Employees and Business Partners: Internal Customers
An organization thrives on the abilities of its constituents, namely its employees and business partners as they define the company’s ability in optimizing resources and competencies to convert opportunities into revenues. They are called the internal customers as they interact within the organisation internally to generate long term value. Like external customers, they too are impacted by the company’s brand and its future plans. An information-armed, enthusiastic work force boosts productivity, minimises turnover costs, creates profitable customer relationships, delivers better customer care while strengthening the corporate brand in the market place. However if your internal customers are not sufficiently aware of your marketing plans, and do not participate effectively in the promises to external clients, the external brand equity is negatively affected. It is very important that internal staffs’ perception of the organisation – your internal brand – matches the external brand positioning for optimum results. There are various techniques and tools that help organisations implement effective internal brand building and marketing communications. These are intranets, extranets (partner communication on the web), newsletters, posters and pamphlets informing about new initiatives, better systems, company stores, company events, internal rules and procedures.
Internal Marketing Approach
To be effective, internal marketing needs to accurately segment internal customers. Like external customers, they too have their own ‘buyer’ behaviour, i.e. identifying with the changes which organisations plan to implement. Broadly speaking there are three segments – supporters, neutral, ‘opposers’. Each segment requires a different internal ‘marketing mix’ to deliver on internal marketing goals. For example, if the company wanted to relocate closer to new emerging markets; it could target ‘supporters’ with a customised video on relocation benefits like low cost of living and better amenities. The ‘neutral’ internal customers could be targeted with incentives like a pay raise; while the ‘opposers’ could be effectively coerced / forced to accept the re-location regardless of their objection (in the larger interests of the company).
Key Success Factors
Internal marketing is an ongoing process that needs constant top management support and the process innovations to make it as viable as external marketing. Internal marketing is a dedicated effort across the organization,whereby it aligns, motivates and empowers people at all management levels to consistently deliver a satisfying internal and external customer experience. To ensure that it delivers consistently, internal marketing should:
- Function as a continual internal ‘up-skilling’ process
- Align the organisation’s purpose with employee behaviour
- Internalise core values of the organisation by all employees
- Motivate, reframe and empower employee attitude
- Facilitate an ‘inside-out’ management approach
- Retain a positive customer experience across all business objectives
- Provide role-specific and user-focused information, including best practices around various organisational policies and processes
- Increase the peoples’ connections with the external / internal customer service division’s roadmap by articulating investments, tactics, and objectives.
- Be available in a self service / portable format that is accessible anytime, anywhere Smart
Internal Marketing Tools
The web offers one of the best platforms for a consistent internal marketing experience across regional, national and international sections of an organisation. The web’s self service function and anytime/anywhere accessibility allows employees to leverage internal marketing programmes without significantly impacting their primary job roles. Besides this, the web allows the employees to form communities based on their personal likings and unofficial designations/department affiliations. This allows effective employee bonding, branding and learning at both the formal as well as informal (cultural) organisation levels. Proven web tools include intranets or even an internal facing website that creates online events, e-learning programmes, ‘expertise communities’, discussion forums and e-commerce exchanges. Intranets/websites also serve to keep employees consistently and accurately informed about the latest organisational initiatives and innovations so that they can leverage them when interacting with external customers. As the web enables the building of communities, within the organisation, people can leverage them to work faster and better collaboratively. For example a financial department can ask for a copywriter’s (marketing department) skills to draft an attractive costing / budgeting document for customers. Online advertisements can also be an effective tool to increase internal marketing’s reach. Informative advertisements about new customer wins, external initiatives, new process/technological innovations and external PR wins (press /analyst reportage) can be made to appear as employees connect to the Internet through the official network. The web is the most potent yet customer friendly internal marketing tool that tracks usage too. So organisations know what is working and what is not, besides enhancing the ability to be internally adaptive – to increase employee satisfaction and the overall internal marketing programme experience.