Ignoring internal advocacy’s role in building a brand will lose staff and sales

‘You can’t be special, distinctive, compelling in the market-place unless you’ve built something special, distinctive, compelling in the workplace’, so the Harvard Business Review claimed last year.

Jonathan Earl

In any business, there are three, often conflicting groups – shareholders, staff and customers – that need to be nurtured and loved for the business to have any chance of long term success.

The role of staff is often forgotten or paid lip service to but you ignore them at your peril. Such short-term thinking is a route to diminished satisfaction and sales as well as the loss of precious knowledge within the company.

Devotion to your people can create internal fandom. A fan is someone who will go out of their way to talk about your company in a positive way; promote and showcase your products and services and let’s face it, is a fraction of the cost of a TV advert.

Internal fandom is something that requires years of dedication to realise but can be started through three simple steps:

Have a clear purpose. Many companies have ‘the what’ they are in business for and ‘the how’ they will achieve success; but many fail on ‘the why’ they are in business. What gets their own people out of bed in the morning? Knowing the why you are in business and being able to communicate that reason will attract like-minded individuals.

In Slovakia, where I was CMO of Telefonica O2, our purpose was the belief that we could better serve Slovak consumers who had been cheated by established Czech and Slovak people. Everything we developed underpinned this purpose and we achieved double digit revenue and profit growth; more net additions than our competitors put together and the highest internal and external customer satisfaction.

Make sure that every proposition, every experience, application and product supports your purpose and that every word on a press release and internal communication underpins why you exist. This will only reinforce the decision that the employee originally made to join you. Be ruthless.

Zappos and Amazon openly ask their people the question – are they still pleased they made the investment to join. Zappos runs a Pay to Quit programme known as ‘The Offer’ for their new recruits. ‘The Offer’ is attractive at one month’s salary and about 2 – 3% take it. However, can you imagine how the other 97% feel about the company and how committed they are to the cause.

Amazon are implementing something similar across their company. It provides its people with the chance to leave once a year and in a world of choice this is a brave and bold call.

Repeat, repeat, repeat your reason for living; why you are doing what you do. Don’t ever assume that your people just get it. If you work on the premise that they will take one extra nugget away with them every time you communicate then repetition is king to your company’s success.

Ignore or pay lip-service to your own people at your peril. Internal fandom will drive rewards beyond your CFOs dreams!

Jonathan Earle is Head of customer strategy and development for Telefonica UK

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