Show Some Love

Valentine’s Day clichés aside, it’s a good time of year to start thinking about the positive differences your business can make to your own staff and bottom line through internal marketing.

Internal marketing

Marketing isn’t just about the perceptions of your customers. The market is comprised of anyone that is affected or influenced by your business. This includes staff, distributors and your local community. In business management, this is referred to as the triple bottom line a term originally coined by John Elkington

Triple Bottom Line

So, what exactly is internal marketing and isn’t it the same as human resources?

Internal marketing is different from HR management, which is more about resources and allocation and the general welfare of existing staff. Internal marketing is more about crafting perceptions for potential employees, creating a positive employer brand and improving climate and culture within organisations to drive innovation within teams.

Effective internal marketing can be difficult in that it requires very strong cultural links within an organisation. It’s not enough to simply brand your company as a nice place to work if the internal structures or behaviours don’t facilitate that image.

It’s also difficult because it will involve HR and senior management and everyone else in the organisation. Internal improvement is driven through mutual understanding and buy in from everybody, it’s very difficult to make happy staff through classical top-down management theory. But there are ways around this.

Where do you start?

The first thing to do is to assess the existing nature of your business. Analyse its hierarchical structure and the company culture and climate. The culture of an organisation is about how it’s structured, and the climate is about how people feel. For example, you could have lots of perks for the team but if the company is struggling the climate may be quite tense. All companies are different, so this step is crucial to success.

A family business might have a flat management structure where everyone is expected to chip in but at the same time, there is little personal blame and instead it is shared across the team. Alternatively, you may have a family business that is very top down, where management have strict hierarchies that do not allow for much communication and blame is personal. The variations are endless which is why you need to dissect the organisation and understand its structure quite thoroughly. Once these structures are understood, you can begin to think about internal marketing activities that will work within the cultural context of your business.

Now you understand how these relationships work, you can begin to improve communication across each team using a matrix structure. This sounds like management jargon, but the point is to simply break down barriers between teams and individuals, so they interact and in turn begin to work together and not separately or in some situations, against each other.

Adopting a matrix approach

Matrix organisation structure

The benefits of adopting a matrix approach to teams means that your business doesn’t have to alter its structure, which would be a logistical nightmare for most companies. A matrix structure alters communication between teams to ensure collaboration and accountability across teams while respecting any existing hierarchy. Making everyone happy.

Once you have these communication links open, people can begin to talk more openly and with greater understanding of each other’s work and how that fits into the big picture of the organisation. Good teams are built through close collaboration and mutual understanding.

All of this helps you to find out what teams and individuals want from their employment. Whether it’s more responsibility, project-based work, additional perks, higher pension contributions or any number of positive improvements that are valued across the whole organisation. You won’t know until you open lines of communications within teams.

These efforts make employees feel more valued as they will feel more engaged in their work. It helps to keep them actively involved in where they work and allows you as an employer to understand what matters to them. By keeping things reciprocal, everyone wins.

To use ourselves as an example, we run a charity of the year campaign. We’ve been running this for nine years now and feel very strongly about giving something back to those smaller charities who may otherwise struggle to fund PR and marketing activity. Employees and local clients live within the area of your business. Getting involved in the local community and making a positive difference demonstrates you are a responsible employer who cares about more than just the business itself.

Awards are another great boost internally and for business as well. By celebrating the efforts of the team they will feel more respected and feel that their work makes a difference. Winning awards also improves the climate of an organisation, as it’s bound to raise the mood internally.

A crucial part of internal marketing is also to ask your employees directly, what matters to them and how you can help them. A simple example would be helping employees with children by allowing them to have flexible hours or work from home. Another example is to understand what helps them destress and then try to facilitate that in the work place.

The benefits of marketing internally are high. From a management perspective you can retain talent, reduce turnover and gain access to future talent because of positive word of mouth from existing and former employees. All of this means reduced hiring costs but also better staff that contribute to your bottom line. People like to work for winners and they also like to work for nice people.

From an innovation perspective, it means that your teams communicate comfortably. New ideas can circulate without fear of being laughed at or mocked. More ideas lead to more innovation and businesses need to constantly adapt to their surroundings.

Businesses are built by people, so remember to love your people and they’ll love you back.

Richard Branson said “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

If you need support with internal or external communications about your business, we’d love to help.