Herding cats. Boiling the ocean. Kicking whales down the beach. Aligning employees and customers to the brand.
Easy to say. Tough to do. And it’s not just a job for HR, Training, or Organizational Development alone. Marketing and brand have untapped power in this arena.
Alignment is a topic of endless discussion, with no definitive solution. But organizations spend billions on it because at the end of the rainbow is a legendary pot of ROI. You’ve heard it all before: Employees who are aligned with customer and company goals automatically collaborate better. They make better, customer-driven decisions that ultimately cut management costs and raise revenues, engagement, and retention. In essence, aligned employees make it their mission to close the gaps between customer and company.
So why do organizations continue to communicate differently with employees and customers using Internal Communication and External Communication, respectively? It ultimately costs more money, causes unnecessary complexity, and inherently tells two different stories or evokes separate motivations, or at least presents different postures.
There are some types of internal communications that customers don’t want to be bothered with. But on the other hand, there is a litany of excuses not to use the same communications for others that promote transparency. The bottom line is many organizations don’t know how to be truly customer-driven. So they default by adapting the internal story of (profit focus) “you have a sales quota to meet” to the external story (customer focus) “trust that we’ll do the right thing for you, our customer.”
Among the “good reasons” internal communications need to be different from external, we’ve heard:
- The internal story and external stories are just different
- If customers knew how messed up we are on the inside they’d flee
- It’s too technical for consumers to understand
- How we do things internally is no one’s business but ours
… there are probably at least 100 more
Transparency builds trust with every stakeholder so, think of alignment as one complete story. The internal folks need the whole story. External stakeholders (distributors, customers/consumers) many times don’t need to hear the details, but should be entitled to hear the entire story as they become closer to the brand.
Imagine a poster with big headline type and smaller body type, graphics illustrating various details, and maybe even some smaller caption type. Employees and customers should all see the same poster. An employee, who works near the poster every day, sees all the details and words clearly … although it’s good for him to read the large headline type every day as he walks in the door. The consumer is passing by on the sidewalk. She can clearly read the headline and sees the same graphics the employee sees. As the she becomes a customer, she moves closer and begins to see more of the same detail that the employee sees. There’s nothing written on the back of the poster, hidden from the consumer or customer. Everything is transparent and therefore everyone is working on the same issues: how to make life better for customers.
Using different versions of the same marketing and educational assets for all stakeholders makes life simple for marketers and reduces skepticism among customers. Combining education and entertainment allows it to be multi-facing, showing ideal interactions and true sentiments. In fact it can turn the tables for a selling monologue to a buying dialog because you’re feeding both sides verbal and non-verbal information they need to do business.
Edutainment: A Tool for Alignment and Engagement
Edutainment is particularly well suited to high-involvement products and services and web applications like videos, interactive infographics, and gamification. It presents the same information in different levels of depth and focus aligning all stakeholders simultaneously. Wrapping education in well-produced assets can present an approachable brand personality with a customer-driven mission in real-life context. This is where the rubber meets the road; where customers see how employees should behave, and employees see how customers react. Brands that have a lock on this are famous: Apple, Southwest airlines, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, and Amazon. Some lump it all under “culture.” But how is the culture created and sustained?
Aligning through a stream of multi-facing assets—especially those with an appropriate sense of humor—creates brand transparency. They automatically align, reduce marketing friction and management costs, and accelerate innovation.
GroPartners Consulting creates edutainment assets for several industries, including financial, insurance, and retirement products and services.
For more perspective on bridging strategy and execution, including practical tools and processes for brand operationalization, get a copy of Getting There From Here: Bridging Strategy and Execution, by Greg French, founder of GroPartners Consulting. E-book at iBooks or hard copy from Amazon.com.