I recently spoke at B2B Marketing’s The Evidence event which was devised in parallel with the launch of The 2014 Evidence report of which I wrote Chapter 5 “How do we align and guide the brand internally?”. The report aimed to draw out the best evidence of marketing success from across the 2013 B2B Awards’ finalists and presents it in a way that will help B2B marketers to engage stakeholders and build a sound business case for sustained marketing investment.
I wanted to share my slides as I believe that in B2B marketing we have a big problem. It’s the problem with people.People are the difference between what our brand promises and what it actually delivers.
A co-speaker at The Evidence who I took a huge amount of inspiration from, Graham Wylie , said “The B2B decision process is 70% done when it goes to sales, but 54% of decision will be how the sales person closes”.
It is so important that our brand ambassadors are aligned to our message to market. But not just sales, a business with true marketing orientation will see the brand at the heart of all it’s activity from operations, to customer care and wider.
I’ve broken down what my slides cover into chunkable pieces below – if you are unsure of any areas please comment I will be happy to give further insight.
Slides 1-4 Background to the theme
Whether to achieve consistency across sales and marketing or to instil the brand values into the mindspace of a wider employee base, the common themes throughout the entries for the Best Internal Audience Campaign category stand out by a country mile – collaboration, inclusion and dialogue.
This is just marketing like we’ve always known… we just haven’t been very good at seeing our colleagues as a target market with needs, desires and interest that have to be satisfied in return for engagement. We don’t blame the target market if an external campaign goes wrong; we improve how we’re responding to insight from the group of people we’re targeting. As soon as we start to view our colleagues as a target audience with rational and emotional needs we can begin to communicate with them in the way they will respond to.
Slide 5 – The lines between HR and Marketing are blurring in a big way
When it comes to employee engagement the lines between HR and Marketing are blurring in a big way and more than ever B2B Marketers are being asked to ignite an emotional connection between the brand and its ambassadors.
There is a clear difference between our role as marketers and that of HR’s. Our efforts internally are to ensure our external customers and prospects actually get what the brand is promising. It’s very easy to end up clashing with existing employee engagement activity and not consulting with HR can lead to problems. Forming a strong relationship with our HR managers is crucial and we have to ensure all work is collaborative. Most importantly, while the work we’re doing will contribute to improving overall employee engagement and morale, this isn’t our main focus. We have to keep clear by setting objectives for change within the business that directly tie with our brand strategy and planned marketing activity.
Slides 6-11 The Problem with People
The problem with people is they are the difference between what a brand promises, and what it actually delivers. What makes this a problem? Well, most of us marketers aren’t seeing our colleagues as a target audience.
Slides 12 – 14 – How do we align and guide the brand internally?
There are four key stages to achieving internal brand activation that, when executed well, will take a B2B brand from misalignment and confusion amongst its employees to solidarity and consistency aiding successful delivery of the brand promise.
The internal activation process aims to define the behaviours that will enhance the brand, which is achieved through the creation of a clear, simple and motivational understanding of the brand strategy. This leads to effective mobilisation and deployment providing the architecture upon which with the external positioning, messaging and brand values can be delivered consistently across the business. While this process supports HR employee engagement it is not aiming to replace it and it will work very much in parallel to existing employee engagement activity. The role of employee internal activation is to ensure employees are representing and delivering on what the brand is promising.
Internal brand activation stage 1 – Determine desired behaviours
Our behavioural change targets need to be focussed on what will enhance the brand and we can only achieve this by setting clear objectives to motivate employees to deliver on the areas of the brand promise that apply to them. Engaging employees in the company vision and values to achieve the overall business strategy can see our efforts as marketers morphed into an HR force and our key focus diminished. The brand strategy is there to deliver the business strategy. HR’s role is to deliver towards the business strategy and ensure employees are delivering on the company values. Its marketing’s role to ensure behaviours across the internal audience reflect the brand, so we can see why these two areas are so easily mixed up.
That’s not to say that internal brand activation won’t deliver positive by-products including increased morale and motivation but if there is no link back to the brand strategy we can end up wasting our time and effort as a marketing resource.
Stage 1 – The Evidence
The winning entry ‘Step up communications programme’ for Unilever Food Solutions Global by Torch B2B was also born from a marketing focus:
“The challenge was to help UFS promote and launch a training programme that would focus on stepping up the impact of their channel and category marketing communications worldwide.” Torch B2B
By having a clear vision of what needed to be achieved, the campaign achieved 90% participation across their 54 marketing teams across the Globe, no easy task.
Internal brand activation stage 2 – Mobilisation
Setting the behavioural changes we want and actually getting them is where the fun really starts! We need to provide structure to ensure the consistent delivery of the desired brand impression to our internal audience. Treat your internal audience as you would your end user; as we know a purchase decision in the B2B space isn’t an immediate one. It takes time for your B2B buyer to come to a final purchase decision and act on it. In the same way your internal audience will take time to reach a state of brand championship.
B2B brands need big long ideas that have the ‘oomph’ to stay powerful and engaging right the way through the external buyer journey. From grabbing attention at awareness to getting more technical around the offering in the desire and action stages, our big long idea has to have the strength to remain compelling enough to nurture. The big long idea needs to encapsulate the differentiating factor that sets the brand apart; this then needs to be supported with a strong creative platform to bring the idea to life.
Internal brand activation is so important because it can prove dangerous to skip straight to execution of the big long idea externally without getting it in the mind-space of the organisation first. Your internal audience will go through a number of stages to reach full championship of the brand and an understanding of the behaviours they must instil and live by in order to deliver the brand values is where an employee journey map will support your process. Map out the key stages your internal audience will go through toward engagement as you would the external buyer journey. Once defined you can align the right messages, delivered in appropriate content formats and plan to deliver them at the right times as they move along this journey.
This is a big area where the lines between marketing and HR become fuzzy once again. Communicating and creatively engaging employees with the big long idea is different from forming a creative way to motivate employees to achieve in their respective roles toward the overall business strategy – this is HR’s role.
Stage 2 – The Evidence
Futitsu turned their mission “to use their experience and the power of ICT to shape the future of society” into an external big long idea ‘Reshaping ICT, Reshaping Business’ supported by the positioning “At Fujitsu, we continue to harness the power of ICT to enable our customers to meet new challenges and to build a more prosperous future for all”.
From this, their ‘Fill the pipe’ campaign was an internal activation of the brand featuring the big long idea – a perfect example of integrating the brand into the mind space of employees to deploy a big long idea in parallel with marketing activity. By launching the new offering to the sales and account management teams first, Futitsu could be confident that the big long idea would resonate with the target employees so that marketing activity would seamlessly integrate with the sales and customer service processes.
The programme saw healthy results that proved the effectiveness of the operation.
Internal brand activation stage 3 – Deploy and motivate
Create a clear, simple and motivational understanding of the brand strategy and communicate this across the business by mapping out activity, content and channels to support the different stages of the employee journey to engagement. From this, deploy ambient materials that clearly communicate at a glance the brand strategy and required behaviours.
It’s a good idea to embrace both structured and organic development, and get employees to collaboratively build the internal change through their own creativity, knowledge sharing and learning. A final note on successful deployment of internal brand activation is around leading by example and getting endorsement from the top of the organisation down. Unfortunately communications that come directly from the marketing department can get overlooked or even sent to the delete folder. Do some research into who best the communication should come from to get the attention of your internal audience.
Stage 3 – The Evidence
Berghind Joseph for the Tate & Lyle values campaign aimed to create a dialogue and level of interaction with the values of the business to maximise employee engagement. Using postcard drop boxes, interactive features on the intranet and by showcasing employees within the organisation who were living the values the campaign was made accessible and relevant.
A spokesperson for Tate & Lyle commented on the programme “This has really helped to cultivate a culture based around our values, and has subsequently improved performance.” This shows that working to motivate through inclusion will always give a more positive end result.
Internal brand activation stage 4 – Reinforce and set guidelines
Encouraging collaboration and inclusion doesn’t mean we’ll lose control of the brand. In fact it is important to shape on-going discussions on the big long idea and to support training on brand guidelines to keep your internal activation programme from derailing. Give your colleagues a guide to communicate the importance of working together to deliver your brand promise aligned to the business strategy and objectives. Encouraging senior managers to have a voice in the business is also a great way to achieve on-going reinforcement. Whatever you do, don’t stop communicating the brand promise and desired behaviours.
Plan for internal communications and activities throughout the year on an on-going basis that will promote the brand promise and keep your internal audience engaged. Just as you would create brand guidelines to guide your external communications and consistent communications aligned to your brand, you should endeavour to do the same for your internal audience.
Stage 4 – The Evidence
Xuber’s “There’s no place like home” campaign, delivered in partnership with Birddog B2B, had three senior staff members host a series of internal launch events to cover the vision of the business, insight into the new brand and an overview of marketing activity that would take place including online/offline advertising, PR, emails, guerrilla marketing and a unique City launch event. Senior staff members also engaged with employees through Twitter which led to a newly established social presence named the ‘Xuberians’ by staff themselves which enabled them to interact with their peers and leaders, giving staff a voice they didn’t have before. The execution of this approach is admirable as getting senior staff to dedicate their time to this sort of activity is no easy task but when it works, it delivers fantastic results.
Unilever’s Twitter avatar Frank Brand acted as a great advocate for reinforcing the brand strategy. By playing the role of a participating colleague who facilitated debate and knowledge sharing, the avatar got into the mind-set of the target audience on a level that enabled them to readily relate to the programme. Very clever. 45% of the respondents to an email sent out to measure the effectiveness of the programme had followed Frank Brand on Twitter, which proved that the character was a powerful component of the campaign.
Slide 26 – Closing statement
“Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I might remember, involve me and I’ll understand.”