“Marketing is the art of getting ideas about a company and its products out to as many people as possible, in the hopes of converting them to customers.” – Empowered
Marketing, in a nutshell, is nothing more than storytelling. The question is: Can an organization effectively tell its compelling story to customers enough to make them purchase services or product? This is the bottom line of marketing success: how to get the company story out and told to others.
The story about a company is told in many different and interactive ways including the website we show the world and the pamphlet we design that shows our expertise. Through the podcasts, videos, pictures, and content we provide to our customers and fans. It’s told in our interactions with our customers, how we treat them and what they tell others about us. The story of our company is also told in how our product or service performs once purchased and if it meets the needs of the customer.
We have seen many evolutions in our ability to tell stories – from the Rosetta stone to the Bible, from the Gutenberg press to the Industrial Revolution, from the Internet to the new social or interactive media. It is with this latest invention – social and interactive media – that we find ourselves in this current state of a marketing evolution. We now have the ability to be on the ground level with our customers, convincing them through social media that our story (product, service, and brand) is the best. Our story can now be a powerful and intimate one-on-one conversation.
This begs the question: who do we get to tell the story? In their new book, Empowered, Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler discuss the notion of using your internal staff to join the social media bandwagon and begin to tell the story of your company. “Companies must respond to the increasing versatility and spontaneity of the business landscape with the emergence of social media, empowered customers, and a more connected and intelligent community. The first line of defense for companies will be their employees – innovative, dedicated, product and service knowledgeable and willing to help the greater cause of the company. The challenge is to encourage technology innovation without generating chaos within companies and organizations. In order to succeed with newly empowered customers, you must empower your employees to solve customer problems,“ state Bernoff and Schadler.
The bridge between your story and the new social technologies (and yes, social technology WILL BE the future of marketing) is your very own employees!
Our Personal Experience
We thought this would be a good blog to write about because we’re seeing this emergence in both our own company, as well as in our work with several clients. Within our own company, New Directions, we have worked for 2 years to build a community of readers and interactive relationships with former clients, current clients, and future clients to better inform the business world of our services. We have told our story through our various website revisions, our weekly blog posts, our slow and steady journey into social media (Facebook, Twitter) and videos (like our 2-Minute Offense) and other media. Yes, we do a lot of this as a free customer service to help professionals grow and develop. However, we also do this to better tell our own story, develop our brand, and show our expertise and potential service opportunities to clients. It is our belief that when the time is right, when the customer is in need, they will remember our story; they will remember the value and expertise we offered them. At that point we will only be a call or click away for services. This is more than a belief. This is a measured effect as we have brought on a variety of new and returning clients based almost solely on our continual interaction with them via new media.
There is a caveat to New Direction’s exploration into interactive marketing that’s worth mentioning here. Through our interactions with fans, friends, clients, and readers you all are helping us find out where we need New Directions to go and what we want it to be in the future. In essence, you – our reader and customer – are defining and reinventing our brand and the New Direction’s story every single day. You do this with your input, requests, suggestions, and comments. This gives us the ability to tweak our product and services based on that input. It’s really quite thrilling! This spring will be very exciting for us here, so stay tuned.
As mentioned, we are also currently working with a couple of small companies helping them gear up for this new empowered marketing model. More than the new, cool technology and tools available, I hope I have made a clear point when consulting with these clients that the story – their story – will always win the day. That, yes, we can train and teach you how to use the tools, but clearly presenting your mission, vision and a clear picture of who and what you are through these new technologies is the most important concept to grasp.
When working with clients to develop this new marketing approach and model (new social technologies + empowered employee + continuous product improvement + quality customer service) we’re seeing that most clients are exploring this option as a means to cut costs by bringing marketing in-house. However, to my surprise, when interviewing one of our clients for this very blog post, they had a second reason for bringing marketing in-house. Their main reason for building capacity in-house was to “empower our internal staff to believe in our mission and to be able to tell our story to others.” The client went on to say, “no one knows our products, our customers, and our brand better than our staff does. Yes, we could go out and have a big marketing firm do our marketing for us, but at the end of the day – it’s our internal staff I want developing our message and dealing with our customers on the front line. It made the most sense to have them develop our marketing approach.”
Beginning an Empowerment Program
Empowerment of employees will start with individual employee autonomy. As leaders, we will have to instill entrepreneurial curiosity back into our staffs. With a new crop of socially active and intelligent employees (Digital Natives) joining the workforce yearly (75% of Millennials have created a profile on a social networking site, 53% of the total blogging population is 21-35 years old, 1 in every 5 Millennials has posted a video of themselves online, 41% of Millennials use only a cell phone and have no landline, over half of YouTube’s users are under 20 years old)*, you won’t have to look hard to find capable staff to be your in-house marketers, but they do need the freedom to explore, create, and innovate. Personally, I find this to be the first big hurdle when starting an in-house marketing team – early empowered employees struggle to think outside of the box. One way to root out hidden talent among your staff is to run your staff through a skill scan (download free template).
The empowered employee will also need a great source of direction (especially, in the beginning) from senior leadership. They will be young, green, and perhaps intimidated with the prospect of being “the voice” of the company. A strong relationship and over- communication is a good start to ensuring success. Senior leadership will have to set the tone and guidelines for the empowered employees as well as the company. There will be resistance to this idea. A culture of sharing, communication and innovation will have to be present in your company’s culture in order for the empowered employee to succeed.
I could write a whole blog post on the tasks, content, and relationships needed to launch an internal marketing team; however that will have to wait for another day. I’ll leave you with this great story of Rob Sharpe (courtesy of the book, Empowered), head of Sales Training at Black and Decker and his simple action that transformed his internal sales team. It’s not specifically marketing focused, but it shows the potential of an empowered staff.
“Rob Sharpe, head of Black & Decker’s sales team, was successful at his job of providing training courses to B&D’s sales groups, however he figured there was a better way to present some of his material. Being a visual learner himself he began to look into YouTube. After seeing the raw potential it had to teach and train others and on a mass scale, he equipped his staff with $150 Flip cameras and a free video-editing program called MovieMaker. He told them to start to develop short videos that would better demonstrate some of the trainings and sales techniques that were essential to B&D’s success. He set up an internal server for his staff to house the videos on and then he waited. An amazing thing started to happen – the training staff and salespersons of B&D started creating their own training videos and posting them on the site’s intranet for all internal staff to see.
One employee sent in video of a competitor’s products highlighting their weakness in a highly visual way that the other salespeople could relate to. This was only the start, soon other sales and training videos began pouring into B&D’s intranet – documenting challenges, product features, solutions that worked best in sales situations.
And the results of the empowered staff have become staggering. Videos on B&D’s site now attract hundreds of views from workers a day. Between 15-20 training videos are posted a month. The most popular videos get viewed by half the sales force. Videos include how the power tools are used on job sites and feedback on the tools. Sales training used to take two weeks bringing all staff into a 17,000-square-foot workshop with every imaginable device offered by B&D. Now it takes one week with new staff spending 15 hours online viewing the videos before even coming to the training center.”
If new social technologies, an empowered staff, quality customer service and continuous product improvement are the key elements to telling and marketing the Black and Decker story, it would seem that the company is in a good position to take on a brave new world of marketing.
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