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Episode 13: Internal Marketing

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In this episode of The SME Growth Podcast, Dave Parry and Richard Buckle discuss the practice of Internal Marketing. Learn more about the benefits of internal marketing for your business, the challenges you may face as an SME utilising the technique and some real client examples of applications of internal marketing. 

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Please note: Whilst all transcripts are double checked for accuracy, they are transcribed via Otter.AI so may contain errors.

David Parry 01:19

Good evening, everybody. You're listening to The SME Growth Podcast. And I'm Dave Parry from Wellmeadow, and I'm joined as ever by the illustrious Richard Buckle. 

Richard Buckle 01:37

Good evening,

David Parry 01:38

Good evening to you. This week, we're going to do another one on that theme of marketing for different types of things. And a few weeks ago, we did marketing of a place instead of a product or service. So we thought that this week we do another angle again. And this time, it's a twist on marketing a company but to a different audience. And instead of its customers and potential customers. It's to it's more internal audience. So mainly its employees and other stakeholders. So we've called this one internal marketing,

Richard Buckle 02:13

Internal marketing. And it's something I think we're seeing a bit more interest in

David Parry 02:17

I think we have, and I can see why really. And I suppose let's back up a little bit, why do you bother with internal marketing. And sometimes it's just thought to be a good thing to do. And you know, one of those things. But I think more and more, it's got a real business case for doing this. Now, we know that there's 1.3 million vacancies in the UK, three and a half million people missing from the workforce is a combination of all sorts of things. And we know there's increased churn as people are moving around with cost of living, and some companies are doing higher rises than others. So it's harder and harder to both attract and retain the right quality of staff. And I'm not saying no one's saying this is going to fix everything. But if you haven't got your internal comms, right, as they would have called it and you don't put as much effort in making your employees as proud of the company, as the customers sometimes are. Yeah, then you're gonna be missing a trick. 

Richard Buckle 03:11

And that's something we've seen before isn't it is that sometimes the customers actually know more about what's going on than the employees 

David Parry 03:16

Yes, I think we spend a lot of effort, we collectively we do, and our clients do, spend a lot of time talking to their market, about how well they're doing and what their key products are and strengths. And it's surprising, maybe not, shouldn't be surprising, but you go and speak to some of the people who are adding that value and they don't see the big picture, they don't know which particular end product their component goes into, or what their service is ultimately delivering.

Richard Buckle 03:18

And I think I think that's something important. And I think it depends on obviously, where you sit in the business. But the more towards the leadership end, that you're sitting, the more you this probably is a bit more of your day to day, and you're seeing these issues come up. And sometimes it can be quite easy to take that for granted.

David Parry 04:01

I think that's one of the big bear traps in all of this that if you personally are familiar with the state of the company, some recent business wins and some good stuff, some great new product development, you just presume erroneously probably that everybody else knows that as well. And you're in a privileged position you you're getting to know that whereas others, others don't know.

Richard Buckle 04:21

So it can be good to put yourself in the shoes of the people who perhaps haven't got that access to information. Just think well, what would I want to know? 

David Parry 04:30

Well, how easy is it that you just go to the coalface go to one of the big offices in your department or down on the shop floor of its manufacturing? And just ask people do you know much about such and such and if you get a bit of a blank stare or quizzical look, then there's a great piece of content to talk a bit more about.

Richard Buckle 04:45

It's a slightly different angle as well, isn't it compared to an external focus

David Parry 04:50

Oh, for sure. Yeah. But it's not a completely different 

Richard Buckle 04:52

It's a bit of a Venn diagram of customers, internal people. 

David Parry 04:59

Then the other bit In the middle.

Richard Buckle 05:02

Yeah, it's like a Venn diagram.

David Parry 05:04

But yeah, sort of, there's overlap. Well, and he's right, because you know, if you're in if the business wins an award, it's usually shouting about that. And it's external marketing. Why not internally as well. It's one of the big new customer developed a new product, going to a an exhibition, show type thing, whatever, that that type of stuff tends to be sent out externally and would be appropriate internally. But there's got to be stuff that is more appropriate or only appropriate internally, that you wouldn't prefer to send out, maybe even beyond that wouldn't want to get out. That's a bit of a challenge, then, isn't it?

Richard Buckle 05:40

Yeah, I'm just trying to think what sort of things you would exclude? 

David Parry 05:45

Well, you certainly want to steer away from financial information that might be market sensitive. If you've got a problem with a supplier, for example, you probably wouldn't want to put that in writing. Maybe everybody internally knows that you got a problem with that supplier, but you wouldn't want that to go out and brandish it, you've got some anti competitive matters, you've got to be careful of certainly if one company, one of your customers has developed a new product, you can't shout too much about that in an attributable way, even though internally, it may be easier to understand it because they see the various competitive products. But you've got to be really careful not to write stuff down or whatever other format you're using, that could then leak out. So I think there is a maybe that's one of the barriers, why this doesn't get done too much. There's a few others, but one of them is the fear that whatever we say, intended for an internal audience doesn't necessarily stay for an internal audience and can get leaked.

Richard Buckle 06:38

Do you think it takes more time to do this internally?

David Parry 06:42

I think it does. And I think there's a compounding problem. So I think you're right, it does just take more time anyway. And that's possibly because we're just more used to the idea of producing messaging for customers and markets. And it's something we're more familiar with. And you've got, I think, I think employees in businesses are quite demanding audience, you know, to get their attention span, to get them to read a newsletter, read a notice board, watch a video, you've got to be adding real value. Yeah, you don't just want to give the impression that this is corporate speak. And it's just management by at arm's length, you know, so it's difficult to do for that reason. But I think the compounding problem is where whether or not value is seen in doing it. So not only is it probably more input time per piece of output than a piece of external marketing, but because you don't see an order coming in on the back of it, or some leads, or eyeballs, then that benefit we talked about of recruitment or retention, it's been intangible, isn't it?

Richard Buckle 07:42

Tangible, long term strategy as well as? Yeah, really, you're trying to? I suppose is a big, big piece of it around alignment of maybe goals and values as well it doesn't it does it become a bit of a fine balance between it becoming a toolbox talk or management seminar, versus

David Parry 08:04

It'd be easy to write it off as propaganda as well, wouldn't it? So here they go. Again, it's got to be really useful, interesting stuff, like we said, in the opening that senior people in the business will have more awareness of what's going on, and not everybody else will have so at the very least do the common decent thing and tell everybody, 

Richard Buckle 08:21

I mean, it's interesting thinking about it from a buyer persona perspective, how many companies have a, it's not quite a buyer persona, but a persona, even for

David Parry 08:31

Certainly a persona, isn't it? For their internal consuming information, you've got to write it with somebody in mind, you can't, you shouldn't be writing in a vacuum, you've got to write with who it is, who is it that you're talking to writing for? So yes, there is that into and there'll be a number of different ones. If you were to do this really well, you'll, you'll have the evangelist advocate types, just like you do with buyers that will promote the company to the end of the earth and the other cynics and those that, you know, maybe sowing the seeds of discontent and looking to leave or rabble rousing, and the vast majority in between those two somewhere, carrying on, you know, having faith in the fact that the company's doing the right things, but not really having any evidence of that, and just trusting their managers and leaders. So yes, there's this, it's quite a complex area, this not to mention, you're around the GDPR. And depending on what you're putting out, but we'll come to some various different formats later on. But imagine if you just mentioned someone's birthday, you know, that you've got to be careful these days. That's a piece of personal information that's used for identity theft and that sort of thing. So you gotta have permission, even photos. Photos, videos, we've come across this before not everybody wants their photo public. I mean, these days, lots of people on LinkedIn, but some people aren't. And if they're on there, they maybe don't use their photo. So you just got to be really, really careful.

Richard Buckle 09:51

Yeah, yeah, it's, yeah, I'm just remembering back when we tried to do the photo thing 

David Parry 09:57

What we were trying to put photos on the footers of emails, which we do in our company, it's a great effect. Actually, I think I've had great feedback from that. And it's nice when you then I mean, these days, perhaps with teams and zoom calls, we tend to see each other a bit more. But it's, it's nice, just even when you open an email just to have that human connection, there's the person that I I've just received this from you see, the face is much more friendly, isn't it, and you feel you can relate to them. And you don't maybe want to send off one of those tirade emails, because you see this person at the end of it's not just this faceless thing, literally.

Richard Buckle 10:30

So i think that's what we can say. We you can repurpose some of your marketing content, external marketing content for internal uses, can't you? We've done that in various places for people where we've produced content for them. And we've actually thought, you know, what, like, we need to, we need to put this out to the people who are actually making these parts or helping produce this service, or, you know, it's let them see some of this content, because it helps them to align with where their businesses,

David Parry 11:05

and you can get incredibly proud about, you know, lots of companies do what most companies do incredible value, adding things. But if you get too disconnected from that, then it's harder to draw that link and feel the same degree of pride. But there's the other effect. And you've experienced this recently, you're telling me about it. What do you you go into a workplace with a camera or microphone? And it changes the atmosphere immediately. It's a real buzz about the place.

Richard Buckle 11:29

You obviously get those people that love being in front of a camera, and they will, you know, want to perform a bit, that's fine. And some people run away. And, again, that's fine. Everyone's different. So it's, but it's, I think, what we really find is when we've we've used a piece of content, and it's gone to into a business presentation, or it's gone into, you know, gone to a customer or something. And then when that feedback comes back to, you know, people on the shop floor, who have been in that, all of a sudden, there's this connection between them, the customers, the work they're doing, which is quite, it's really great to see. And it's often something that I think is overlooked. Again, if you're in the sales or marketing department, you're seeing customers, you're hearing that feedback, it doesn't often get filtered back down. And we've got a client where the, the sales marketing director took the presentation down, that was going to some really big customers onto the shop floor, and showed everyone on there, this is what it is. And it was, there we were, there we are. And there we are,

David Parry 11:47

We make that bit. That's what it goes into

Richard Buckle 12:42

So whilst it was aimed at external marketing, actually, there's a huge benefit in terms of actually involving, and just showing people that are actually doing the work.

David Parry 12:57

Yeah. And of course, if you're doing this more, you'll be grabbing a better library of stock images, let's call it that have actual real people doing actual real work is a real danger that marketing departments have a couple of stock images that they use of internal people making apart or working in office or shaking someone's hand or whatever. And they overuse that when in fact that you may have an awful lot more employees, and the more you're doing activities like this, you'll be picking up images that you can rotate around, I remember we put the face of one of the employees on the front of an ebook that we sent out that was quite well received. And we even printed a few actually digital printing these days, very easy to just print off a dozen. And we had those scattered around. And it's amazing the impact it has on that employee. But of course, digital printing, you can do 10 of those, change the image on the front, print another time with somebody else's face on the front, and everybody gets a turn. 

Richard Buckle 13:46

And even if, depending on what type of content you're producing, again, we've done things where you invite people in to come and be part of the videos or come and be part of the whatever it is you're making. And just again, it's it's customer facing marketing, but there's an intangible, or perhaps actually quite tangible element of involving people who aren't typically involved in the marketing activities and that in and of itself, then they people start talking about it people, and it doesn't have to make your job easier as a marketer, or you know, even for HR as well, if you can really engage people to be involved in

David Parry 14:27

I know a business owner, who says when you ask him, How big is his marketing department, he said, everybody is in marketing in my company. I need everybody to know what it is that we do. How do we add value who our customers are. And when we're out in the field and his business happens to be out and about delivering more so than behind closed doors. He said everybody needs to be able to say the same message. We're all in marketing for that reason. So you need to make sure that people have got a consistent message if you're going to rely on them doing that. 

Richard Buckle 14:56

So I mean, other things that we've we've seen Before and done things like day in the life of videos or staff stories, those types of things.

David Parry 15:05

The staff stories series that we did recently that I think that's gone down very well, isn't it, then well, it will promoted on LinkedIn and lots of click throughs to the website. And of course, you get double whammy out of that you get the employees seeing both themselves and their close colleagues on it. And that's good to circulate around, you get in a larger firm, especially people seeing other people in their own company that they've never even met before. And maybe that emboldened them to go up to them in the corridor in the cafe and just say, Hello, and you know, that's good. But then you've got all those potential recruits, and people looking for jobs looking. And that was kind of the purpose of doing it, wasn't it, to help with recruitment efforts. And they see people being very genuine about what they like about the company, you can't force someone to look genuine. Can you really no one's that good actor. So yes, I like working here. And I've been told to say this, if you see in the eyes, that they really want to come to work, and they're passionate about it, you can tell. And that comes across,

Richard Buckle 15:58

I think as well, what was good about that, oftentimes, when you're making videos, in a in a corporate company environment, is the senior leadership team, the directors, the board, that are the ones doing the talking. And with this, it was very much like we not that we don't want to hear from leadership. But actually, we need to give some space to people who have different voices, doing different things in the company, and you get a much bigger perspective. And people think, Okay, we've been listened to, we're able to tell our story. And, and, again, not everybody wants to do it. But to have that opportunity means that, you know, it was good for external marketing, but also now we can use it for things like onboarding new employees, recruitment 

David Parry 16:42

Yes, loads of different uses. I just want to pick up the we said not everybody wants to do it, which is of course, true. It's not everybody's cup of tea. But when you've done a few, I think you'll find a few of the people that were in the not quite sure camp then are emboldened to give it a go, because they've seen that it's, you know, reasonably safe environment to do it, you get chance to retake things, and it's only going to present you in the best light is everybody's purpose, isn't it?

Richard Buckle 17:04

It's a bit of a it's a journey, isn't it? I think I think that, to go back to the example he has mentioned, who I think I know who you're talking about when you said, everyone's in marketing. But if I'm right, in who I think that is that that particular company, has done a lot of marketing and involve a lot of people over a number of years.

David Parry 17:23

Yes, that's true

Richard Buckle 17:24

So it's not kind of one day, the MD wakes up and says, right, we're all gonna get marketing tomorrow. 

David Parry 17:29

Yeah, that's definitely woven through the fabric of the organisation,

Richard Buckle 17:32

It's part of the recruitment process, it's part of the culture of the business. And so I think if that's not your culture, at the moment, you can't expect to

David Parry 17:43

Don't fake it

Richard Buckle 17:44

Don't listen to a podcast and I think we've got to do this tomorrow. But by all means, think this could be a 12 month, 24 month,

David Parry 17:52

But even if you don't believe that all of your employees are going to be in a position to present the company in its best light, because maybe the nature of the work or whatever, that doesn't take away still this need for internal marketing in its broadest sense, because of all the other uses. So we've talked there a little bit about leveraging the proper marketing, the external marketing, if you like, but we've also mentioned recruitment and retention. And that's another thing that we've been doing recently, specifically around recruitment, not just the day in the life of, but by the time this podcast goes out, you'll be on LinkedIn looking at it. And we've we've done a couple of variations of a recruitment video.

Richard Buckle 18:26

And we've, you know, we could we could just put an advert out, which we may or we may, will do as well, yeah, I'm sure one of things we wanted to do is to actually show what it's like to work in the company, try and get across some values, try and get across a bit of a feel for the type of thing that we're doing. So what better way to do that, then make a video?

David Parry 18:49

Well, you're always meeting some of your potential colleagues before you apply. You know, we all get that sense. Don't we have do I do? I think I'm going to fit in there. Am I going to enjoy that,

Richard Buckle 18:58

Which in of itself is a great filter

David Parry 19:01

It's a two way process. The selection process is is two ways, isn't it? We need to make sure that people who do apply to us actually still feel they want to come in. And this isn't a new idea. We've been doing something along these lines for quite a while, although in the early days, that presentation from the business owner and we've helped a lot of clients to this was more in written form. And we used to come up with a very sort of warts and all heartfelt introductory email. Thanks for applying, I think then we moved into a video of those, but they were pretty deadpan, face to camera, this is the company, this is the role, you know, thanks for applying type thing. And we've just taken it up another level now where you're getting more employees to talk about what he's like he's showing a bit more of the office environment and you're talking about even the town that our office is in. Why we're proud of that.

Richard Buckle 19:46

We managed to get some incredibly handsome actor to come in and do some amazing Oscar winning performances

David Parry 19:54

Viewers will judge for themselves.

Richard Buckle 19:57

You just have to watch and see who that is.

David Parry 19:59

Is there a BAFTA equivalent for cheesy recruitment videos? Wonder what the award will be called? You can have a Buckle! So let's just round up. There's a few other things that internal marketing is useful. We've talked about recruitment, we talked about making sure everyone's on message with the vision and values and culture, and generally aware of what's going on product wise and all that. But there are some other quite practical uses that don't often get considered in terms of from something from the marketing department. You've mentioned onboarding very briefly. So new starters, often get a bit of a show around, but you won't see everything being made every day. And you know, that's a good way of bolstering that sort of thing. Health and safety. You do see that fairly often in larger firms. You've talked to health and safety video, but flippin heck, they often done as bad as dry as you can imagine, you can probably do those more in a more engaging way and get people to actually remember some of the content, if you have to think about doing that. Lots of companies have their company presentation, which they give, normally the ubiquitous PowerPoint, and fairly boring, bit too much text. And you know, the awards here and there, you can do a video version of that much more effectively, maybe a bit of a tour, maybe even some clips from customers, and that sort of thing. And I think PR as well, if we're talking internal. Now, don't forget, the good news, stuff that happens often doesn't travel as fast as the bad news. So you have to make a bit more of an effort. So when there's a good business win, or you get a great bit of feedback, or maybe one of the sales guys has been on a on going to see a customer overseas, or just someone new, there's always a couple of soundbites, they can come back. So feed all that back in as well. All sorts of great uses for internal marketing.

Richard Buckle 21:42

I think just two things to just add into that. One is to think about with any of those things think about how you're employees are going to consume content, maybe in their personal time. So if people are, you know, watching YouTube shorts or Tik Tok or whatever, just is worth bearing that in mind, not saying that your health and safety video down to eight seconds. But think about how they're going to actually engage with it. Remember it, those types of things, that's I think that's quite important. And also just around the like the PR point there, it's worthwhile thinking about having a system to try and you know, either diarize, it systemize these things so that they do actually happen.

David Parry 22:23

I think it goes back to where we started, this is hard to do. Yeah, and it's the easiest thing to drop off the radar when everybody gets busy. And especially of the more senior people and this doesn't work, unless you've got the input from senior people as well, not exclusively, like you say, you want just a bit of a top and tail or a key message, and then let other people have their voice. But if it's done entirely without the senior people in organisation, then it can come across as very fake.

Richard Buckle 22:47

It's got to have some leadership in it

David Parry 22:47

And I'm tempted to draw. And I'm not sure how well this parallel works, but the old fashioned company newsletter as a start point, because that's probably where some of our more traditional audience members might pigeonhole this idea of internal comms on internal marketing. And I don't know how many companies have managed to stick at doing a newsletter for long enough and still have it read. But it was very hard to do. It's very hard to fill those column inches with interesting stuff. But the content needs to go in them is still the right type of content. So a bit of business news, for sure, maybe a spotlight on an employee, maybe some social stuff, what's going on in the company, social things, maybe some vacancies, promotions, retire, or someone's getting married, you know, sort of thing, maybe a classified ad section, all that good stuff. It gels, a body of people that work for a place and make them feel a bit more of a belonging. And that's the thing, which is what newsletters tried to do. But they were just generally speaking, as dull as ditch water, very hard to do in the written form. Yeah. And yeah, now as we've been talking earlier, in another of these podcasts, you can do a podcast in the company, you could do a video? Yeah, why not have a podcast in your company and 15 minute radio show summary of what's happened this week or this month, it doesn't have to have everybody listened to all the time, but a much more accessible form of getting that information. A lot of people are driving to work in the car. And if it's 15/20 minutes, you can listen to that once a week once fortnight get the headlines, might just encourage them to go and ask somebody for some more information. Yeah, there's other things. I mean, we were looking recently at a product called Mobi Mag. I'm sure there's other ones out there that do a similar type of thing, but it's a much more like newspaper, not newspaper like magazine style, phone based publication, it's not quite newsletters Better than a browser, and it's better than PDF. It's so nice. It's mobile. It's designed for mobile,

Richard Buckle 24:51

You can include video in it, you can. The nice thing about that, again, is I suppose a bit unlike the you know, traditional newsletter that would be you know, putting you in payslip or whatever it was, Showing our age there.

David Parry 25:04

Back when they had payslips

Richard Buckle 25:07

You can just track the data on it, you know, what kind of engagement are we getting? Is it? Which bits of content work?

David Parry 25:13

And control the distribution on that, obviously, people can still take screenshots, but the use of the whole app can be limited to people with registered accounts.

Richard Buckle 25:23

So it's, there's lots of different ways of doing this. And then I suppose you've got things like signage and posters, and

David Parry 25:32

Even the photos that go on the wall, how many businesses you've been into where reception has got the same ISO 9000 poster and quality statement and a photo of some younger employee or same employees when they were a lot younger, and they didn't get changed? Because the people in a business get used to them? They're blind to them, whereas the newcomers use them for the first time. So yes, a whole number of aspects around that. Interesting subject. It's not without its pitfalls, and it's hard to do. But I can't help thinking that in this more competitive environment for employees, recruitment and retention, like we've talked about, and leveraging the marketing across everybody, there's some strong arguments here for taking this area more seriously.

Richard Buckle 26:10

Well, I suppose it's just a slightly different return on investment calculation, isn't it? You're not measuring sales, but what the cost of recruitment is,

David Parry 26:18

Yeah, reduce churn and easier recruitment. I think the problem will be for lots of marketing departments that they're expected to add this on, just while you're there. And not enough credit is given for the fact that this is almost like another marketing department

Richard Buckle 26:32

Who's responsibility is it? Is it HR, or is it marketing?

David Parry 26:34

Well, the responsibility is probably not where the skills lie. And that's the problem, isn't it? Because clearly, for external marketing, the skills lie in the marketing department and the sales department. And that's where the skills and the responsibility and the skills in the same place. But like you say, maybe managers generally HR facilitating that are more responsible for recruitment and retention. But they need the services of a communication specialists, or they need to recruit their own. That's not common.

Richard Buckle 27:00

Yeah, you'd probably need a reasonable sized HR team for this to bubble up to

David Parry 27:04

Yeah, that's what we're highlighting here. This should be done even in smaller firms, but won't be because they haven't got the resource. And clearly, you can go to your external marketing agency to get help. But the chances are any limited resource will be focused on something that gets orders in because they can see a clear payback. But these days, there's a clear payback from improve recruitment retention, as well, just because the environment we're in.

Richard Buckle 27:28

And it's I suppose it's one of those, like we've said before, maybe touched on it, it's not necessarily easy. It sounds easy, but it's,

David Parry 27:36

It's easy to do badly. Yeah. Which is why often, they don't last long if they're not done very well. Yeah. Well, it's good insight to it. I think I quite enjoy thinking about these other things to spend time on marketing. Like we did that one on a place as well as you know, services and products. So just another angle for people to consider. Maybe that'll prompt a discussion inside your company if you're listening to this and get the HR people to talk to the marketing people and see if it's a broad topic worth discussing. Well, thanks again for listening. That was The SME Growth Podcast from Wellmeadow, please follow and like and subscribe to our podcasts wherever you get them from. But more importantly, tell your business friends and colleagues that were here, and that were worth a listen. And in the meantime, good luck with your business. And hopefully you're listening to our podcast next week, bye now.