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Internal Marketing: The Keys to the Kingdom

Approx 7 min. read

Gabriella Cane

March 10, 2022

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This is the first article based on a series of conversational interviews with founder and CEO of EverWonder, Brian Sena (BS). Conversation flows. In this first session, we talk vision, values, and the importance of internal marketing.

Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first. “ Simon Sinek 

When the word “marketing” comes to mind, the first notions are the suite of techniques and deliverables that go towards the promotion of outward-driven business. More recently, an initiative to look inward and develop an employee-centric marketing strategy are giving companies a serious edge. Internal marketing means just that, the promotional suite of your organization’s mission, purpose, culture, products, and services to your most important group of stakeholders–your employees. Think of “team spirit” as your metric for internal marketing. Your employees are potentially the biggest consumers of your brand, and they are the people who are the best reflection of what your brand stands for. It’s time to put people over profits in all aspects of your company.

Effective Internal Communications and Company Initiatives are Key

When you unlock the potential of internal marketing, your employees start selling their connection, and not just your product. The way your employees experience the workplace should match the sentiment of your brand. Effective internal communications and company initiatives ensure everyone is on the same page, relaying the same messages, united in an effort to build strong company culture, and customer satisfaction simultaneously. Engaged employees become evangelists, no matter their role.

Innately, most companies do have some form of internal marketing going on, but there is rarely a unique strategy behind it. An effective internal marketing strategy means there is a catalyst behind hitting targets such as higher retention rates and a deeply strengthened internal core culture. The end result? An embassy of brand believers that emanate the brand in each corner of your business, bottom to top.

My philosophy is grounded in what team do you want to build? What emotional status do you want your team or your people to feel? At the end of the day, I think that internal marketing–pieces of that are not just brand, not just design elements like logo or color palette–pieces of that are being super clear with what the vision is and then getting people excited to dream, to say what comes next?

(Brian Sena)

HR has long been tasked with internal communications, on-boarding, and employee relations. Without the marketing experience, it is easy to miss the mark at “selling” the brand guidelines and company vision. With remote working continuing to rise, being less physically attached to a job means that companies have to create that connection, continue to find new ways to engage employees in a way that truly reaches them. Social networking opportunities in respect to each employee can be leveraged as well, many individuals may have a personal brand which could be tapped into. The first step to forming these connections is to create your narrative and then weave that into the fiber of your day-to-day naturally. Every touchpoint of internal communication is an opportunity for internal marketing to take place.

Brian speaks on wonder:

I want the wonder that people feel to be eagerness, to be want, to be desire. We often don't communicate that way. I don't think that has ever really been described and even when in our vision we talk about leading with wonder and not judgment for me. How do you get people as believers? How do you decide where you want that tribe, how it's going to look, how do you fit into that? What are you trying to communicate to the world–it starts inside-out, not outside-in.

What are the Keys to Effective Internal Marketing

Consistent, transparent messaging and a streamlined plan for internal communication

“Cadence and consistency. If you aren't consistent then people don't know what to expect. Internal marketing is about having the right checks and balances that everyone is on board with, that everyone can implement.” (BS)

Values-Driven daily operations

“Values transcend. When I talk about values I mean the importance of living and breathing them and having it be a core value, matters. How we treat each other, how people feel. It is about getting very clear on intrinsic versus extrinsic motivations. “ (BS)

Alignment of avenues for honest, open employee relations

“To understand alignment we need to be really clear with how the values connect with day to day activities. What I mean by that is if you need to connect one thing to each value, say: what are we doing internally to make that happen? That's a powerful question. Take one bite of the apple. If we talk about compassion at least one time a week, you have to ask everyone you work with how they are doing no matter what; even if you're not working with them. If we are exercising compassion we need to take one thing we collectively agree on and this all starts with a conversation.” (BS)

Dedicated top-notch employee experience

“How do you onboard your clients and your people? What is your belief set on paid leave? How we want to treat each other and our connection needs to be so clear. Here are real opportunities to carry forward your baseline brand package in a way that is unique to you.” (BS)

Move from strategy through to tactics and execution. This starts with a clear path forward for your business as a whole.

“At the highest level we have vision, which is our long term quest, and then we create a daily mission to strive for the vision. Then we have our goals, strategy, and tactics. Basically, we believe you have to set your top line vision and work top down and also work back from bottom to top to make sure every person is clear on what that vision is and how to achieve it." (BS)

It is important to emphasize that top-down and trickle strategies need not apply. There’s no such thing as too many cooks in this kitchen. Internal marketing can’t be successful without employee participation, input, and feedback. For this to work, a democratic approach fosters inclusivity. Many companies take their most important group of stakeholders for granted. Investment capital is important, but what is it worth if there is no employee buy in?

You cannot mandate productivity; you must provide the tools to let people become their best.” - Steve Jobs

A few examples of internal marketing? Hint: you probably already do a lot of these at your company.

  • Workshops, brainstorming sessions
  • Promotional opportunities and Job listings
  • Online presence, company website, social media
  • Work-life balance initiatives, company benefits
  • Internal communication: messaging, phone calls, emails
  • Employee spotlights, opportunities for feedback, performance reviews
  • Company newsletter, featuring internal achievements

Best ways to make internal marketing efforts efficient and boost employee engagement?

Choose your moment.

So you want to take a serious crack at internal marketing? According to an article in Harvard Business Review titled “Selling your brand inside,” choosing your moment dictates the success level of your efforts. Change is sticky, and often inextricably linked to resistance. Piggy-backing an internal marketing effort to a pre-established change or initiative has your employees already poised and seeking guidance and direction.

Put a team on it.

Consider creating an internal marketing team to help educate internally the company’s vision, mission, and values. Perhaps consider a department directly responsible for internal marketing. Your marketing team is best positioned for this task. If you have an external brand strategy, they will know the best path forward to match it with your internal messaging. They come with the necessary skills and expertise needed to make your internal marketing efforts a success. They also know a thing or two about market research. Utilizing surveys or even focus groups to conduct internal research assures the path to optimizing the health of your internal market.

Encourage employee involvement/Team building.

This means transcend your day-to-day work grind and have a platform for encouraging employees to foster their workplace relationships, share projects, wins, and even losses. Participating in activities where employees can understand each other's strengths and weaknesses helps you grow as a team. Establishing an environment that makes employees feel safe to share their own unique potentials shines a spotlight on your collective potential as a company.

6 icons showing communication between all your employees, a calendar with a bullseye, and graphs6 icons showing communication between all your employees, a calendar with a bullseye, and graphs

Integration of communication software.

Uncoordinated messaging creates noise. A streamlined communication process delivers value on the dollar to your operations. When your mode of communication is streamlined, so is the actual communication. Drive operational excellence with tools like Google Workspace, Slack, and live commenting tools like Google Docs and Monday.com.

Deliver on Deliverables.

Think about an employee handbook that is unique to your brand or an onboarding manifesto or rally cry. Interactive content is also an extremely valuable way to engage and combat the potential “glaze over” effect. Digital storytelling platforms like shorthand.com help improve things like “dwell time” and “click through rate” and have huge success at building up audience loyalty and engagement scores.

“Designed assets are important. When we present something to the company it should be designed and on brand. Put in the time and effort, it is just another opportunity to live and breathe the brand.” (BS)

Track the Progress

After you implement new processes and changes to your internal marketing plan, keep track. As the company grows so will the opportunities to implement even more programs. Employee engagement can be tracked in various ways such as direct feedback in the form of surveys, tracking analytics when you send out a newsletter, etc. Track productivity. Track employee retention. See what works best for your organization, what to do more of. But, most importantly just see the magic for yourself. Tracking progress and employee retention don’t need to stop at your door. Maintain connections with your employees as they move on throughout the world.

“Making people leave as an alumni versus someone that just disappears in the world. It is such a positive thing when you leave a business that for instance you stay part of a mailing list, or invited back to big company events. Just checking in and still being a part of what they are doing. Letting someone know, hey it's ok to come back and say hi. We want curiosity, we want to know how you're doing. Now with all the tools and technology out there this can be so streamlined and efficient.” (BS)

Reap the Benefits

What is this magic we speak of? A cohesive team united under your unique vision. A league of brand advocates who live and breathe the vision, driving brand awareness in and out of the office. Engaged employees are poised to offer top-notch brand-driven customer experiences that are value-driven.

If you need a North star to find out who is really getting internal marketing right, look no further than Netflix. Their notorious “culture deck”, a collection of over 100 slides on the bedrock of Netflix company culture, featured no music or animation and is almost 20 years old. In it are iconoclast ideas such as their vacation policy: “take vacation.” (Talk about ahead of their time.) What makes this document such a bible?

In it they produced a singular document on “Netflix culture” that was so precise and specific to their company DNA. It outlined their values each with associated actionables: exact ways to carry out their values internally in the workplace and external to their consumer base. Much of what is in the culture deck is still part of current-day Netflix culture. Being upfront about company values and vision with clear brand guidelines helps streamline the hiring process because potential employees aren’t waiting for their first day to really begin to understand what the company is all about.

“The success of this onboarding program reflects in their turnover rate. In 2020, Netflix boasted a staggering 11% employee turnover rate — better than Google, Facebook, and Amazon.” (Select Software Reviews)

“Employee retention is really all about getting people in the right role for them. I never want someone to go somewhere else because they feel like they need to achieve something.” (BS)

Unlock the potential

Internal marketing is not just a conversation starter. The clearer path forward is to embrace it as a virtual extension of your marketing and sales arm. Your external environment thrives symbiotically with your internal efforts.

In a report from Catalyst, over 4,000 employees were polled for data on fostering an inclusive team environment. “Team-based and collaborative work will remain a foundation of successful organizations…the keystone lies in cultivating an inclusive team environment.” Internal marketing is this cultivation. As humans we have many basic needs, a sense of belonging is the cream that rises to the top. Investing in ways to foster a sense of “family” in the workplace where employees feel at home, appreciated and supported pays in dividends.

The keys to unlocking true internal potential lie within the assets you already have. Growth is not the product of lack. Growth transpires when we fan the flame of desire when your team is working and producing as an ecosystem. Internal marketing is that fan.

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