Collectively, employees have access to tremendous intel, can offer valuable and varied insights/ideas, and have their fingers on the pulse of customers’ wants and needs. They also represent, to some extent, a microcosm of the outside marketplace. So, their observations and preferences can help drive customer service, branding and marketing programs.
To succeed, however, you need to have your own house in order first. Solomon speaks to a “change of mindset that has surprising power – cultural transformational power, even – once accomplished. It’s when you start thinking about ‘my customers in Department X’ and stop thinking, perhaps with a visible chip on your shoulder, about ‘those folks in Department X.’ If you can get this into your language, and your mindset, a lot changes. Internal requests, whether simple requests for a sign-off on a document or for heavy lifting (literally or otherwise) will start seeming less like drudgery and more like opportunities to serve, and you’ll find ways to prioritize that internal work and handle it with grace…”
This internal culture shift translates to external customers. Notes Solomon, “…all of this is part and parcel with, not removed from, what is needed to provide superior customer service externally as well...Most organizations out there that are great for customers are great places to be an employee as well. The overlap, in other words, between ‘best places to work’ and ‘best places to shop’ is pretty solid.”
Given this potentially extraordinary contribution that goes way beyond a job description, why do so many companies under-utilize, under-motivate, under-pay, or even set up employees to outdo each other in an environment that tacitly encourages back-stabbing? There are myriad reasons for this malady, but there is one overarching solution: Start treating and valuing your employees as though they are an immeasurable treasure – because they are.
Solomon points out that companies not embracing the best places to “work and shop” paradigm may not survive. He says, “There are some companies that fall outside of this generalization, unfortunately. Those that do tend to have some killer app, monopoly or other inherent advantage that allows them – for now – to give customers something great while simultaneously grinding their employees down to a nub. Let’s just say: in my opinion, this isn’t a sustainable way to do business.”
Clearly, supporting employees is a good business practice. Instilling and enhancing a company culture that promotes employees treating each other as customers, then extrapolating that mindset to external customers, is an excellent place to start. Let’s take a look at what reinforces that effort as well as participation in branding and marketing:
1. Assess employee interests and aptitudes, then enroll the right people in the right roles to help design and implement new programs. Forward-thinking companies regularly discover employee aptitudes and interests that cross into areas outside their job description – then utilize their talents accordingly. Make sure that this extends to designing and deploying marketing/branding efforts. There may well be budding creative geniuses, graphic designers, et al. among the employee population. And, often, some of the best observations and suggestions come from those you would least expect – if they are given a forum and encouragement to do so.
2. Offer acknowledgement and rewards that employees value and that show you really care. (The worst thing is to pay lip service to it, expecting employees to step up and contribute solely because of the challenge or interest.) In other words, make it worth their time with perks they value. Is an exercise/fitness center a possibility? How about a lunchroom offering free meals or items? How about subsidizing continuing education? What about negotiating great rates on such experiences as dining, hotels and trips by “buying in bulk” and passing savings on to employees? (Even such simple ideas as doing an employee get-together at a local restaurant in return for free appetizers and drinks can be effective. The restaurant gets group business; employees get a well-deserved break.)
3. Conduct periodic marketing/branding contests, a la crowdsourcing ideas, solely with your employees. Ideas selected come with company-wide acknowledgement of the employee and some type of award – perhaps an all-expenses paid weekend getaway. Think about it. Many companies pay gazillions of dollars to third parties for these services. Why not tap your internal resources as part of this effort? (I recently watched an old episode of The Tonight Show where Johnny Carson detailed rather banal network slogans deployed year after year that cost hefty sums using such third parties as ad agencies.)
Operate on the premise that employees are customers, too. It can serve as a powerful way to stay productively focused on a company asset vital to continued growth and profitability.
Mark Lusky is a marketing communications professional who has worked with Lightning Labels, an all-digital custom label printer in Denver, CO, USA, since 2008. Find Lightning Labels on Facebook for special offers and label printing news.