We tell our clients and prospects every day that their company's position is never some outlandish idea with little relation to who they are and what they're all about. It's really quite simple and, in fact, in the words of Jack Trout, it's almost always "obvious." Let's examine how a company's obvious difference can be maximized through internal positioning.
A company's position -- its unique, meaningful, relevant difference -- is always in its genetic makeup, part of its DNA. Often, that difference lies in what the company's employees do every day to make the company's products or services, ultimately its brand, stand out from the rest. Positioning isn't just a marketing strategy; it's a business strategy that informs your marketing.
So, let's say you've gone through an Appreciative Discovery® and your differentiating idea has been unearthed. What's next? Many companies are tempted to rush to market with creative dramatizations aimed at getting that unique idea to stick in the minds of customers and prospects. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this scenario.
However, it's also a good idea to give serious consideration to kicking off your communication efforts with the audience that possesses the most potential to impact your customers' and prospects' perceptions about you. That's right, your employees. Internal positioning has the power to make or break your brand.
A recently developed and important new campaign for one of the agency's longest-tenured clients (one who just happens to be the nation's leader in what it does) comes to mind. There's no shift in positioning here; category leadership, after all, is the best position to own. What's different is the shift in thinking that came when discussing the first key audience to address. The CEO said something that was music to our ears and in our thinking was extremely obvious -- an initial focus on internal positioning.
"This campaign has to start with our employees, our people. They're the ones who've made this company what it is today, and they have every reason to be proud of what they've helped accomplish for the 125 years we've been in business. Without them, we wouldn't be here today."
Every internal positioning strategy needs two strong legs:
1) Education (frankly, this is often more about reminding your people what they already know but don't think about as they go about their daily business -- they're good at what they do and your company needs them to accomplish its mission); and
2) Motivation (building pride and esprit de corps in the workforce can have immeasurable benefits to your bottom line).
An educated and motivated workforce is inarguably one of the most deadly weapons a company can go to battle with when carving out a brand identity. Internal positioning is the best way to educate and motivate your employees.
There's no single way to handle an internal positioning initiative; it depends on your company's culture and your history of communicating with your employees. Fortunately, the tools of the trade haven't changed much over the years -- tactics like staff meetings, newsletters (more likely electronic than print today), intranet sites, letters, performance updates, posters, and banners can all still play an important role.
Consistent internal positioning helps ensure your employees are up to speed on your industry, your competition, your products, your plans, and, most importantly, how they fit into the grand scheme of things in differentiating your company. Employees just need to be reminded that they play an important role in maintaining your brand identity.
As the lead marketer of your organization and brand evangelist, you have incredible power to influence. Just imagine the multiplying power of having 10, 100, 1,000 or even 10,000 brand evangelists (your employees) living your message and helping you take it to the masses.
Internal positioning will have a staggering impact on your brand identity, indeed!