Successfully marketing your product doesn’t start with running the perfect campaign to reach your customers — it starts from within.
To build great partnerships throughout your supply chain, you have to first engage your internal team members and the dealers and distributors that buy and sell your product.
But it can be easy for branded manufacturers to get stuck in the rut of using old communication paradigms for doing this. Because of the complex web of relationships along the value chain, many of these companies favor using the most efficient tools possible for brand training — think dealer portals, partner websites, email newsletters, or product information one-pagers.
These channels are outdated, though. While they can offer useful information, they lack in other ways. If you use these passive mediums to share uninteresting, one-size-fits-all content with your employees and partners, the result ends up being pretty unconvincing.
In the end, the ripple effects of relaying your brand vision to your employees and partner organizations without actively engaging them goes further than just hurting internal operations. Without internal brand engagement, it’s almost impossible to inspire representatives to believe in your story and then use that belief to improve the customer experience.
From Efficient to Effective
In manufacturing, there can be a default mindset of efficiency over effectiveness. It often feels easier to create a “one-stop shop” with messaging than to think creatively and critically about how to go about building a brand vision and communicating it to all the right players.
But when you prioritize efficiency only, it’s hard to spark intrigue with your internal teams and partners when you need to. Online portals, for example, once represented a breakthrough in dealer and partner support. Now they’re just table stakes. That said, it’s up to manufacturers to up the ante.
Think with a marketing mentality for a minute. Marketers are constantly evaluating their channel mix and assessing whether their messages are getting through to the customer. They ask themselves with every campaign whether they’re telling the right stories the right way for the right people. And when a channel or message isn’t performing, they rethink their approach.
Manufacturers can — and should — think similarly when it comes to internal audiences. Use tactics that let you engage employees just like external marketing campaigns engage buyers. In fact, start thinking of your employees as your internal customers. A shift in perspective can have a big impact.
Achieve Alignment Through Better Listening
Improving internal brand engagement all comes down to better listening. Here are four key ways to align your internal teams, identify one strong brand story, and create passionate storytellers to share it:
1. Evaluate your communication channels.
Conduct an assessment of the various tools and channels you’re using to communicate with your sales team, dealers, partners, and frontline representatives. Are they using them? If so, are they actually getting what they need from them? A little honesty with yourself will go a long way.
If they’re not engaged, see it as an opportunity to improve. Consider how you could make your brand training more enticing. Knowing that there’s room to grow is your chance to revamp your message and try a new, more dynamic approach.
2. Ask what they want.
A lot of misalignment happens when you don’t know what your employees and partners want or need. It’s comfortable to stick with the efficient training tools and messaging that you already know and use, so asking your stakeholders what would be helpful to them might feel like too much change.
But gathering feedback from your employees is the best way to discover what needs to change. Spend some time with your sales team and partners. Ask them how you can provide them better support, and then use their answers to recalibrate.
3. Move outside your comfort zone.
Be willing to try new things, even if they feel crazy at first. Remember, your goal is to cut through the noise by doing something different than what everyone else in your industry is doing. It usually takes a bold move to make progress.
Research has shown that companies with better brand alignment are forgoing email and traditional product training sheets in favor of things like internal brand events and peer-to-peer learning. They’re not afraid to change their strategies, and as a result, employees and partners are more confident and passionate about sharing the brand vision.
4. Build on what you learn.
If your goal is to build better internal engagement, your priority should be understanding your stakeholders as deeply as possible. You’re no longer just pressing “send” on an email and expecting them to make use of it. Instead, you’re opening up an ongoing dialog about what’s working and what isn’t and continually asking how you can do better. Build on the content and tools you’ve provided and watch engagement improve.
Creating aligned, engaged internal teams and partners is the bedrock of your marketing strategy. When your staff, partners, and stakeholders are on the same page, you’re setting your team members up to set your company apart.
Chris Wallace is the president and co-founder of InnerView, a marketing consulting firm that helps companies align their brand and product stories with their customer-facing teams. InnerView ensures the people who represent your brand have the tools and strategies to tell your company story confidently and consistently. Chris has nearly 20 years of sales, marketing, and corporate leadership experience. Connect with him on LinkedIn.