Companies fall into a very familiar pattern. We invest a significant amount of time and energy into chasing after and wooing new customers. We spend the lion’s share of our communications and marketing dollars trying to convince people who have no idea who we are that they should buy what we sell. There’s nothing wrong with that effort. But it’s not the most important, your employees are.

Some organizations are wise enough to allocate resources to continuing to woo their current clients, reassuring them that they’ve made a good buying decision, trying to serve them at a deeper level and turn them into raving fans who write reviews, drive referrals and re-purchase.

Both of those audiences, as well as influencers and other key groups, are vital to your business. I’m not suggesting you ignore them. But, I am saying that most organizations ignore or under communicate to the most critical audience you have – your employees.

You know all the reasons why they matter. They’re the ones delivering (or not) on your brand every day. They are the conduits to your customers. They have to deliver on and honor whatever your external marketing is promising. When they have no clue what your marketing is saying, it’s tough for them to have a shot at fulfilling your customer’s expectations.

And yet, despite all of that — they’re also who you talk to the least.

I’ve never met an employee for any organization (including my own) that feels like they are completely in the loop. Maybe it’s not possible. But we can do a lot better.

I believe there’s added urgency around this marketing issue. We live in a time when stellar employees are hard to find and harder to keep. Combine that with the reality that marketing’s most potent moment is woven into customer service and care right before, during and after the sale.

You cannot be successful if your team is playing at the minor league level. Your customers and prospects have too many other choices.

So how do you truly communicate with your team?

Make it a commitment: Calendar and conduct regularly scheduled all team meetings (whether that means you do it in a single conference room, over Skype, or have to travel from office to office). Monthly is probably ideal but nothing less than quarterly. In these meetings, you report on company goals, the health of your business, celebrate customer and employee successes and provide a mix of inspiration, vision, and expectations. These meetings are a wonderful time to recognize employees who have gone above and beyond, tell stories about the importance of the work you’re doing and ask for feedback on issues. It should also be where your employees feel comfortable asking questions or expressing concerns.

Tell them first: If you are launching something new (marketing campaign, product, change in policy, etc.) be sure that your team knows about it and has time to ask questions, make suggestions and talk about how they need to prepare for whatever reaction (more traffic on the floor, increased activity on the website, etc.) they believe will result from your efforts.

Create informal and safe spaces: Some of the most effective department heads or CEOs I know have taken the conversations to a more casual and impromptu level as well. They hold “drinks with Drew” or “bagels with Bob” kind of events where people can attend and participate if they want to and know it’s a safe place to ask questions or raise concerns. I have no idea what is magical about conversations held over food and drink but it works.

Bottom line – your teammates should be your #1 priority. Take good care of them and they will take good care of your customers. And there’s no better marketing tool than a delighted customer.

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Drew McLellan
Drew McLellan has owned an advertising agency for almost 20 years, serving local, regional and national businesses. He also coaches hundreds of agencies on business best practices through peer to peer networks, workshops and consulting.  Drew is often interviewed/quoted in Entrepreneur Magazine, New York Times, CNN, BusinessWeek, and many others. The Wall Street Journal calls him “one of 10 bloggers every entrepreneur should read.” He blogs at both www.DrewsMarketingMinute.com and www.BuildABetterAgency.com.

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