What Internal Communicators can learn from marketing - know and value your VIP customers
— December 16th, 2020
So much time, money, and energy are focused on researching the most effective ways to understand and communicate with customers, down to the most granulated details.
But not nearly enough emphasis is placed on understanding and communicating with your employees, who are, after all, your first constituency. If your employees aren’t happy, nobody’s happy.
Think of your employees as your most important VIP customers, who deserve the utmost attention and respect—your employee communications should be as thoughtfully considered and presented as the most high-profile ad campaign.
Here are a few marketing principles reinterpreted specifically for corporate employee communicators.
# 1. Find out what your customers’ needs are and find a way to meet them
The most successful businesses use well-researched data about their customers to understand their needs, and then target their product or service to meet those needs. Serendipity and intuition can play a part, but for the most part, these decisions are data-driven.
There is no excuse for not understanding the needs of your own employees. Ask them! And then listen.
Make two-way communication a regular part of your corporate culture. Provide numerous ways for employees to communicate with company leadership, including anonymously.
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Online and paper questionnaires, focus groups, one-on-one and group meetings, bulletin boards, and chat boards are all ways to get communication flowing. Know your customer—in this case, your employee. Once you have data, prioritize acting on it.
# 2. Communicate to your customers how your product or service can help solve a problem for them
Your employees are busy solving problems for customers and for the company.
Make it your mission to solve problems for your employees.
There are many ways to make the workday easier for employees and help them maintain a healthy work-life balance, and ultimately, the company benefits from these initiatives.
Make it easy for employees to take advantage of assistance and perks. Keep paperwork to a minimum. Make forms simple and straightforward. Don’t clutter inboxes with unnecessary email communications. Your employees have enough email to contend with, no doubt.
To cut down on communication noise and email overload, use software like Poppulo that enables you to target specific individuals, groups, and categories of people with communications that are relevant to them.
# 3. Demonstrate trustworthiness and integrity
Customers care about this, and employees do too. Be conscientious with employees’ private information, and worthy of their trust with confidential data. When there is important company news or a new program to announce, tell everyone at once, to avoid rumors or the sense that leadership is hiding something.
Stephanie Chavez, Global Chief Marketing Officer at PR agency Zen Media echoes this idea; she says, “Whether working in an office or remotely, transparency about what's going on in the company is essential so that there are no questions or room for gossip.”
Be scrupulous about following all laws and regulations pertaining to employee rights. Your employees deserve no less.
# 4. Give the customer options and agency
Everyone likes to have options. Ensure that employees are consulted about the plans that involve them, and that their preferences are implemented to the greatest extent possible. Give multiple options for the ways in which employees can participate in programs and events.
Offer choices about how they receive communications whenever practicable. Show that the company is interested in their opinions and values their input. When people have a sense of agency and feel involved in decision-making, they tend to feel more invested in the outcome.
# 5. Connect your product or service with what your customers care about
Consumers are holding businesses to higher standards with regard to their corporate values. As noted in this article in the Harvard Business Review, we have moved from Corporate Social Responsibility programs to a new era of Corporate Social Justice initiatives, and the bar is much higher.
If your customers are concerned about these issues, just imagine how deeply your employees care. Find out what your employees are passionate about, and make sure that your company is taking real, meaningful action.
If they care about reducing plastic waste, for example, there are specific steps the company can take, with employee participation and input, to meet this goal. Don’t fall back on corporate “greenwashing,” which doesn’t fool anyone and will just turn off customers and employees alike. Be the change.
To truly connect and engage with your company’s employees requires as much attention as is routinely lavished on prospective customers, but the returns are likely to be much richer, and practically guaranteed.
It’s a great bet.