Inside Out E-Column: Aligning Employee Engagement with Marketing Communications

Mastering the balance of image and performance.

The other day, I was looking at different definitions for marketing.  In a nutshell, it’s described mainly as a process for getting in front of prospective customers and enticing them to buy your product or service.

  • The American Marketing Association defines marketing as the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.  Marketing practice tends to be seen as a creative industry, which includes advertising, distribution and selling.
  • On Wikipedia, marketing is defined as an integrated communications-based process through which individuals and communities discover that existing and newly-identified needs and wants may be satisfied by the products and services of others.
  • Webster’s dictionary describes marketing as the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.

As far as they go, those definitions are okay, but their main thrust can be summed up in one word – attraction.   While that’s important, it doesn’t account for the other vital half of the business building equation – retention.

Invest in Keeping the Customers You Have
Depending on what sources you cite, it takes 2-20 times as much investment to attract a new customer as it does to keep an existing one.  But look at where most of the business building dollars go.  It’s mainly for advertising, sales and other promotional tools and techniques designed to acquire or attract new customers.  For many marketing people, that’s essentially how they view their role.

When it comes to retention, that’s usually handled by customer relations or consumer affairs or some similar function – and only a fraction of what’s typically spent on marketing is dedicated to the work they do.

Define Marketing as Relationship-Building
Rectifying that imbalance starts with a more encompassing definition of marketing – to create, sustain and continuously improve relationships with the organization’s key stakeholders.

At a minimum, that definition begs for marketing and customer relations people to be joined at the hip in working on the company’s business building efforts.  But the implications go farther than that – to the very heart of why marketing communication and employee engagement must go hand-in-hand.  It’s pretty simple, really.  If you define marketing as “relationship building,” then it’s no longer just a promotional activity for creative specialists.  Instead, it becomes an integral part of each employee’s job.  Everyone who has an impact on customer relations – directly or indirectly – ultimately shares responsibility for the company’s marketing success.

Live Up to Your Image
Loyalty programs like “frequent flyers” are designed as a retention device, but they’re usually in the form of promotional spiffs.  While that can be effective, it still falls short of the personal relationship building that goes beyond loyalty and leads ultimately to customer advocacy.

In the end, attraction comes more from the image you project, while retention comes more from the performance you deliver.  Both are vital, so don’t get suckered into putting disproportionate emphasis on getting customers in the front door – when keeping them is so much cheaper than replacing them after they slip out the back.

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