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An interview with Chris Wallace, InnerView

‘Brand alignment from the inside out’; that’s the message that is emblazoned on the homepage of InnerView’s website. The firm’s co-founder and President, Chris Wallace is my latest guest on the podcast and he speaks to me about a new topic for the show; internal marketing.

“If the people who represent you, who wear your logo on their shirt and represent your brand, if they’re not aligned with what [the brand] promise is, how to behave in a way that’s consistent with that brand message, you’ve got a breakdown.”

Chris begins by outlining the problem that internal marketing is designed to solve.

“There’s probably no better place to talk about this than in the financial world. The financial services space has a lot of products and services that are relatively commoditized and experience is really becoming the battleground for how to differentiate yourself.

“The worst thing you can do in any relationship is set improper expectations, set expectations high and then under-deliver them. If brands are doing that with customers by not preparing and equipping their front line teams to back up that promise and deliver that experience, they’re going to have a lot of problems with satisfying their customers and delivering results.”

Some telling statistics

“We’ve asked marketers and marketing executives, how confident are you that the people who represent your brand can represent it the way that you built it?

“Only 34 percent of marketers indicated that they were either confident or highly confident that that was the case.”

That means the majority of front-line team members struggle to grasp the important details of their brands.

“We ask marketers every day how confident are you that your front lines are delivering that message? Usually, the response we get is some sort of chuckle or a laugh or an eye roll because they’re just not confident that that’s connecting. We then did follow up research and we asked frontline teams, how confident are you in delivering your brand’s message? We only heard that 38 percent of frontline employees are confident.

“So call it one in three, only one in three employees is confidently telling the brand story. So when you ask how big of a problem it is, you’ve got about two-thirds of your people that really need help.”

Marketing to your internal team

With the statistics established, I return to the topic of what internal marketing actually is.

“Internal marketing is looking at your frontline teams as another segment of your marketing strategy instead of looking at them as not your problem and expecting that training, operations or sales is going to build that connection for you.

“Look at them like an audience that you need to market to and win them over.”

Information overload

Chris and I then move on to discussing what an internal marketing solution might look like. Chris outlines a common problem he comes across.

“A lot of times the challenge that we see the companies have is their reaction is…we’re going to just give them more information.

“The reality is, that’s not winning people over, that’s just words, that’s just information. If they’re not really making that emotional connection with their people, then they’re going to struggle to drive that brand engagement.

“You want brand engagement with your customers, but most brands don’t have brand engagement with their own employees.”

Influencing the customer via your team

So why is it so important to take control of your internal marketing approach? Chris explains the primary benefit of a solid internal marketing programme.

“If you can win favour and gain preference and influence the person who speaks to your customer, that is a channel and an opportunity for you to influence the customer and their decision and their satisfaction with your company, with your brand.”

It’s at this point that Chris provides insight into how an internal marketing programme actually runs.

“What we are doing is taking the traditional voice of customer market research process and deploying it internally inside an organisation and saying, you know what your customers think of you; here’s what the people talking to your customers think of you, and we look for the areas where there are disconnects, both between the customers and the employees, as well as between leadership and the frontline employees.”

Delivering insights

Our conversation leads us to a discussion around some examples of the types of outcomes that have been generated from Chris’s work.

Chris walks me through one customer he worked with. “What we went back to them with was an insight…that they underestimated the competitive set. So the feedback that we got from the frontline teams was ‘you told us how we kind of stack up in the marketplace, but you were only using this one reference point’. ‘There are three or four other bona fide competitors that are out there, and we simply don’t know how to message the value of our product in relation to the others in the marketplace’.

“So in that instance, we were able to give them recommendations of providing your team with some clear messaging as to what your value proposition is against these other competitors or against the marketplace as a whole.”

Chris summarises by saying, “I would call that a pure messaging opportunity.”

Another client story looks at outcomes from a different perspective. “Then there [are recommendations] on the tactics side…so we run marketing campaigns. How can we run marketing campaigns that are going to reach that audience on their terms?

“That can look like anything from instead of doing your traditional e-book, we are doing interactive PDF conversation guides and they can find things very quickly and easily to the types of conversations they’re having.

“Another example is we’ve built internal podcast series for brands where they’re rolling out a major initiative, and they have salespeople that are going from appointment to appointment. They don’t want to sit on webinars for 90 minutes or two hours. They’d rather listen to a 17-minute clip while they’re driving from appointment to appointment.”

Getting started

From the strategic and tactical outcomes right back to the start of the process, I ask Chris how he typically kicks off a project with a customer.

“I’ll start with [what we] call the gut-punch question; How confident are you that the people who represent your brand can represent the story the way you built it?

“Once we ask that question, it opens up the dialogue.”

Getting by in today’s world of marketing

As is common in our interview series, I move on to the topic of marketing advice and what tips Chris would give to those looking to grow in the industry.

“I would say really that the two things you need to understand are digital and you need to spend time and invest energy in understanding customer experience.

“In terms of really making an impact in really being a strategic marketer, customer experience is going to be the cornerstone of marketing over the next decade, maybe the next two decades.”

Chris finishes by outlining why he believes internal marketing really is important for marketers to get to grips with.

“One of the things that marketers struggle with is this idea of control, right? The old adage is you know that 50 percent of your marketing is working, you just don’t know which 50 percent.

“I just think I would encourage the audience to really think about the fact that as a marketer, there’s a lot of leverage in building your brand and driving marketing performance by taking that internal path, by looking at those internal audiences as a channel, as another segment of your marketing population or your marketing programme, and targeting them as if they were part of your marketing programme.”

You can find more on Chris’s work and research over at the InnerView website.