just about 25 years old. Its founder, Kemmons Wilson, was a sure-fire, dyed in the wool entrepreneur. He was colorful, and funny, and he developed a culture of fanatics. Everybody who worked there could tell you how he got started by owning a popcorn machine, and that he used to select sites by flying over the country, looking down and seeing that some area was a good place to build a hotel. And that Holiday Inn was named after a Bing Crosby movie. They loved the company. Their blood ran green.
Around 1988, Holiday Inn moved to Atlanta. The employees who were left in Memphis started having reunions. Every year. For, let's see, what year is it now? 2005. Okay, they've been having a reunion every year for seventeen years! Those people are still engaged, and they're still selling Holiday Inn.
But how do you build an “E” employee? Can you turn someone who's just collecting a paycheck into someone who would dress up as the Holiday Inn flashing neon sign at a Halloween party? Yes, you can. Here's a start.
Let's say you are getting ready to merge two divisions. It's quite a change-management initiative. You can do it one of two ways. You can put everyone in one building and let them figure things out for themselves, a strategy destined to interrupt all of your customer relationships. Or, you could create an internal marketing plan.
Start by defining what you want to achieve. Specify all of your audiences, just like you would in any marketing program. In this case, the audiences might be the call center, line-level employees, the middle management group, the quality control center, and the senior management team. For one of our clients we identified twenty-four distinct audiences. Every one of them is important.
Next, assess your climate to determine existing opinions, the level of engagement, the willingness to change, and so on. With that information you can begin to craft overriding messages for each group, keeping in mind that everyone wants to know how it will benefit them. Tell them what's happening, when, how and most important “why.” Explain how the change will contribute to greater customer satisfaction. Link the event to the overriding company goal.
Decide which vehicles will best carry your message to each group. Notice that the selection of the vehicles is step 5 on our chart. Unfortunately, the companies I've seen start with the message and then go straight to the vehicle, without consideration of effectiveness. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've gone in to consult with a company and they've said, “We need a newsletter.” Remember, even if you're dealing with an internal audience, you're competing with
At this point we diverge a bit from external marketing. Some marketing efforts make use of a spokesperson like the Jolly Green Giant, Ed McMahon or J-Lo. But ALL internal marketing efforts need a highly visible, energetic champion. Find someone at the top of the organization who can motivate people, and is willing to dedicate the time to your plan. Then, seek out the natural champions that exist at all levels. Tap these people to influence peers and others.
Just like Crest toothpaste has to run commercials every day, magazine ads, promotional offers, and so on, internal marketing has to take place regularly, throughout implementation, providing constant reinforcement, recognition and clarification. Communication is the thread that will weave your goal into every facet of the organization.
Finally, how will you know you've succeeded? There's one very clear gauge of success. Walk around the office and watch people. Sense the climate: Is it energizing, or is it draining? Are people smiling and full of ideas, or are they lackadaisical and complaining?
Aside from using your powers of observation and intuition, you'll want clear metrics to judge your achievements. This doesn't mean simply surveying for employee satisfaction, or doing a quality review of the communications vehicles you've used. Who cares if employees are satisfied? We want to know they're impassioned, fired up, all but obsessed.
Look for both tangible and intangible results that are directly tied to your goal. If you're trying to improve call center effectiveness, then check for agent knowledge and attitudes. If you're attempting to reduce accidents in a plant, you must measure the outcome. And if you're hoping to increase engagement among employees, you could measure people's awareness of the brand, their belief in the brand's promise, and their understanding of how to take action to support it.
Product and service? Customer-centric measurements are essential. And not just whether they were satisfied or not. Dig deeper to find out whether they're loyal and would recommend your product to a friend.
Inside the company, outside the company, it's the same story, spun in different ways according to the audience's needs. What you sell to employees, they'll sell to customers. With their words, and with their actions.
For years we've been hearing annoying ads for a car dealer in Memphis called Gossett. You Gossett! is their slogan. A couple of years ago my husband bought a new Jeep Grand Cherokee from them. Our experience with the salesman was so pleasant and hassle free that I ditched my Lincoln Town Car three days later for another Jeep. We actually became brand advocates in spite of their external marketing!
Remember earlier when I told you that I'd shopped for a car and the salesman wasn't smart enough to listen to me when I said I didn't want the same old sales pitch?
Well guess who he lost the sale to: Yep, you Gossett. Their salesman WAS smart, and he listened, and he met my needs. With no hassle. And, as we say in the south, no who-shot-john. It was the start of a beautiful relationship because the service was absolutely flawless.
You know where that kind of service starts? Well, one evening we went to dinner at Benihana, and we sat next to a nice friendly couple. He was wearing a cap with Jeep on it, and he told me, “I sell cars.” What dealership, I asked. He said, “Gossett.” I proceeded to rave about the service we'd had there and told him we'd bought two cars from them. He couldn't shut me up.
When the meal was over, he asked the server to give him our check. He turned out to be the owner of Gossett. Now that's marketing! HE knows how to show a customer appreciation, and you can bet that his employees know exactly how to treat customers, whether they work in the used car lot, the finance section, the service department or the showroom. Even without Crest, they have a big smile for customers. They all understand that the company's goal is to build relationships with customers at every possible opportunity, even at Benihana.
And I suspect that it's his employees' engagement that has allowed Mr. Gossett to own Gossett Audi, Gossett Chrysler, Gossett Hyundai, Hyundai South, Jeep, Kia, Kia South, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Gossett Motor Cars, Porsche, Volkswagen and several auto parts and body shops. No wonder the guy could buy us dinner! He could buy the restaurant!
Marketing is simple. Invest as much in your relationship with your employees as you do with your customers. Get your employees engaged. Inspire them not to act like Brad.
Say it with me: Bless his heart.