Building Internal Consensus & Enthusiasm for Your Marketing
I just wrapped production on the most genius marketing campaign ever! I could feel it in my gut that it would drive tons of new customers. The message would make even the grumpiest curmudgeon smile. Definitely, award-winning material that everyone would love. Right?
Well…it did win an award. It did bring in new customers. But corporate leadership – and some employees – hated it.
Admittedly, it was edgy for the community hospital I was working for. We were trying hard to attract young moms to a new Family Birth Place. The actress in our video may have had a line joking about her husband’s loose-fitting boxer shorts. Though our target audience laughed, our doctors and nurses didn’t.
It can be tricky business to appeal to your customers and please internal constituents. As a marketing leader, you have to walk a fine line. Ultimately, you have a choice to make. You can cave in, you can fight, or you can use your marketing smarts to evolve your creative process. If you choose the latter approach (you should), here are four tips I’ve learned along the way to build internal support and excitement for your marketing efforts:
1. Involve your leaders
Before you begin a new creative campaign, bring together a marketing advisory committee of top executives, including your supervisor. (Or use an existing meeting if possible.) Explain that you’re beginning a new campaign, its goals, the target audience, your approach and rationale, who will work on the campaign, and the cost. Keep the information succinct, sans marketing jargon. Invite questions and input. Involving the key decision-makers of your organization into your process is an important step –you can benefit from their perspectives and insights, and they’ll benefit from having a better understanding of the thinking that goes into campaign development. Be open, listen, and be willing to make adjustments if they make sense. When you need to say no, explain why. Leaders appreciate that, too.
Once you have developed a concept or two that you love (three max), reconvene the group, remind them of the audience and the goal, and share the idea or theme with them using visuals. Invite reactions and thoughts – write them down for consideration. Thank everyone for their input, then explain that the next step is to receive similar input from employees and your customers. You can do this formally or informally, with big-budget scientific testing or no-budget qualitative input. I’ve done both with equally helpful results.
After you’ve collected the data and refined the idea, present a summary of each group’s feedback to the marketing advisory group. By actively participating in the process, leaders who may not “like” an ad will often agree to support it based on the evidence you’ve collected that it appeals to your target audience.
Involving leaders in your creative development process is essential for a lot of reasons. If you’re a people-pleaser like me, we like our leaders happy and we want them to trust our judgment and recommendations. And leaders like their marketers to develop great campaigns that drive business. Coming together around the table to work it out together is a win-win.
2. Involve your employees
If you’ve completed tip #1, you’ve already asked your employees for their reactions to your ad concept. But why did we take the time to do this? Your employees may or may not be your customers. Regardless, they are ambassadors of your company’s brand, and they have invaluable insight. I have never regretted hearing employees’ reactions to marketing…and they are typically thrilled to offer their opinion and be a part of the development.
Yet there are even more ways to generate positive buzz from employees. Does your organization feature your own staff members in ads? One time we did a casting call and held auditions for employees to be featured in a new brand campaign. It was a magical experience! We found superstars who lit up the camera with their warmth, sincerity, and passion for their jobs. We ended up using everyone who auditioned…whether it was on social media, print, the website, newsletter, TV ads, or outdoor. It built wonderful camaraderie and it was one of my favorite projects.
Aside from getting feedback and using internal talent, always launch your campaigns internally first. It’s the easiest thing to do, but in many companies, it’s an afterthought. Make your marketing visible to your “work family” via email, on the company Intranet, in break rooms or cafeterias, at town hall meetings, at pop-up events planned simultaneously in several locations across your building, or at multi-site locations. Everything we do as marketers should use this “inside out” philosophy. Your employees will appreciate being aware of the marketing messages that are in the community and they will also be more prepared to reinforce the messaging with customers.
3. Involve your customers
We briefly touched on inviting customer feedback in tip #1. This assumes that you’ve already done your homework and you know what makes your customers tick. The most important thing I’ve learned about customers is this: never assume you know what they think unless you’ve asked them. Because you don’t. Unless you’re psychic. (Then ask them anyway!)
How does asking customers in your target audience help you build internal consensus? It gives you data to share with internal groups, who are often not in your target audience and may have very different opinions about what will resonate.
At a retirement community, I work with, we sent an intern to the dining room at lunchtime with a printout of a direct mail campaign to ask residents about photo preferences, colors, font size readability, etc. It was invaluable.
If you prefer to use technology to determine customer preference on your creative, run an A/B test on digital ads and see what draws more clicks and engagement from your customers.
4. Gather data
I like stats. Leaders like stats. I don’t like to spend money on things that don’t work. Neither do C-suite execs. That means that everything you do should have a mechanism for measuring the results to see if it was effective. Then you can report back to your marketing advisory group, grow credibility, and, most important, make adjustments to the campaign if needed. This doesn’t mean you should show them every statistic that’s available to you. Ask your leaders how they would measure the success of your campaign, then share the data that’s most important to them.
Admittedly, the tips I’ve outlined here do take time. If you adopt them into your marketing process, they can be completed efficiently and effectively. If you never want to receive an angry call from the CEO again, it’s worth it! And if you wondered what happened to that award we won for our genius marketing idea, it’s in a special display case, proudly displayed in my office.
Wendy Ferrer is the Principal of Red Purse Marketing, specializing in healthcare, retirement housing, and non-profit marketing, as well as internal communications and CRM. For more information, contact email@example.com