internal engagement marketing

How many books have been written in the last twenty years about the value of getting your employees to be more than “employees?” You don’t want drones and cogs, you want team members, partners, evangelists, and co-owners, because the passion an evangelist puts behind his or her work is exponentially more than, say, a DMV employee. From Tom Peters searching for excellence, to Guy Kawasaki building rules for revolutionaries to all the authors trying to get us to build the next Zappos, Amazon or Apple, all these people are saying the same thing using different terms: Your employees dictate the success of your company, so you should aim to engage your employees.

And the way to engage people is to invest in engagement marketing. Specifically, internal engagement marketing.

Think of it this way: would you rather command an army who were all trained and aligned to the same goal, who had skin in the game, who wanted to win as much as you? Or would you rather have a bunch of mercenaries, who were only there as long as you paid them and the work wasn’t too hard? Which army is getting more done?

To some extent, every company is a band of mercenaries. After all, how many people would answer the phones at your company if you didn’t pay them to do so? But the work output difference between an engaged employee and an unengaged employee is almost impossible to measure, not because the difference is so slight, but because it’s so large. It’s like trying to compare a marble to the moon. Any comparisons boggle the mind and lead to you thinking “that can’t be right.” Does your best sales person sell 2% more than the worst, or twice as much?

Engaged employees aren’t there to just line their pockets and do the least amount possible, but have become partners in your goal. They are aligned, not just to your goals, objectives and strategy, but to each other. They build connections to each other with the purpose of making work easier, more effective, and more valuable. They understand their roles, not just from a “this is the line where my job stops” way, but in an”I understand that you are responsible for this part, so I won’t squabble with you about it” way.

This is a group of employees who have deeper conversations about their jobs, their team and their company. They discuss their obstacles, not to complain but to search for solutions. These conversations ripple throughout your company, leaving a lasting impact.  These conversations are the oil for your engine, begetting more ideas, innovation, efficiency, and ultimately more success.

The question you should be asking, if you aren’t already, is: do I need to find engaged people, or can I actually make people engaged? Here’s a thought: that 12-year-old girl who is in love with One Direction collects the magazines, the music, the videos, the pictures, the animated gifs and everything else embossed with their faces. She will tune into whatever show they appear on. She will plaster their images all over her Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. She will send pictures of them via SnapChat. That is engagement. How much would you have to pay her to stop listening to One Direction and only listen to Neil Diamond? Exactly. Who would you rather employ, the person who is committed and engaged because they believe, or the one who shows up because they have to?

So you need to build your own engaged team internally by making them believe. You build belief within your  team the same way you built it among your customers: marketing.

Marketing Internally

If you read a current book on corporate communications (it’ll probably be a textbook, which is telling), the focus seems to be on control: controlling the message, controlling the response, controlling the staff and controlling their input. For crisis communications, investor relations, and media relations, a tightly controlled message that limits itself to one-way communication makes sense. In these instances, you are trying to communicate and influence people who might normally view you skeptically, or worse, antagonistically.

But that’s no way to look at your staff. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars hiring the smartest people you can find just to ask them to leave their genius at the door. You need to engage them. You want them to anticipate, participate, percolate and generate. You want them to want better. Want higher. Want beyond. Want winning. When they are that authentically behind what your company stands for or wants to stand for, almost anything is possible.

Internal marketingWhich is why FLIRT Communications is asking you to downplay the tools of corporate communications when trying to communicate with your internal audiences. We reject its Dilbert-ian implications of legalese and double-talk. Instead, we embrace the idea of genuine internal engagement marketing. We want to make the people who are employed by our clients more excited to be there, to be more interested in the team’s and company’s well-being.

From a purely biased standpoint, wouldn’t you just rather work around engaged people? Leaving out the obvious benefits to the bottom line? Engaged employees make you far more excited to start the day each morning. And that means less turnover, less absenteeism and more productivity, among a list of many other positive benefits.

Engagement Marketing

So what is engagement marketing? We’ll start by talking about what it’s not. It’s not hippy-granola-fluffy-bunny-bunk. It’s not holding hands and singing Kumbaya. It’s not HR holding meetings to gain compliance. It’s not events for event’s sake.

It’s marketing, plain and simple. In the same way you would want to influence a prospect to buy your product, you are influencing an employee to care more about the company they work for, about the people they work around, their customers and the work itself. Your company IS the product. The tools and skills are the same, just directed inwards. The call to action might be different, but the process people go through to become advocates and devotees doesn’t shift.

It is a way of talking to each employee on their level, so that you don’t overwhelm front-line employees with talk of broad strategy and you don’t slow execs down with details about customer engagement practices. Marketing reaches and speaks to people about the things that matter to them and in a way that resonates with them.

Put It Together

You can use social media, email marketing, content marketing, direct mail, event and experiential marketing to reach an internal audience. That three-day sales meeting: are you treating it like a meeting you have to have, or an opportunity to turn sales staff into evangelists? You have them for three whole days, away from their usual distractions. If you can’t influence them here, you really aren’t trying or you don’t have the right marketing agency to get you there.

The best part is that, like modern marketing, internal engagement marketing is just as trackable, measurable and mutable. You can launch a campaign, track it’s use and how well it’s influencing your audience, and make adjustments. You can measure the return on marketing if your measurement process is constructed properly and with the right timing. You can see how those influences made by the marketing have shifted their output and productivity compared to those who were not influences.

For example, FLIRT launched a campaign to increase employee communication between each other and between levels of management. We used email to push them to a custom web site with built-in social channels, all kicked off by an event. Their managers coordinated messages to keep everyone in alignment. Over the course of the year, they will be asked to engage more with their customers and their co-workers, both in the office and outside of it. If this wasn’t directed at employees, this would just be a well-thought-out marketing campaign. The surprising part is how rarely we use the consumer marketing level of thinking to market to our employees.

A focus on internal engagement marketing will allow us to create better, more passionate employees we’d all like to work alongside. This type of environment makes you happier and more committed to the team, which leads to more effective teams, which rolls up into a far more productive and agile company. Whether you’re at the top or the bottom of the hierachy, that has to be something worth working towards.