In larger companies new employees receive a welcome packet upon hiring. In addition to the standard employee HR forms there is usually documentation detailing the history of the company. More importantly, there is often a description of the products and services. Through this documentation new employees learn how to communicate information about the company. The scripted message is spoken throughout the organization and into the marketplace. As subtle as this may seem, this strategy provides an impetus to company growth. When you consider the amount of sales that comes through referrals; from customers, vendors and employees, a consistent message delivered from within the company is essential.
When hiring new employees smaller companies could benefit by adopting a similar methodology. Small companies tend to verbally transfer information to new hires. The disadvantage of this method becomes evident when speaking to individual employees. If you were to ask each employee, “What does your company do?” you would get a variety of answers. Whereas small companies are advantaged by innovation and agility, they are often hindered by the lack of documented processes.
Inconsistent Messages Destroy Branding Efforts
I became aware of these inconsistencies while consulting with small to mid-sized companies. I recall one consulting engagement where this was painfully obvious. The company had been slowly losing market share to a competitor for the past several years. Cash flow was dwindling and the ability to pay future bills was becoming questionable. Given the depth of the problem, I needed to examine the entire business model. Why were they losing sales to the competitor? What was the marketing advantage between the company’s product and the competitor’s? Could the product design or production process be changed? What was the short and long term sales outlook? These questions involved several departments. To search for the answers I needed to meet with employees in the finance department, the sales team and production.
In each meeting I would ask the employee what they believed was the key differentiator between their products and the competitor. To my amazement the answers I heard were all different. Sales and upper management provided the best answer, defining the benefits along with the information about the products or services. Customer service followed next with a similar message depending on how closely they interacted with sales. However, within the other departments the answers changed drastically. When speaking with production they suggested that a specific feature held a competitive advantage. What was interesting is that same feature had not even been mentioned by anyone in sales or marketing.
Provide Employees with Company Documentation
The reason for this discrepancy is the perceived necessity based on job description. Whereas sales must have refined their talk track (commonly referred to as elevator speech), it is believed such refinement is not as important in the finance department. However, in a smaller company the majority of employees have some form of contact with clients or possible prospects. Moreover, employees speak about their jobs outside of work, in personal meetings and family gatherings. If the message received differs even slightly the company loses the branding advantage gained through reinforcement.
If you are a small company it is easy to develop internal processes to take advantage of all employee interaction. It requires taking some time documenting company information and then developing a process to ensure every employee gets a copy. To make sure your company does not fall into the branding abyss follow these three simple steps:
- Create written documentation describing your company, products and/or services
- Make sure your marketing message is clear, concise and consistent
- Provide all employees, in all departments, with a talk track
Additional insights can be found in the ebook, 60 Key Esentials to Business Success: Leadership, Strategy, Finance, Operations, Marketing and Sales.