How Inspired Is Your Brand?

Steve JobsDo you market to your employees as powerfully as you do to your customers?

It seems that marketing teams are always customer facing. Sure that’s where the sales dollars are, but why stop there?

Employees can be your best marketing ambassadors. In fact, they can be a social media powerhouse for you.

But there are some brands that shift the focus. Brands like Apple or IKEA. Those brands create a powerful force through their employees.

What happens when the marketing team focuses first on employees and then on its customers?

How Inspired Is Your Brand?Patrick Neeman posted How Inspired Is Your Brand? Read Apple’s Onboarding Letter . He found an old blog post from a new Apple hire and reposted Apple’s welcome letter.

Like most great communications, it’s short and simple. Which only makes it more powerful:

Here’s what Apples’ onboarding welcome letter said

There’s work and there’s your life’s work.

The kind of work that has your fingerprints all over all. The kind of work that you’d never compromise on. That you’d sacrifice a weekend for. You can do that kind of work at Apple. People don’t come here to play it safe. They come here to swim in the deep end.

They want their work to add up to something.

Something big. Something that couldn’t happen anywhere else.

Welcome to Apple.

Apple is not alone. IKEA is another standout in harnessing the passion of its employees.

Does your company even come close to something like this?

Good Selling!

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The 5 Top Channel Instincts Posts Of 2014 – As Chosen By You

Street Smart Guy.emfAs 2014 draws to a close, so does the second year that Channel Instincts has been blogging.

Thank you for your continued interest, readership and comments.

But not all of you have been with us for the entire journey and while we have our own favorites, your clicks have let us know which posts struck a chord and were your favorites.

#5: 5 Tips to Succeed with Big Boxes

How to Sell Lowe's and Home DepotMaybe you already sell either Lowe’s or The Home Depot or both. Maybe you eat channel conflict for breakfast. But it’s been my experience that the continuous competitive clash between orange and blue is something that is tough for many manufacturers’ to figure out.

Selling one or both of the home center big boxes is a great way to drive volume. Each, however, works hard to differentiate themselves from one another. That makes it had to sell both of them when you have a commodity category. But it’s still possible to do this without being a major consumer brand.

#4: 4 Steps to Building an Internal Communication Plan

Effective internal communication is critical to your manufacturing successCommunication is critical within any business setting, but most importantly within a manufacturing facilities − where the right communication can really impact change and translate into business success.

What’s the best way to communicate?  How much should you communicate? How do you make sure your messages are heard? This guide will take you step-by-step through the communication process. It has simple, practical, easy-to-follow information you can put to use immediately.

#3: 8 Steps to Building a Customer-Focused Commercialization Strategy

8 Steps to a Commercialization StrategyBefore a commercialization plan can be developed and implemented, it must be driven by an overall commercialization strategy. By taking a strategic approach to your commercialization strategy, you will be better positioned to be successful with your new product launch.

The commercialization strategy should not contain a lot of financial detail or “how to,” but it must be consumer focused and customer centered and not technology focused. A key issue in a commercialization strategy is to set the direction to explore and understand the market. The commercialization strategy must focus on what satisfies the needs of the customer.

#2: Are You Using a 30-60-90 Day Marketing Plan?

Hired candidate had an action planAre you joining a company with big problems?  It may be too cliché, but it probably depends on if you see the glass half empty or half full.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hiring process and your ego can get in the way of asking the right questions.  You may never uncover or, worse, miss the warning signs that would prove that you cannot gain the commitments you’d need to succeed – especially with those critical quick wins that will help you gain credibility and traction with a new employer’s organization.

If you see the opportunity, the alignment and the financial backing, then you should accept that new position but only if you have a plan for success.  If any of those pieces of missing, there’s a good chance that you will fail.

#1: 7 Steps to Writing an Internal Communications Plan

Communication-PlanCommunication is critical within any business setting, but most importantly within a manufacturing facilities − where the right communication can really impact change and translate into business success.

What’s the best way to communicate? How much should you communicate? How do you make sure your messages are heard? This guide will take you step-by-step through the communication process. It has simple, practical, easy-to-follow information you can put to use immediately.

There you are, our top-5 list for 2014.  We hope you’ve enjoyed the posts over the past year, and we invite you to stay in touch in 2015 by following me on TwitterLinkedInSlideshare or Google+.

Good Selling!

7 Steps to Writing an Internal Communications Plan

Communication-PlanCommunication is critical within any business setting, but most importantly within a manufacturing facilities − where the right communication can really impact change and translate into business success.

What’s the best way to communicate?  How much should you communicate?  How do you make sure your messages are heard?  This guide will take you step-by-step through the communication process.  It has simple, practical, easy-to-follow information you can put to use immediately.

In another Channel Instincts post (4 Steps to Building an Internal Communication Plan), we laid out the planning side of an internal communications plan. Now that the pre-work has been completed, it’s time to write the plan.

Step 1: Background

Establish the need for the communication plan

Mission-vision-goalsThis section seeks to establish the need for the communication plan and focuses on the background or history of your location.  This section enables you to understand how the organization reached the present situation.

It is important for this section to include a discussion of the organization’s mission, vision and values.  The statements contained within the mission, vision and values impact all aspects of communication.  For example, if part of your plant’s mission is to improve safety, this message should make its way into the communication plan.

Examples of things or events that may shape your current situation are:

  • A merger or acquisition
  • Downsizing
  • Union strike
  • Attitude or behavior of management

Include in the background:

  • Bullet point format list of major events leading up to the time you write the plan—the events and issues that have determined the need for the communication plan
  • Mission statement—all communication should be linked with the mission or goals of the plant
  • Statement of vision and values—all communication should reflect the thoughts contained in these document

Step 2: Situation Analysis

Get to the heart of the problem or opportunity

Planning and CommunicatingThe situation analysis is an analysis of the root cause of the issues within your location.  When creating your situation analysis, first examine the issues to be addressed in the plan.  Then next to each issue, list the facts that support it, both positive and negative.  This activity helps you get to the heart of the problem or opportunity.  For example:

Issue Facts, or Effects of Issue
The merger between XYZ and ABC companies is not complete, and the two cultures are not fully integrated. 1. Low productivity
2. High turnover
3. Redundancy of various functions
4. Greater market share
5. Positioned as industry leader
6. Insecurity among employees—lots of rumors
Recent downsizing was handled poorly, resulting in heightened mistrust and insecurity. 1. Low productivity
2. Loss of key customers
3. Lower operating expenses
4. Communication department was not involved in downsize planning

Now that some issues have been identified, examine the root cause.  In this example the root cause may be:

Employees are perceiving the company’s aggressive growth agenda as a threat to job security.

Until you treat this cause, you will continually deal with its effects.  Once you determine the cause, you can formulate communication strategies that effectively treat the effects.  The final component of the situation analysis is to identify the root cause.

Step 3: Key Messages

The best messages are simple, straightforward and easy for employees to grasp and personalize

Employee CommunicationWhat are the major overall messages you need to share?  These should be aligned with the issues raised in the situation analysis as well as the agenda of company, business unit and plant leader.  The best messages are simple, straightforward and easy for employees to grasp and personalize.  It’s usually best to have about five key messages–too many can cause a loss of focus.

Example:

  1. The new re-engineering process has full support of management and the board of directors.  We are committed to making this program work for the good of our shareholders, customers and employees.
  2. The gain-sharing, restructuring and training teams have been created with full support from both union and management and will contribute to the overall operating efficiency at the plant.
  3. Safety is a top priority at the plant.

Step 4: Target Audience

Who are you trying to talk to?

Communication-PlanningIdentify to whom your plan is directed.  You may have more than one audience, or a primary and secondary audience.  For example, in a plant environment, your primary audience may be the primary employees, but many of your key messages should also be communicated to the company headquarters or peer plants.  They should be listed as your secondary audience and different tactics may apply, however the key messages should be related.

Step 5: Objectives

What are the outcomes you expect?

Here’s where we get to the “guts” of the communication plan.  What do you want your plan to do?  What are the outcomes you expect or want as a result of the plan?  This section should reflect your key messages and business objectives.  It should also be aligned with the feedback received from the data gathering portion of the plan.

Objectives vary from key messages in that key messages are what you want to communicate.  Objectives are how you want your key messages used.

For example:

  1. Promote an understanding of the re-engineering process throughout the primary and salaried workforce levels.
  2. Communicate the components of the gain-sharing, restructuring and training teams.
  3. Educate employees on the importance of safety within a manufacturing environment.

Step 6: Tactics/Implementation

What is it you actually want to DO?

communications plan stepsNow it’s time to put it all together.  Using your key messages and objectives, what is it you actually want to DO to make your plan work and fulfill your goals.   What are you going to do about the issues raised in the data gathering or background sections?  Use a grid like the one below to physically outline your tactics.  You may want to organize according to date to create a calendar of events.

Message Audience Delivery Responsibility
Why re-engineering is necessary Primary workers Plant-wide presentation Business leader
Small group Q&A sessions Plant leader
Shift meeting – examples of other re-engineering efforts and results Shift supervisor (organization development leader to supply info.)
Explanation of  gain-sharing All plant employees Distribute gain-sharing brochure Plant communication team
Plant wide email with bullet points of info Plant finance leader
Presentation to union Gain-sharing team
Safety in numbers program All plant employees Program kick off celebration Safety leader
Show safety video Safety leader
Testimonials from those hurt in the past Coordinated by safety leader

Step 7: Evaluation and Assessment

Evaluation and assessment phase is critical in determining the overall success of your communication plan.

employee engagementEach tactic or implementation item should have a corresponding assessment tool.  The evaluation and assessment phase is critical in determining the overall success of your communication plan.  Often, communication is considered non-quantifiable and difficult to measure.  Your communication plan must be carried through this stage if you are to prove its effectiveness.

There are several ways to evaluate and assess:

  • Surveys—surveys are used wherever there is a need to explain the motivations and attitudes driving behavior, to anticipate likely reaction to an announcement or establish a baseline of information in order to measure the effects of a communication plan.
  • Focus groups—a focus group is usually made up of 10 to 12 carefully targeted participants who are questioned extensively on their thoughts and feelings about a particular issue, product, service or communication tool.
  • Interviews—go out and talk to people.  Find out what people think or feel face-to-face.

The final component of this phase is stating the correction action based on the evaluation.  If the assessment uncovered constructive criticism, include this is your plan and the steps you will use to correct the situation in the future.

Any thoughts or ideas on what’s worked for you?  Share your comments with us!