Don’t Forget About Internal Marketing

I asked Google to give me results for the word “marketing” today, and I got 374 million results. I changed my search to “the definition of marketing” and only received 27.9 million results. I’m confident you get the picture.

What if I asked 100 different college marketing students to define the word “marketing?” I’m pretty sure we’d get 100 different answers, or we might get the top Google answer a bunch of times.

The following definition was approved by the American Marketing Association Board of Directors: Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large. (Approved October 2007)

The all-inclusive American Marketing Association definition seems like a lot to remember.

I like to think of myself as a simplifier and came up with my own definition: Marketing is communicating brand messages.

You may or may not agree with my definition. That’s not really the point. The point is that marketing a product or service is done in a whole bunch of different ways. In the past century, most of the attention was placed on mass marketing. Today, social marketing ideas are growing faster than people can keep track of.

There are so many different tactics to deliver brand messages to our customers and prospects. And yet, when was the last time you communicated your brand message(s) to your internal target group – the employees of the company you work for? Employees are easy to forget about. It’s also easy to assume that they all know the brand message(s) already.

Once I was in a marketing committee meeting for a bank and presented a great idea designed to bring people into the bank itself. Everyone on the committee agreed that it was a great idea, and I thought it was sold. Suddenly, a bank employee said “what are we going to do with all of those people if they come into the bank?” Needless to say, the president of the bank (who was also in the meeting) did not approve the campaign. In fact, he stopped all external marketing and moved the money to training. The bank president was part right: his staff definitely needed extra training. On the other hand, I would suggest that instead of training at the expense of external marketing, that both internal and external audiences should be consistently addressed in every company’s annual marketing plan.

Here is an exercise I encourage you to try with your company. Send out a survey and ask every employee to answer one question: Why does this company exist (beyond making money)? To add to the challenge, explain that they can only use 25 words or less. My guess is that you will have as many different answers as you have employees.

I encourage you to stop thinking of marketing as something that only happens outside your business. The next strategic marketing plan you develop needs to include an internal marketing plan as well. Then, when your outside plan is successful – and prospects start coming to your business – your employees know exactly what brand message you are trying to communicate.