Spend some serious time, money on internal marketing

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"The cobbler’s children have no shoes." That’s certainly true when it comes to internal marketing and branding. Even a few years back—when businesses were flush with cash and marketing departments were joyfully putting creative on every billboard, Web site and letterhead—investment in internal efforts was a paltry fraction of most marketers’ budgets.

Lack of investment in internal marketing may be the result of corporate distraction. Companies that are frantically trying to boost revenues and cut costs may not see why they should spend money on employees—missing the point that these are the very people who ultimately deliver the brand promises the company makes.

Or lack of investment may reflect a conscious decision by executives who dismiss internal efforts as feel-good pseudo-science—missing the point that research consistently demonstrates that service quality problems (people problems more than product problems) are what push customers away and into the arms of competitors.

Yet there are some encouraging signs. Consider these points:

n Last Spring, Interbrand asked marketers what impact the events of 2001 had on their brand-building efforts in 2002. One area of significant change: Internal branding is now ranked third in importance, moving up from seventh. Interbrand attributed the change of heart to recent economic and political events that have "underscored the need for an organization’s messages to reflect its values and culture."

n Advanced Learning Institute’s three-day internal branding show last month in Miami featured presentations by a number of A-list companies, including FedEx Corp., AT&T Corp., Cigna Corp. and Eaton Corp.

n Northwestern University will explore these issues through its recently launched Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement, a new practice within its highly regarded Integrated Marketing Communications department.

What does all this suggest? Spend time and money with the people who deliver your brand. Allocate a bit of your budget to exploring their needs and motivations. Most critically, find out how they understand the brand proposition and make sure this synchronizes as closely as possible with the marketing campaigns you send out to the world.

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