In last week’s private jet adventure, I touched on the often-neglected audience for your marketing: your own staff.
We’d still do all of our marketing capers even if they never gave us a single new customer, because our staff dig it. And if they dig it, they’ll do better work, the customers will be happy and they’ll do our business development for us.
Sorry about the self-quote. But if Hollywood can churn out dozens of superhero spinoffs starring insects and raccoons, I can do a whole spinoff story from a short paragraph.
It’s important for your business. A brand your staff feels proud of is a constant compass, pointing them in the right direction in their day to day work. It’s the opposite of management where you’re constantly watching every move.
Nespresso Saves The Day
Consider Nespresso. Their stores are beautiful, pods and machines glittering under soft lights like the Crown Jewels. It’s product theater at its finest. Their ads are fun and classy. Their staff always look immaculate.
It’s an amazing brand, perhaps the best I can think of when you look across all the customer touchpoints.
(Red Bull would have been a contender with their space jumpers, rad sports and terabytes of thrillsome vids, but they’re let down by their skin-crawlingly terrible Red Bull Gives You Wiiings line drawing ads that are surely made by the owner’s nephew.)
I have a beloved 90-year-old relative who loves her Nespresso machine. She orders her coffee pods over the phone, and the store a few suburbs away mails them out. One time they were out of stock of her favorite variety. Two days later, her doorbell rings at 8.30 am. It’s a black-clad young guy from the store, who had decided to drop her pods off on his way to work.
There is no procedures manual that could have made him do that.
His boss didn’t order him to do it.
He did it because that’s what George Clooney would have done.
To do any less would let down the whole magic brand.
A Brand Isn’t Just Decoration, It’s Your Foundation
You don’t have to be a Nespresso-sized brand to do this.
The main discipline of creating a brand isn’t the color and movement everyone notices. It’s working out what you stand for. And how you’re different to the others.
(Learn how to do this in Positioning: Why Should Your Business Even Exist?)
When you distil your business down into half a dozen words, is it something your people can say believably when they’re out with their normal human friends? And feel good about it? Rather than the standard template claim of “What sets us apart? It’s our quality and service.”
Even if you’re a two-person dog wash, ask yourself: what do we stand for? And how would Nespresso do it?
Fear of A White Business Shirt
Our business was literally born from brand disgruntlement.
A competitor had just done a rebrand their staff didn’t like. Tech people don’t want to wear white business shirts with a fluoro logo. We had a secret meeting with all their staff in a restaurant one night to discuss them all resigning en masse and joining an unproven upstart outfit.
They didn’t ask about salaries, fringe benefits, or technology.
“What color’s the logo?” was their first question. They essentially signed up so they could wear black again, drive the new Audiovisual Response Unit vans and feel badass like Mr T.
Obviously our previous relationship meant they trusted us to deliver on wages and conditions, but the brand vibe went to the core of their identity.
The next vehicles up the range, the Black Roadcase Trucks Of The Apocalypse, get a lot of customer response. “Wow those things are great advertising!” etc. The cost is about $5,000 on top of boring white trucks that cost about $200K. But traveling billboards is not the main reason we do them. It’s because they make our people feel like rock stars in front of their industry peers, and so they work like champions on site.
It becomes a virtuous cycle that attracts more staff like them.
Also, there’s an important subconscious message there: the details are important.
The appeal of these designs and ideas obviously varies wildly between industries and staff personalities, but the common thread is: how can you make the everyday, pedestrian things in your business more interesting? What makes your staff proud to do what they do?
The Bottom-Line Benefits
Of course, when I tell you branding is great for your business, you think: sure, mister creative marketing guy, you would say that wouldn’t you.
Believe me, meeting payroll for 60 people each month will turn any hipster aesthete into a cold-eyed, heartless merchant in quick time.
When payables are way in excess of receivables, don’t be telling me Helvetica is the answer.
Here’s the direct effect of brand on your net profit: in a market where quality staff are scarce, your brand is a major edge in whether you get star performers or standard plodders for any given salary grade.
Apple store staff aren’t paid handsomely. They do it for the brand.
And in every sector, you see less-than-desirable brands paying over-the-odds salaries for staff. Because they’ve got nothin’ else but the money to inspire people. That sugar hit wears out fast, so it’s Staff Churn Central.
My favorite thing about Scene Change is our staff retention. We’ve been going twelve years, we now have about 60 full-time staff nationally, and in that entire time we’ve lost fewer than five staff to direct competitors.
That stability saves us a ton of training money, and your staff build up a massive level of technical and customer knowledge. You can give clients the continuity that saves them time and high blood pressure.
I was talking to a staff member who’s been with us eight years, who joined us as a junior truck loader and is now a charismatic operational leader. He said:
“There were a few other jobs around but what first attracted me was the weird-ass marketing,” he said.
I’ll take that over some advertising award any time.
If you liked this you should read Marketers: Listen To Front-Line Sales People.
If you don’t want to be disrupted by robots, check out my anti-robot strategies in Smart Company. BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE
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