Marketing, in the broad sense of the word, is all about looking outwards.
Researching customers, finding product-market fit, seeing how the market responds to your offering. It's all about finding and talking to outsiders and convincing them that you're great and you can help them.
Internal marketing is a slightly different concept. It's still about persuasion, but the messages it sends percolate throughout the company itself rather than outside of it.
It's one of the most important components in building company culture - the driving force behind staff motivation and a healthy workplace. But how do you make it happen?
We'll look at what exactly internal marketing is, how you can best make use of it, and how it can benefit your company culture.
What is internal marketing?
One definition of internal marketing, as mentioned on Wikipedia, is:
"Attempting to win participants over to the management vision of the organisation."
When you put it like that, it sounds a bit evil. But it's true - it's all about convincing staff to buy in to the mission of the company. If you have to resort to coercion or dodgy manipulation tactics to do that, then you're in for a bad time. But running a company with actual ethics and sound virtues is also a way of bringing people onto your side.
Basically, if external marketing is saying what you want to say to customers and prospective customers, internal marketing is doing that with your own staff. The messaging will differ, of course, but there will be some overlap. Unless you're particularly dishonest, your company values will be the same when explained to a customer or an employee.
Internal marketing, though, involves more than just telling people what your values are.
Why you should embrace internal marketing to improve company culture
Your company culture is one of the most valuable assets you have, although it's not something you can easily quantify. It's the manifestation of your shared values as a company, demonstrated by what you say, how you behave, how you interact with each other and the outside world.
Company culture affects things like group morale, individual performance, company-wide financial performance, how your brand is perceived, and your attitudes towards creativity, change, financial responsibility, conflict, and so on.
If you get things wrong, the consequences can be dire. Negative company culture can cause low staff loyalty and retention, poor performance, a damaged brand, and difficulty hiring talented people. And a toxic workplace culture can take a long time to turn around, so it's certainly worth getting right sooner rather than later.
Remember, company culture isn't set in stone. It's something that evolves over time and needs to be guided. To do that, there's a number of different ways in which you can affect things.
Internal marketing techniques for building company culture
Firstly, there's the obvious stuff: stating your values explicitly. This can be done through direct communications, like the documents you give staff when they join or regular updates that you send to your workforce. Values and guidelines can be shared around the building you work in, too - by literally hanging them on the walls. Merchandise can also be useful, if you use branded stuff like stationery that serves as a daily reminder of what you stand for.
One popular way of declaring your company's intent is through a culture deck. Favoured in Silicon Valley tech firms like Netflix, it's a slide deck explaining how you do things and what people should expect when working for you.
Then, there's the behavioural side of things. In short: lead by example. "Do as I say, not as I do" is not the mantra of a healthy, people-first company. Consistency in your actions is the number one way to shape the actions of others.
Staying late at the office when you don't have to? Publicly berating staff for their mistakes? Inappropriate comments thrown around the office? These things might seem minor transgressions at the time, but can have pretty bad long-term effects if they're repeated by others. Part of your internal marketing campaign has to include a consistent behavioural code that everyone abides by, both management and employees.
Marketing isn't a one-way street, either. It's about repeatedly testing things to see if they work, and that involves seeking feedback.
Getting regular, insightful feedback about what you're doing as a company is super important for getting employees to buy in to your mission. If they're not happy with their work environment or career prospects, invest more in them.
Whether it's through one-on-one meetings, focus groups, or intranet forms, any method through which you can understand what's working and what isn't plays a crucial part in helping you guide the company towards a really effective company culture.
If you combine all of the above techniques, you'll be able to run a 'marketing campaign' that the outside world will never see, but will see the results of: a happy, healthy company that abides by its own values. A company that anyone would want to work for.