(This one’s for you, David…)
Every business has a soul. They do.
That soul is a hearty blend of mission, values, standards, practices, policies and the characters of its owners and employees.
The way your company communicates those core truths within the organization is its internal message. And internal messages are a compass and a conscience all rolled into one. When an opportunity or dilemma presents itself, the internal message helps dictate whether and/or how your company acts on it.
Remember the Nordstrom legend about a dissatisfied customer who demanded money back on a pair of snow tires? News flash: Nordstrom does not sell tires. But because of their “customer is always right” internal message, the employee refunded the amount, and Nordstrom went down in history.
And on a recent, Las Vegas business trip, my husband and I struck up a fascinating conversation with one remarkably persistent street vendor. Her company’s internal message was “our customers are only here for a weekend and they’re about to blow all their cash in the casinos… SELL NOW, SELL NOW, SELL NOW!!”
Sharing that internal message “internally” is challenging enough because every staff member has his or her own motivations, expectations and interpretations. But your business has a “significant other” that also wants to know what you’re about. And this group means business… literally. It’s your customers!
So, how do you make your internal message external?
That’s What Marketing is For
Every print ad, billboard, logo, website, Facebook post, brochure, business card, etc. – when designed intelligently – shares some part of your internal message with your customers.
It can be as obvious as stating point-blank, “We treat our customers like family”. Or it can be more of a suggestion, like a story about an employee donating his kidney to a customer in need. Or it can be as subtle as a welcoming color choice in the logo, inclusive wording in your brochure or family photos on your website.
But Beware the “Telephone” Effect
Do you remember the game “Telephone”, where a person whispers a message into their neighbor’s ear, and it continues that way around a circle of people, back to the originator of the message? By the time the message makes it back to square one, it’s diluted to within an inch of its life. In many cases, it doesn’t even have a handshake acquaintance with where it started.
This is the same problem a business owner has to contend with. The first “whisper” is to the staff and marketing, as an internal message. The staff and the marketing pros then pass it on to the customers. And as the customers share it with friends and family, who share it with other friends and family, you exponentially lose control over what that message becomes.
The best way to combat miscommunications is to start out with messages that are so simple and so intuitive, that they’re hard to mess up in the first place!
Frankly, it’s easier to say “DMT Artistry, LLC will always complete your projects on time,” than to hope they’ll remember “DMT Artistry, LLC will work weekends, evenings and holidays, if necessary, to ensure that a client receives their project in the time frame specified on the agreement form, as approved by all parties.”
When the Line Goes Bad
Suppose your message does get warped. The only way you’ll know is by consistent monitoring.
Keep tabs on customer review sites to see what people are saying about your business. Listen to your employees’ conversations with your customers. Read the comments people are posting on your Facebook page. Poll your customers.
The best resolution is prevention, so nip bad or incorrect messages in the bud.
DMT CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK:
Pick a company – yours, if possible. Take a good, hard look at the marketing and the customer experience, and then at the external company reviews. Based on the former, what do you believe makes up that company’s “soul”? Based on the latter, what do other people believe is the “internal message”? Do the two coincide? If not, what could be done to get everyone back on the same page?
This post is a hat tip to my twin brother and professor of entrepreneurship, who recently taught his students about the role of “internal messages”. You’re pretty darn cool, Dave, even beyond your association with me…
Dawn M Tomczyk | DMT Artistry LLC | 810.923.4582 | email@example.com
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