Posted by: Chris | June 12, 2007

Mininni’s “Marketing to Employees”

I love the concept of “marketing to employees,” recently posted by Marketing Profs: Daily Fix contributor Ted Mininni. The concept is based on a Business Week article posted online last week addressing a McDonald’s commercial which shows a McDonald’s employee’s evolution from FLSE (yes, I’ll think of a catchier name for that soon) to regional President. I particularly enjoyed Mininni’s response, “If Human Resources at McDonald’s and other entry-level employers can’t make frontline staff believe their jobs are rewarding and fun, perhaps marketing departments can.” You have to admit, HR has a very challenging job in dealing with entry-level employees. So I without further ado, here are 5 tips that I believe can help in this situation.

1. Introduce Marketing to HR.

I mean this literally. Small businesses are fortunate in that the Marketing and HR people may be close enough to share YouTube videos all day, but in larger corporations, these departments may never cross paths. And while a company’s mission should not be constantly changing, its clients (and consequently, the company’s methods of outreach) should be. This should be a regular topic of discussion between these two departments in order to make strategic hiring, training, and (employee) maintenance decisions.

2. Educate site managers. 

Many times, the goal of a site manager is simply to get a new hire on the floor. I understand this, but as Helm and Arndt observe in their article, companies that are implementing a branding focus in their human resources are seeing less turnover and a greater sense of pride among FLSE’s. Perhaps by taking the time to brand service employees, site managers will find themselves less often in the throes of shorthanded desperation.

3. Implement a marketing presence in individual branches/stores/restaurants.

OK, perhaps a marketing rep in every store may be a little much, but companies would do well to pepper their operations with regional reps. (Note: “regional rep” does not equal “tattle-tale.”) The purpose of these reps should simply be that of observing local processes, particularly those involving customer touchpoints, and having an exchange with local employees, top down, about the presence of the company’s mission (ore lack thereof) in all they do, as well as a reminder of their importance to the company (more about that in #5).

4. Implement an adaptive training model that focuses on the company’s mission.

We could spend hours on this. In a nutshell, cookie-cutter training may not be doing the trick. At first, this seems to run counter to another essential branding principle: be consistent. Clearly, consistency is absolutely essential, but somehow, training must implement the most effective method of reaching a location’s micro-environment (wow, how’s that for archaic, academic terminology?). Doing so adds intimacy which often translates into loyalty. Incorporating the company’s mission then gives satisfied customers something “tangibly symbolic” (to coin an oxymoronic phrase) to take home with them. Again, volumes can be (and have been) written about this topic. I’ll leave it at that for now.

5. Empower employees.

Thank you Dr. Tom Brown (Oklahoma State U.) for reinforcing this concept as much as you did. Let’s be honest here-of all of the employees in a company, you have to admit that the ones who probably receive the least respect, love, empowerment, etc. are the FLSE’s. But these employees are incredibly valuable to the success of a company! Rarely do I refuse to go to a particular restaurant or store because I had a bad experience with the company’s CFO. And I never give a company’s regional sales manager a little extra cash for taking good care of me. The nature of an FLSE’s relationship with a company’s customers absolutely warrants respect. These employees must be given the right and the education to be successful. Sure, it’s a little scary for managers to relinquish control, but rigid, arbitrary micromanagement (which differs significantly from the enforcing of brand-building principles) kills employee loyalty, which truly does hurt customer loyalty. Again, so much more can be said about this. I think that for now, enough has been said.

Now, I have no crazy misconception that these steps are the be-all end-all (what does that saying really mean, and how did it come about anyway?) of effectively branding front-line service employees. I am definitely interested in what the community has to say about this. And I’m sure the topic will come up again in this writer’s blog.

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