Dr. Brian Monger
Prerequisites for Successful Internal Marketing
If internal marketing activities are implemented as a campaign only, or, even worse, as entirely separated activities without connections to other management factors, the risk that nothing enduring will be achieved is overwhelming. The organisational structure and the strategy of the firm have to support the establishment of a service culture. Moreover, the management methods and the management and leadership style of managers and supervisors have to be supportive if they are to be expected to fulfil their tasks in internal marketing.
The three prerequisites for successful internal marketing are:
· Internal marketing has to be considers an integral part of strategic management;
· The internal marketing process must not be counteracted by the organisational structure or by lack of management support; and
· Top management must demonstrate constantly an active support for the internal marketing process.
In order to be successful, internal marketing starts with top management. Next, middle management and supervisors have to accept and live up to their role in an internal marketing process. Only then can internal marketing efforts directed toward contact employees be successful. The employees ability to function as service-minded “part-time marketers” depends to a large extent on the support and encouragement they get from supervisors.
Only genuine leadership at all levels of the organisation can provide the inspiration necessary to sustain committed servers. Managing’ and ‘administering’ is not enough.
Finally, all other categories of employees have to be involved as well. The contact persons form a natural target market for internal marketing. They have the immediate customer contacts and do the interactive marketing job. However, they often depend on any support they can get from other employees and functions in the firm. Often there are a large number of employees who do not come In contact with customers themselves, but who nevertheless indirectly influence the service the ultimate customers get. The ability of contact employees to perform their interactive marketing task depends to a large extent on their service mindedness. Such groups of employees, the support personnel, should perform in a customer-oriented manner when they serve their internal customers.
In fact, they are “part-time marketers” as well, although their customers are internal and not external. Thus, support employees should also be included in the target audience for internal marketing programs.
In summary, the four main target groups for internal marketing are:
· (1) Top management;
· (2) Middle management and supervisors; and
· The “Part-time marketers”:
(3) Contact personnel;
(4) Support personnel.
It should be noted that the same person may occupy several positions. A support person may sometimes be in the position of a contact person. A supervisor who, for example, is supposed to be able to support and encourage contact persons may be a contact person serving customers, or a support person serving internal customers, regularly or occasionally.
The Internal Marketing Product
In order to make the external market respond, the firm needs acceptable Products – goods and services.
Of course, the same goes for the internal market as well. A customer-oriented performance, and thus good interactive marketing, cannot be expected to occur unless the organisation has something to offer its employees in return. The simple offering consisting of a job with a salary or a wage is in some cases enough even today. However, in most industries this belongs to the past, at least for most groups of employees.
The organisation will have to offer its internal market of employees a “product” which is attractive. The internal product consists of a job and a work environment which motivates the employees to respond favourably to management’s demands for customer orientation and good interactive marketing performance as “part-time marketers” and which, moreover, attracts and retains good employees. This obviously depends on, among other things, the management methods, the personnel policy, and the nature of the job itself and planning and execution processes. Hence, the internal product must be developed as carefully and as market-oriented as the external goods and services, and this requires strategic decisions by management concerning these issues.
Thus, internal marketing has to become part of the strategic management philosophy. Otherwise more operational internal marketing activities will be counteracted by demotivating jobs and work environments, caused, for example, by the attitudes and management style of managers and supervisors, or by a personnel policy that does not support customer consciousness but only other qualities.
Internal Marketing Activities
There is no exclusive list of activities that should belong to an internal marketing program. Almost any function or activity that has an impact, one way or the other, on the service-mindedness and customer consciousness of employees can be included. This, of course, follows from the notion that internal marketing, first of all, is a philosophy for managing the personnel and a systematic way of developing and enhancing a service culture.
However, typical internal marketing activities can be identified. The following list is, by no means, intended to be all inclusive. Nor does it distinguish between activities to be used in developing or maintaining a service culture or in introducing new goods, services, and marketing campaigns internally. Many of the activities are mutual for two or three of these situations.
A lack of understanding of the strategies of the firm and of the existence and importance of “part-time marketer” responsibilities is almost always present. “Service know-how” is lacking in the strategic thinking as well as on the operational level. This is partly due to insufficient or non-existent knowledge of the content of a service strategy, of the nature and scope of marketing in a service context, and of the employees role with dual responsibilities in the firm. This goes for contact and support employees as well as for managers.
Partly, this is an attitude problem. Indifferent or even negative attitudes have to be changed. On the other hand, attitude problems normally follow from a lack of understanding of facts. Therefore, the tasks of improving the level of knowledge about reality and of changing attitudes are highly intertwined. Indoctrination is just as important as technical training.
Training, either internal or external training programs are most frequently needed as a basic component of an internal marketing program.
Three types of training tasks can be included:
- Developing a holistic view of how a service strategy works and what the role of each individual is in relation to other individuals, functions within the firm, and customers;
- Developing and enhancing favourable attitudes toward a service strategy and part-time marketing” performance; and
- Developing and enhancing communications, sales, and service skills among the employees.
Training, together with internal communication support, is the predominant tools of the communication management aspect of internal marketing. However, to some extent they are also part of the attitude management process.
Internal interactive communication
No training program alone is enough in an internal marketing program. In order to achieve continuation in such a program, the role of top management, middle management, and supervisors is paramount.
The management support can be of various types, for example:
· Continuation of formal training programs by everyday management actions
· Active encouragement of subordinates as part of the everyday management task
· Involving the subordinates in planning and decision making
· Feedback to subordinates and flow of information and two-way communication in formal and informal interactions
Establishing an open and encouraging internal climate
Normally, people returning from a course are left almost alone. The supervisor is not very interested in what they have learned and how to make use of new ideas and factual knowledge. The employees are, at best, left alone to implement new ideas. Even more frequently, the returning employees realise that everybody, especially the boss, is totally uninterested in what they have learned. Sometimes they get the impression that the fact that they have been away for training has only created problems, for example, with under-capacity. Nobody seems to care about any positive effects of the course. In such situations, any new idea and favourable-attitude effects are rapidly destroyed.
Instead, the manager or supervisor should encourage the employees to implement new ideas and help them realising how they could be applied in their specific environment. Moreover, some on-the-premises training is often helpful and encouraging as a continuation of the course or training program.
The management style demonstrated in the daily job by managers and supervisors has an immediate impact on the job environment and internal climate. Probably, recognition is the issue that keeps it going. It may sound soft, but it is critical. The mere way of managing is, therefore, an internal marketing issue.
Joint planning and decision making with the employees involved is a means of achieving commitment in advance to further actions that emerge from the planning process.
Moreover the “psychological closeness” between contact persons and customers suggests that front line employees have valuable information about the needs and desires of customers, so that the involvement of these employees in the planning process leads to improved decision making.
The need for information and feedback has been discussed previously. Here, the supervisor has a key role. Moreover, he or she is responsible for creating an open climate where service-related and customer-related issues are raised and discussed.
Management support and the internal interactive communication are the predominant tools of the attitude management aspect of internal marketing, but they are, of course, key ingredients of communication management as well.
Most managers and supervisors realise that there is a need for them to inform their subordinates about new service-oriented strategies and new ways of performing in the buyer-seller interactions, and to make them understand and accept new strategies, tasks, and ways of thinking. However, many persons do not know how to do it. Therefore, it is important to develop various kinds of supporting materials. Video and other audio-visual type materials and written material explaining new strategies and ways of performing can easily be used by managers during meetings with their subordinates. Moreover, brochures, internal memos, and magazines, as well as other means of mass communication, can be used in direct internal campaigns.
Human Resource Management
It is essential to get and keep the right kind of employees in a firm.
You can train people to do any task, but to get people with a friendly attitude; it usually starts with recruitment and hiring. This, in turn, requires proper job descriptions, where the “part-time marketing” tasks of contact and support employees are recognised. Job descriptions, recruitment procedures, career planning, salary, wage and bonus systems, and incentive programs as well as other personnel administration tools should be used by the organisation in such a manner that the internal marketing goals are pursued.
No one of these tasks is new. However, they are often used in a passive way, more like administrative procedures than as active marketing like tools to achieve internal objectives. Moreover, the external marketing implications of these tasks are far too often neglected, either for “cost efficiency” reasons or because management just is not aware of them. Because of the traditional management approach, most employees are considered costs only, and not revenue-generating resources.
It is easily noted that in many service organisations the high customer contact jobs are those that are also commonly entry level positions in the organisation; e.g., counter workers in fast food restaurants, airline flight attendants, bus drivers, office receptionist, etc. Good performance in these jobs often results in a promotion to a low contact (often managerial) job.
Two dangers are seen here.
First, the organisation places its success in the hands of the newest, least trained employees.
Indeed, in cases such as a fast food restaurant or a local bus system these employees also account for most of the organisation’s cash transactions.
Secondly, those who do well in this line work are often promoted and removed from it leaving the less competent employees in the high customer contact jobs.
The lack of logic of this type of staffing and career development strategy is all too evident. Yet, it is all too frequently applied.
External mass communication
The internal effect of any external mass communication campaign or activity is seldom fully recognised. However, the employees almost always form a very interested and responsive target audience for advertising campaigns, public relations activities, and other means of mass communication.
Advertising campaigns, brochures, and specific ads should be presented to the employees before they are launched externally. This may create commitment and decrease confusion. One step further would be to develop such campaigns in cooperation with the employee groups affected by the external communication effort.
Market research, both internally and externally, can be used to find out, for example, attitudes toward “part-time marketing” tasks and service oriented performance.
Market segmentation can be applied in order to find the right kind of persons to recruit for various positions in the organisation.
In summary, we can divide a continuous internal marketing process into three stages:
(1) A profound analysis of the nature of a service strategy and of attitudes among employees and customers,
(2) Getting people to understand what it is all about to be customer conscious and have an excellent interactive marketing function, and finally,
(3) Achieving continuous customer-oriented and service-oriented operations.
How to Implement an Internal Marketing Strategy
When starting to plan and implement an internal marketing strategy, a few guidelines should be observed. First of all, the internal focus of internal marketing has to be recognised and fully accepted by management. Employees sense that management considers them important when they are allowed to participate in the process; both in an internal research process and in planning their work environment, the goals and scope of their tasks, information and feedback routines, and external campaigns. When employees realise that they are able to involve themselves in improving something that is important to them, they will be inclined to commit themselves to the business and the internal marketing strategy.
However, the external focus of an internal marketing strategy and any internal marketing program should never be forgotten. Improving the work environment and tasks for the employees is, of course, an important objective in its own right. It is, nevertheless, the external marketing impact of every employee that is the ultimate focus of internal marketing. The ultimate objective is to improve the customer consciousness and service mindedness, and thus, in the final analysis, the interactive marketing abilities and the external marketing performance of the personnel. Consequently, the internal and the external focus of internal marketing go hand in hand. None of them should be forgotten.
It should always be remembered that the internal marketing program will fall if it is viewed as being just tactical and initiated only at the customer contact level involving only contact employees. This level alone cannot breed a service culture for the organisation, nor reach the many support persons who also have to function as “part-time marketers” internally. Only in a situation where a solid service culture has been established can the internal marketing of, for example, an advertising campaign or a new service be directed toward a specific target group of, say, contact employees in a certain department. In all other situations, internal marketing has to involve, and start with, top management, and also include middle management and supervisors. And, as we have said, a continuous support from management, not only by paying lip service to internal marketing, but by active involvement in the process, is necessary.
Five pragmatic aspects of the internal marketing program are:
1. Managers: The success or failure of the internal marketing program depends on the change attitudes and behaviours of the managers. The aspects of service awareness must become part of the daily routines of managers. And just plying lip service to a service strategy is not enough. The behaviours and concerns of managers are quickly reflected in the attitudes and behaviours of employees. It must be remembered that managers normally get the subordinates they deserve.
2. Internal digital and other internal mass information: The internal marketing must be reflected in the company internal (social) messaging. The style in which they are written will have a direct impact on employee attitudes-an effect which can snowball in time.
3. Management support: The role of top management has been mentioned above, but the role of middle management and supervisors is emphasised here. Giving information, tutoring, advising, helping, encouraging, and controlling is the best way of giving information, and receiving information in return, in a supportive way.
4. Training: The vocational training creates the basic knowledge and skills. After that foundation, it is possible to intensify the change of attitudes. Training should always include two-way communication.
5. Coordination of sub programs: The coordination of internal and external programs is essential, because of their strong interaction. Coordination also concerns the time span. Although internal marketing is a continuous process, a five-year action plan can never be successful. From the very beginning it is too expensive to be accepted. It is much better to create the long-range structures, define the target, and operate with one year plans within this structure.
Dr Brian Monger is Executive Director of MAANZ International and an internationally known consultant with over 45 years of experience assisting both large and small companies with their projects. He is a specialist in negotiation and behaviour He is also a highly effective and experienced trainer and educator
He is very well known and highly regarded as a Linked In groups manager
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