Anne Marie Thomas, Chief Executive Officer, bella crescita, uses her offerings and years in strategy, sales, marketing and operations for her management consulting clients to grow top and bottom line for their companies.
I have enjoyed a fortunate career of building some of the world’s best and most iconic brands: Victoria’s Secret, PINK, Bath and Body Works, NetJets – A Berkshire Hathaway Company and American Greetings are just some of my favorites. They are all great growth and longevity success stories. Moreover, their consumer advocacy and loyalty are a shared fortune. I smile every time I make a purchase or talk with a current consumer. Proud to be part of their brand histories and I wish them success for years to come.
The aforementioned brands and many more top-of-mind brands like Facebook or Amazon have impeccable visions that are necessary, but not sufficient. While great brands and their collective achievements are no accident, it is also more than all the investments in talent, strategic planning, product and marketing development, hiring, process development, testing, long days and rigorous business planning. Again, all foundational. But one critical key to success I have used over and over is often overlooked because of its simplicity. An internal communications program that is meticulously planned and invested in – also known as associate marketing – is often underestimated in terms of impact in ultimate brand success in the market.
Think of it like this, all great brands invest in integrated and multi-touchpoint marketing to drive consumers to become loyal advocates over time. Some invest more, some less marketing dollars, but I have yet to find no budget and no marketing calendar. But if a company really wants a great customer experience and ultimately great brand performance, shouldn’t you invest those same types of dollars and rigor in making your associates loyal brand advocates? I call it branding from the inside out and it, too, is necessary for building a great and lasting brand.
Branding from the inside out is a simple concept. It is a deliberate, associate marketing program that is targeted at producing raving associate brand advocates with the passion to row the company in the vision’s direction. A leadership team can have an exceptional vision and many do, but that does not mean it is actually executed in the market as they had it in their Power Point to the board. If they do not crisply communicate and engage their associates at the appropriate levels for their roles, they will not optimally execute and generate the desired performance.
Many companies make the mistake that the quarterly briefing or annual meeting or sales meeting will do it. Those may be part of an associate marketing program, but those one-way communication tools often end up being informative, but not engaging. And often they do not touch the associate in a purposeful and meaningful way. Everyone, from the head of legal to the procurement manager to the all-important admin, needs to know how they fit in the vision and how their role helps make it a reality. It needs to be a carefully crafted and invested-in integrated associate marketing program that allows for leadership and associate two-way interaction and dialogue that fosters trust, evokes passion and supports behaviors to deliver results.
Just like every brand uses different marketing techniques over time to create loyal customers, so too will the associate marketing techniques and calendar. Some associate marketing calendars will include town halls or briefings and departmental and interdepartmental meetings and updates. Others will include CEO lunches and roundtables with cross-sections of associates and roles. Many will have digital communities for associates to chat with one another and leadership. Some will include employee satisfaction surveys and focus groups. And many will include the all-important employee review that connects their goals to the goals of the company. It all depends on the brand, the leadership team and size of company.
However, there are a few common points that will make any associate marketing program a success and begin the journey of branding from the inside out:
- Ensure your leadership team is sincerely committed to the vision and to investing in an associate marketing program.
- Develop a corporate calendar that is rigorous in ensuring that every meeting and associate interaction cascades information and engages the associates in the vision.
- Appoint a visionary human resource leader and team that can help foster not only the needed skills and capabilities, but also can drive organizational design and development, as well as a culture that meets the vision.
- Commit resources that can help drive the associate marketing program much like a marketing team and creative agency execute consumer marketing programs.
If the vision is to build a strong consumer or customer brand, start inside with a strong devotion to your most important brand advocate and asset, your employee. If you are committed to that and would like to discuss what these strategies mean for your organization, please email me and we will get you started.