Marketing Strategy : The Basics of Internal Marketing
According to Berry and Parasuraman (Marketing Services: Competing through quality), Internal marketing is attracting , developing, motivating, and retaining qualified employees through job-products that satisfy their needs. It is the philosophy of treating employees as customers.
Although the concept of internal marketing seems like another version of human resource management, there is much more than just attracting and retaining good employees. According to Professor Philip Kotler, marketing activities within the company is equally important as marketing activities outside the company.
According to Kotler, there are two perspectives to internal marketing. One perspective is the coordination within the marketing department. The various marketing functions like sales , advertising, product development etc should act as a single unit focusing on delivering the best to the customer. The second perspective is the interaction between the various functions like Production, Finance , HR etc. Internal marketing’s role is to ensure that the entire organization is able to come together for a common business objective.
While many literature focus on the usefulness of internal marketing on the marketing function, internal marketing have a strong strategic importance which is often overlooked.
There are many advantages of internal marketing. These advantages vary with the nature of the business that firms are in. Internal marketing has a strong impact on the customer satisfaction in service industries. In most of the service businesses, the consumption of the service product happens at the service factory. Research has proved that the way in which the employees are treated have a direct impact on the way customers are treated.
There are businesses which are human resource oriented like software firms which will find internal marketing a very powerful tool for marketing as well as strategy. Such marketing programs targeting the employees will have strong effect on the overall efficiency of the employees.
The internal marketing initiatives will also have a ripple effect on the ability of the organization to attract and retain the employees. In this highly networked world, internal marketing can generate very high positive word of mouth publicity about the working environment in the company which can attract new talents to the organization.
Firms venturing into Internal Marketing have to look at the concept at different levels. There has to be emphasis on key focal points like branding, communication, training, motivation and transparency.
With regard to branding, Internal Marketing is closely linked to corporate branding. Corporate brand has more relevance in internally than a product brand. Employees should be thrilled by the corporate brand rather than the product brand. Hence marketing communication targeting employees should be aimed at building corporate brand equity rather than product brand equity. Brands like Infosys, TCS, Unilever etc not only attract prospective clients but also new talents to the company. Working for a reputed corporate brand is a powerful non-monetary reward for the employees.
Firms venturing into internal marketing should create a robust internal communication infrastructure which is a vital pre-requisite to any such program. Free flow of relevant information within the organization is very vital in this context. The success of the internal marketing program lies in the employees being able to internalize the brand promise, company values and develop customer orientation.
For example, the employee in the finance department should understand the implication of fast payment/bill processing on the overall business of the firm. Materials department should understand the importance of efficient procurement on the overall business strategy of the firm. The understanding of cross linkage of various departments and its impact on the customer will be the biggest takeaway of a successful internal marketing program.
Another important prerequisite of a successful internal marketing program is the internalizing of organizational culture among the employees. Firms like Marriott, Apple, Microsoft, Infosys, TCS, GE thrive because the employees are torch bearers of the organizational culture. Such internalization will happen only through a robust internal marketing program. For example, in Infosys, founders like Narayana Murthy , Nandan Nilekeni had the wisdom to understand the importance of developing a highly ethical , performance oriented culture. These organizations have a strong internal structure that is responsible for teaching this culture to the employees.
Top Management Responsibility
In most of the organizations, the task of internal marketing is not clearly defined. Most often this function is handled by the Human Resource Department. The thinking is that HR department is best suited for dealing with employees in matters regarding motivation, training and development etc. Like product marketing, internal marketing is also a very important function to be left to any functional department. In my personal opinion, top management is responsible for internal marketing. Firms like GE, Zappos, Google ,3M has CEOs taking the full responsibility of internal marketing.
In this highly competitive environment, internal marketing is a tool that can differentiate an organization from its peers. It is time for organization to understand its importance and start investing in it.
Originally Published in Adclubbombay.com