By: Chris Wallace
Do your front-line employees, like customer service representatives and salespeople, know how to communicate your brand story?
Most marketers laugh when they hear this question because they don’t have a high degree of confidence. In fact, according to my company’s research, 66% of marketing executives believe their brand message is lost by the time it reaches the front lines.
A company’s marketing investment is designed to drive demand, but demand isn’t valuable unless it converts to sales at a high rate. This investment is far more effective and efficient when it improves conversion rates, but Econsultancy reports that only 22% of companies are happy with their conversion rates. There’s obviously a problem somewhere along the way.
When companies don’t prioritize internal brand awareness, their marketing and advertising make promises to customers that their front-line employees don’t deliver upon. When a business falls short of customer expectations, its conversion rate tends to dip. This disconnect also leads to poor brand perception, lower customer satisfaction, and other challenges.
Meanwhile, brands that present a consistent message are nearly four times more likely to experience brand visibility later, according to Lucidpress. Considering the costs of the disconnect, how consistent is your messaging?
The Last Item on the To-Do List
I’ve been working with one company that is in the process of pushing a new brand story out into the marketplace. The company recently acquired several smaller brands, and it’s now working to educate its customers—and the broader public—about its new name and identity.
The company’s marketing team has been getting this new message out through advertising and digital marketing, but internal branding has fallen to the bottom of its to-do list. The result, according to the head of marketing, is customers who “don’t know what the company is.” The company is at risk of losing longtime customers if it doesn’t connect the dots between the new identity and the brand’s customers had grown to trust for years (and even decades, in some cases).
There are plenty of seemingly valid reasons marketing teams fail to focus on internal branding. To start, they might think someone is already doing it—especially if the company has a training department or internal communications team. But these teams don’t always invest the time necessary to understand the brand positioning, which unfortunately means they cannot clearly communicate it.
In other cases, teams might not see the importance of internal branding because they already produce “sales support materials.” The marketing teams compile product details, believing that sales and customer service can take a one-sheeter and turn it into a productive conversation. The information, however, is tailored to external customers rather than internal audiences.
Lastly, marketers are hesitant to put their limited budgets toward internal marketing efforts.
They have been conditioned to throw gobs of money at external marketing to drive demand, even if conversions are low. Internal brand awareness is a different path to the desired result—more customers—but most marketers don’t realize the potential of this approach.
The Power of Preaching to the Choir
Considering everything standing in their way, it’s no wonder, so few companies ever think about marketing to their own teams.
Here are four reasons to bump internal brand awareness up from the bottom of your to-do list:
1) It Fosters Consistency
Every marketer seeks consistency with her company’s story. If customers do not hear the same narrative every time they learn about your business, it can lead to confusion and doubt. Doubt leads customers to your competitors.
Southwest Airlines, for example, doesn’t have a brand story; it has a brand attitude. The airline’s team members—from flight attendants to ticket agents—are pleasant and genuine in trying to help customers, and they generally make it easy to do business with Southwest. That’s because the company has made customer service a significant part of its brand. What you hear is what you experience.
2) It Creates Conversions
Consistency is a building block to conversions, which should be the most important metric for every marketing department. Impressions and likes are great, but customers cast their most important votes with their wallets. Unfortunately, marketing departments don’t spend accordingly: Econsultancy reports that companies spend about $92 on customer acquisition for every $1 they spend on conversions.
Front-line teams will win more customers if their brand story is sound and their message is consistent. I once worked with a client that worked in-home services and repairs business. After this company invested the time necessary to outline a consistent process for its call center team that was designed around its brand and desired customer experience, its conversions jumped by nearly 10%.
3) It Encourages Cross-team Cooperation
My team conducted a study of marketing executives, and the respondents rated marketing alignment with front-line teams as the premier opportunity for improving marketing ROI. Better internal alignment leads to superior execution and efficiency, which benefits every department.
The more marketers invest in helping these partners tell the same brand story, the more these groups will be willing to collaborate. This collaboration can lead to tangible results, with a study by MarketingProfs indicating that sales and marketing teams can generate 208% more revenue by working together.
4) It Gives You Better Insights
A focus on internal brand awareness helps marketing teams concentrate on what is happening in the trenches. How are customers responding to your message? What ideas do front-line employees have for improving customer conversations?
Feedback fuels successful companies, and this is particularly true in marketing. In one instance, we saw a call center representative share an idea about a valuable use case for a product. Not only did the company’s marketing department approve of its use in the brand story, but the company also incorporated the example into external marketing campaigns. No one knows your customers better than the people who are talking to them on a daily basis.
Internal brand awareness drives conversions, which fuel revenue growth. If the people who represent a brand can tell a compelling story of their company’s strengths, they will win over more customers. When front-line employees have confidence and conviction in the products or services of their brands, it has a direct effect on customer buying decisions. Don’t let that potential fall by the wayside because internal brand awareness isn’t a priority.