Everyone seems to have a strong opinion about marketing. This can be confounding to the marketers who create it. Most employees, whether they are in engineering, finance, sales or service, have thoughts about how their company should present itself to the world, and how it should get customers. While marketers usually don’t provide direction to the engineering or finance teams, for instance, it doesn’t stop those teams from sharing opinions about marketing.
Marketer’s are sometimes frustrated by this “meddling” from other areas within the organization. But the days of telling the rest of the company to back off and mind their own business went the way of Mad Men. Today, marketers must have new skills to solicit feedback from key stakeholders in the organization, educate them, provide transparent data-driven marketing strategies, and lead the process of gaining alignment.
This is most important when refining a company’s identity and messages. Just as the mother of the bride has strong ideas about the wedding dress, employees of all levels care deeply about how their place of employment appears to the world. And if they are not consulted in the process of creating the image, messages and personality for the company, they tend to fail to adopt and use them properly. The “not invented here” syndrome is alive and well.
The good news, however, is that employees do care about marketing, and they want to be proud of it. So it’s a marketer’s job to channel that good caring into consensus-building and support.
A series of structured one-on-one stakeholder interviews to guide each individual through open ended questions provides the opportunity for them to offer their perspective and preferences. It’s important for marketers to avoid offering reasons, explanations or justifications at this point. It takes a skilled listener to put her feelings aside, and to encourage with, “Tell me more…”, but this is extremely satisfying for the interviewee, and will pay off later on.
After the interviews are complete, analyze the findings to discern where the areas of agreement and disagreement lie. Create an executive summary presentation to share how the team agrees and where they don’t. Verbatim quotes in the speaker’s own words are helpful to express this. However, it usually works best to keep these anonymous so that those expressing the most radical ideas don’t feel called out. At this stage, marketers can mediate the discussion, but it’s important to let the team find their own way towards a common perspective.
After the stakeholders have had an opportunity to provide feedback and get on the same page, they will be ready to learn about the marketing direction that has been created based on the foundation of their input. Often, stakeholders need to be reminded that they are not the target audience. While some aspects of the marketing may not appeal to them, it must appeal to the target audiences.
A visual roadmap is helpful for the organization to see where marketing is headed, and what the status is. This builds excitement and support. It also helps create internal appreciation for all the work that goes into what marketers do.
This overall consensus will ensure that all players, from the C-suite, to support roles, will get behind the new marketing direction, and help push it out in their own way. There is tremendous power in having a united organization on the same page. It makes for a formidable competitor in the market, and costs relatively little for the impact it provides.
This article originally appeared in the Austin Business Journal.
Use these steps to create a “message framework”, for consistent selling to customers, employee recruitment and communicating with the press and industry insiders.
B2B companies tend to all say the same things. They use a limited vocabulary of terms that end up sounding like what I call “marketing gobbledy-gook”.