Karol Media: Tell me how you saw blogs in the marketing mix and how you have seen the field evolve?
Stershic: I launched the Quality Service Marketing Blog in February 2005 in lieu of having a professional website and as a platform to extend my brand. In my experience in services marketing, employees ARE the brand and their engagement is critical to engaging customers; i.e., if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers. So my blog’s primary focus is on employee-customer care through internal marketing — what it is, why it’s important, what it involves, how to strengthen it, what to do, what not do, etc.
Over the years, my content strategy has evolved to reflect my growth as a thought leader on engaging employees and customers with internal marketing. I write about internal marketing/branding, internal communications, employee engagement, customer service, leadership, and marketing for service providers and nonprofit organizations. Blogging allows me to cultivate and share best practices collected from people I’ve met online and in-person. It’s also enabled me to develop and preview content for my books on internal marketing.
Karol: First off Sybil, you created your blog in 2005 and your only physical web presence was this blog until a few years ago! Fascinating. 8 years of blogging.
Stershic: I didn’t realize at the time how critical blogging (and other forms of social media) would become as part of the marketing mix. As a solo-preneur, I rely on networking and word-of-mouth as my primary marketing tools. The blogosophere provides an expansive network through which I’ve “met” many helpful and inspiring bloggers, and it’s enabled faster sharing of word-of-mouth. I used to get a kick out of prospects telling me they found me through my website when the only online presence I had was my blog! Again, yes, it was only a few years ago that I launched a business website, and I recently consolidated them into one site: http://www.qualityservicemarketing.com.
Social media has grown tremendously since I began blogging eight years ago. The number and frequency of blog comments have declined due to the advent of additional social media engagement through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, etc. It’s become overwhelming and contributes to a lot of noise and clutter. Smart marketers are learning that social media needs to be strategic — just because a new technology is out there, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for every business and every brand. When I first dipped my toes into the Twitter pool, I followed the advice of sharing “what’s got my attention” that others might benefit from (e.g., important insights, new findings on employee-customer care, interesting webinars/blog posts/white papers, etc.) rather than sharing everything-and-anything that crossed my path.
Social media outlets offer an important set of communication tools in the marketing/branding mix that requires strategic thought and investment. It’s a new spin on traditional concepts: content management is basically marketing messaging; reputation management is part of branding; and word-of-mouth has been expanded to include word-of-mouse.
Karol: So, you say, as an “essence” of your Quality Service Marketing specialty, that: “if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.” How often, even in this day and age, is this internal focus overlooked in Business?
Stershic: Talk about the ultimate question!
The good news is the relationship between employee care and customer care is publicly acknowledged; the bad news is very few organizations are intentional in how they manage this relationship. The reasons for this disconnect range from “benign neglect” (i.e., it’s just one of many “to do” items on an already long list) to considering employees as commodities. Scott Adams recognizes the latter thinking in his book, “The Dilbert Principle,” when he lists “Our employees are our greatest asset” as number one in the top ten management lies.
Besides giving lip service to employee value, many managers don’t realize that internal marketing is an ongoing effort. Communicating the company’s mission, strategy and goals; where employees fit within the “big picture” of the organization; and what is expected of employees in helping the company achieve its goals, etc. — this crucial information needs to be shared continuously. Market and competitive forces require adjustments in company strategy and resources, and managers don’t necessarily take the time to communicate what’s happening in the company. They don’t know what’s expected of them in sharing such information; they lack the communication skills, and/or complain they don’t have the time. Equally frustrating, managers may not bother to solicit employee feedback. When employees are kept out of the communications loop, and when they feel no one cares about their input and ideas, they start to disengage.
There’s no real magic to employee and customer engagement — it’s common sense. However, common sense doesn’t always translate into common practice.
Karol: How often in your experience does genuine quality internal marketing translate into a robust successful company?
I’d love to say “Always!” but that’s not realistic. There are numerous elements besides internal marketing that contribute to a successful enterprise. These include strong product utility and value, well-trained and qualified employees, effective strategy and execution, excellent customer service, and market responsiveness, to name a few. For example, if a company offers a product with little perceived value, or if new competitors are doing a superior job, the company won’t be in business for long. The marketplace can also change rapidly, putting pressure even on those firms with a good business model and strong employee-customer engagement. Sadly, there are companies with a negative workplace culture that seem to survive high employee turnover and do well in spite of themselves. But is that a place where you would want to work?
Sybil F. Stershic is president of Quality Service Marketing, (www.qualityservicemarketing.com,) a marketing and organizational advisor with more than 30 years of experience helping service providers strengthen employee and customer relationships. A leading authority on engaging employees through internal marketing, she is the author of “Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits” a 2013 Small Business Book Award Winner in Marketing, “Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care”, and the Quality Service Marketing blog.
Sybil’s clients span a variety of service industries including advertising, communications, financial services, food service, government, healthcare, higher education, professional associations, and social service organizations. She also teaches marketing workshops nationwide.
Active in leadership and professional development, Sybil is a former Chairman of the American Marketing Association (AMA). In addition to her continued involvement with AMA, she serves on the Advisory Council of Global Facilitators Serving Communities and is a member of BoardSource and the International Association of Facilitators.
Karol provides storage, packaging, distribution fulfillment business solutions to e-commerce, other business, non-profits, and associations for over 36 years. karolfulfillmentservices.com Email: email@example.com
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