“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” — Yogi Berra
As far as I’m concerned, the term “internal marketing” is almost redundant.
While marketing should drive sales, proper marketing is also an introspective art. This is somewhat obvious of branding; you can’t communicate a shared purpose to your clients if you haven’t asked yourself some challenging questions. But as business owners, we often struggle to find the time to reexamine our assumptions after the branding piece is figured out. We focus, understandably, on tangibles. We think of marketing in quantifiable terms: design fees, contractor fees, website maintenance costs, return on ad spend, pricing of time-limited special offers, etc.
Any marketing initiative should aspire to a solid financial return on investment, but viewing this too narrowly can be a trap. Viewed as an introspective art, marketing yields much greater value than short-term sales growth.
What is internal marketing?
Internal marketing is what you do within your business to communicate value, to “sell” your vision (and in some cases, your own offerings) to team members. Among other things, it can motivate people to fulfill their roles more effectively, improve critical thinking and camaraderie, strengthen morale, and reduce turnover.
Any properly managed marketing campaign will strengthen, challenge or clarify internal marketing insights. It will also challenge assumptions about the competitive space you’re in. Based on the competitive environment, should we be charging more or less for any given service? What offerings should we consider dropping, even if they’ve been valuable, because they create opportunity costs we can no longer justify? What are we good at that our closest competitor is honestly just better at?
Some of this may seem to concern only managerial accounting, but you may make better decisions — or arrive at decisions more efficiently — by applying a different type of analysis. Sometimes a business founder I’ve just begun working with will come to realize, clear as day, that he should drop an entire customer segment because either the passion or the numbers just aren’t there.
This isn’t because I’m smarter than my clients; if anything, I tend to ask naïve questions their industry colleagues would be embarrassed to ask. But by helping you view your own offerings, business and industry through different lenses, dumb questions can provide a world of benefit.
Set aside the buyer personas, promotions, calls to action and color boards.
These are a few of the questions that I might ask a client over the course of any given conversation. Some may appear redundant, but there’s a reason for them. By looking at the same issues through different lenses, you’ll have a richer understanding of your business as a whole.
What inspires you to go to work each morning? What makes your heart sing?
If you were to do business with only one type of client, who would it be?
What do you do exceptionally well that your competitors only do adequately?
What are some of the key values you and your clients share?
• What inspires your clients? What gets them out of bed in the morning? What keeps them up at night?
• What’s at stake for someone who’s thinking about hiring you?
• What emotional needs do you help clients satisfy? (For instance, it could be security, fairness, self-efficacy or recognition.)
• What frustrations and inspirations do you share with your clients; and are you conveying these clearly?
If each of your customer segments — or each of your offerings — were equally profitable, which ones would you focus on? Which ones would you consider dropping?
• What would the lives of your clients be like if you didn’t exist?
Communicating effectively to the outside world requires internal clarity as well as a clear understanding of your customers. This can also translate to greater enjoyment of your work through a clearer sense of meaning.
Answer as many of these as you can get through in a half hour. If you feel like it was a waste of time you can tell everyone you know that I’m a jerk.
John Garvey is a StoryBrand Certified Guide and marketing copywriter. He helps purpose-driven entrepreneurs elevate their marketing through storytelling, humor, and clear strategic messaging.