Monday, August 27, 2012

Internal Marketing: The Transformation from "Touchy-feely" to Hitting the Bottom-line.






Like everything else, it seems that internal marketing is undergoing a transformation - moving from the "touchy-feely" era of benefits to those that really hit the bottom-line hard.  Especially in these times of acquisitions, affiliations, and other cooperative arrangements.

Several summertime events have reinforced what we've thought all along - the value of building brand knowledge on the inside has immediate and very tangible results.

First, a personal experience from a recent summer trip that included a hotel scheduling snafu.  For some reason, the Marriott hotel I thought I was booked into, was actually sold out and did not have my name on the list.  Even with my usual "song and dance," the receptionist could not accommodate.  But, instead of sending me and my travel companion on our way to a competitor for four nights, she provided us a list of other Marriott branded properties in the area and called a special hotline for availability. She found one nearby and those four nights provided a nice four digit return to the corporate organization (a drop in the bucket, but those drops add up).  We've all shared this type of experience, but what struck me most was, what I'll call the "No Flinch Rule."  Instead of being flustered and randomly suggesting nearby hotels and other thoughts, this receptionist didn't flinch.  She immediately took out her list of affiliated hotels and began making phone calls.  Oh, and did I mention the complementary van ride to the other property.  She was in charge of the transaction.

Other recent, and work-related, experiences.  Here at Springboard, we have been knee-deep in planning for several clients and part of our Brand CURE process includes internal interviews with organizational leadership, board members, community leaders, and for healthcare organizations, physicians.  In almost every client situation, the lack of organizational knowledge surfaced as a key issue and is resulting in the loss of real dollars for the corporate brand.  In one case, a group of employed family doctors was referring specialty cases to a competitive brand because they did not realize the hospital had an affiliation with a different cardiology practice.  In another case, a "spoke" community hospital was not referring patients to the tertiary "hub" because nurses and case managers did not know about the transfer protocols/transportation provided to its patients. 

In both cases, the amount of immediate, downstream, and potential lifetime revenue lost for each patient would more than pay for the entire internal marketing effort!

In the battle for wallet share, the importance of the internal sell is greater than ever before.  It's no longer enough to reach employees and other stakeholders with a "feel good" message about the organization to instill a sense of pride and enthusiasm.  While these are hugely important benefits, they may or may not produce financial returns.  Today, organizations must educate the entire workforce on the value and composition of the brand.  For hospital networks, staff needs to know which entities are part of the system and the financial responsibility they have to keep patients on the inside.  

Today's new world of internal marketing requires a few shifts: 

  • Internal marketing is not just "rah rah"- Employee forums and organization-wide meetings should be transparent about the composition and value of the brand, and the financial responsibility to keep customers "on the inside."
  • From "Marketeers," to "Transactioneers"- Your workforce needs to move from the promotion of the organization to the selling of the organization.
  • It includes everybody; from the front lines to behind the lines - Oftentimes, referrals and transfers are driven by employees who work behind the scenes.  In addition to the front line staff, who are trained on "greeting and treating" customers, the back-room staff must be included.
  • Transparency means transactions - Be open about expectations and the value an "in house" referral brings to the entire organization.
  • Connect the operational dots - if you're expecting employees to keep business in-house, then the house must be in order and able to accommodate these situations.  The Marriott receptionist had a hotline to facilitate our reservation and a van to transport us to the other property.  That's internal marketing!
Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand development and communications firm with offices in the Chicago and D.C. areas. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or at rob@springboardbrand.com  Hospital Branding