Over the past few years the Indian economy has seen a visible and substantial shift towards the services sector with its growth outstripping the manufacturing sector by leaps and bounds. In any services business irrespective of its nature and its target audience, the critical factor to success lies in the commitment and quality of people inside.
The reason why most services companies today are looking to build a strong corporate brand. It is the same reason that explains the growing finesse and level of corporate messaging in recruitment advertising. Unlike building a brand from a consumer perspective building a brand which includes talent attraction and retention as a key objective needs to have a lot more emphasis on credibility of the brand-building process and the vehicles used. In the ensuing few paragraphs will briefly attempt to provide an answer for the same.
In an Opinion Research Corp. study undertaken sometime back globally, respondents were asked how they formed impressions about companies? Contact with employees scored 39% much higher than published articles, advertising and other communication tools in that order of importance. The only thing that ranked higher was the actual experience of the consumer with the product or service offered by the company. Assuming we take the quality of the product or service for granted, it emerges that the most effective and proven way to build a credible corporate brand lies in recognizing each employee as a potential company spokesperson and engaging all the employees as influencers in the marketplace.
If you look at it again, then you will find far more reasons why it is this way. Is it not a fundamental principle that nothing has greater impact on brand perception than our products/services and what our people say publicly. Is it not true that the behaviour of an employee at any customer contact point makes or mars a carefully and expensively cultivated image of the brand built over the years? Is it not true that in a commoditized marketplace where technology is a great leveler, the only difference can come and be made by employees which inturn has the single biggest impact on branding?
To put in a nutshell, our own people are the most effective way to build a credible and effective corporate brand and to do so the first thing any company needs to do is to seriously look at and make them an integral and effective element of the traditional marketing mix, which is not so prevalent today.
How can this be done? Here are a few pointers:
- have a formalized program to constantly and real-time provide relevant information to people, enabling them to communicate effectively externally, as well as internally (it helps to have a common code and nomenclature for this as it adds to the effectiveness of the program and also increases the visibility both within and outside)
- enable employees to internalize the vision, core values and strategy and understand their personal role in achieving those goals (which should be a senior management priority and has to be focused upon)
- build a strong internal community which unifies all the employees and fosters and takes collective pride in the company’s achievements (helps in retention very well)
- where possible externally use them as spokespersons (lots of IT companies and others have successfully used alumni effectively in their campus recruitment efforts)
- be honest and take them into confidence about the business and where it is heading (their level of ownership is higher and their conviction when externally interfacing is equally strong)
The good thing is that with the evolution of technology tools like intranet and others, doing so is convenient and turnaround times shorter. It just requires a strong belief in engaging our own people as brand ambassadors and making them truly a part of the marketing mix. How about starting today to look within?