I couldn’t hope to count the number of times over the years I’ve heard the statement “A business is only as good as its people”. It’s right on the button of course, but that doesn’t mean too many managers really appreciate its implications.
Your employees are a vital component of your brand. They have ultimate control of your customer relationships and, if they are pulling together and aligned behind your objective they’ll represent your brand faithfully and those relationships will flourish.
The job of a brand strategist is to align a business behind a single idea that stands out and resonates with a viable segment of the market. That idea is encapsulated in your brand promise, which shouldn’t be made lightly. It is after all what brings customers to your door in the first place and failure on your part to live up to the expectations it sets will only spell business disaster.
It’s essential that employees are not only familiar with the brand promise, but understand how their words and actions influence its delivery and stay committed to playing their part in that process. Once they are on board they become more engaged, create better customer experiences and are far more productive.
Of course, your brand promise has to matter to your audience, but most importantly you have to be absolutely confident that you can deliver it every time. Once you understand this, the realisation that it’s not external marketing, but internal marketing that is the primary driver of your business success, is a relatively small step.
Building or even updating a brand doesn’t happen over night. This is pure business transformation and it will probably mean restructuring, re-training and developing new processes. It will undoubtedly result in new products and services and this all takes time. I’ve worked with clients who have spent three years on just the internal marketing of their re-brand.
The products you sell may be important, but your people are even more so. They, after all, create the products that represent your brand. The insights that drive product design and development and the communications that generate a sale are all products of the relationships with customers (brandships) that constitute your brand. A smart CEO will understand that his employees and not his board build and own those customer relationships. Directors are there to facilitate, so your employees’ capabilities represent both your opportunities and your limitations.
Too many organisations rush into making promises to customers that they know will resonate with them without being confident that they can actually deliver.
Confidence starts with knowing what everyone is capable of. You have to be honest in your assessment of your people. A sure sign of bad management is a workforce that is stressed. Stress comes from the inability to meet demands. This can be for a number of reasons from inherent laziness (which in my experience can’t be overcome, but thankfully is rare) to skills limitations. Too many managers seem to think that getting employees to achieve impossible deadlines is just a matter of kicking them harder. You may be lucky for a while with this approach, but not for long. Ultimately, the only possible outcomes of this policy are massive staff turnover and gradually diminishing productivity.
Once you understand the capability of your employees the key to success is to construct a promise that they can deliver. By all means set the bar so that they are only achieving this when they are working at optimum level, but under no circumstances set it higher than they are capable of reaching and then set fire to their pants! To improve performance (in fact it should be a component of every brand development strategy) you’ll have to help your employees grow their capabilities. That’s done with mentoring, and sound training practices, but you’ll also have to come to terms with the reality that sometimes you have to bring in new skills and personalities. Again, once you have identified where your business opportunities lie and understand what you have to do to exploit them human resource management is just another component of your brand development strategy.