Your role as a promotional products consultant is to be an expert in generating ideas for brand strategies with your customers. Generally, you offer products, information, resources and tactics to help your customers gain new levels of brand awareness in their respective markets. You help your customers communicate their brand externally to the world. This is called external branding. Ultimately your influence contributes to a higher level of preference for your customers’ brands. Without you, your customers would be less likely to succeed in business.
Imagine that you can apply the expertise you have in external branding to a new opportunity and create a new sales channel for yourself. Everything you know about external branding can be applied to a new audience: the employees who work for your customer. This audience is considered an internal customer to the company, and your role with this audience is to strengthen the company’s brand internally. This type of branding is called internal branding.
Internal Branding vs. External Branding
Internal branding strategies are used to significantly reinforce an organization’s corporate purpose, values and culture. These strategies ultimately raise the level of employee engagement and consequently have an incredibly positive impact on your customer’s business.
In reality, external and internal branding are almost identical, so leveraging internal branding will be a natural extension of your business. Below is a quick comparison of each.
Builds customer loyalty
Shortens the buying cycle and increases repeat business Increases in brand preference
Increases in employee loyalty
Increases in employee productivity
Increases level of employee’s alignment with the company
Who Decides What A Brand Stands For?
One myth we need to debunk before we go any further is this: Most people think that the marketing department defines the external company brand. This is not true; customers define the brand. Customers enter a store, visit a website or talk to a company representative on the phone. When the experience is over, they make their own conclusions about the company and its brand. The external brand is ultimately defined by the customer experience. They are the judge and jury to the meaning of any corporate brand.
The lynchpin to the success of an external brand is the company employee. The employee has the power to weave the company brand into every customer experience. The only way to make sure that a brand is translated correctly is to integrate it at the employee level through an effective internal branding strategy.
Which Type Of Branding Is More Important—External Or Internal?
Although it may seem counterintuitive, internal branding is more important than external branding for the success of a business. A strong internal brand builds employee engagement, which compels employees to provide a higher level of service to customers. In the end, the high level of service will build a positive customer experience and deliver an equally strong external brand to the marketplace.
I can make this claim because I have seen it happen inside my own company. Years ago, I thought internal branding was a nice idea but not a realistic strategy to build a business. However, nine years ago I had a change of heart and implemented a number of internal branding strategies with the ultimate goal of building a highly engaged workforce. Today my company is stronger, inside and outside, then it has ever been. I am a true believer in the power of internal branding
In my experience, employee engagement programs are the most effective way to create and sustain an internal brand. An employee engagement program is designed to reward employees who do their work with their brain and their heart—these employees are engaged.
The link between rising levels of employee engagement and positive business outcomes is growing stronger all the time. A recent study by The Gallup Organization found that engaged employees are:
• 18 percent more productive
• 16 percent more profitable
• Generating 18 percent higher earnings
• 12 percent better at engaging customers
• Creating 2.6 times higher growth rates
• Reducing quality defects by 60 percent
Employee Engagement And Employee Recognition
The experts recommend using an employee recognition program as a base for a dynamic engagement program. When a company does this, employees who are recognized know that what they are doing counts. Employees receive immediate feedback and become more productive; increasing customer satisfaction and company profits, according to a report by Northwestern University’s Forum for People Performance Management.
Companies favor employee recognition programs to increase engagement levels because they are measurable and produce results. A recent study conducted by World at Work reveals the following data:
• 86 percent of organizations have recognition programs in place
o 70 percent of those offer between three and six different programs
• In the next 12 months, 90 percent of these organizations plan to continue their programs
• Organizations implement recognition programs in order to:
o Honor years of service
o Create a positive work environment
o Motivate high performance
o Create a culture of recognition
o Increase morale
The factors listed above are exactly what an organization needs to increase employee engagement and build strong internal and external brands.
Here Is Your Opportunity
In the midst of all these statistics is a shiny golden nugget for you: Most successful companies know that the best way to increase employee engagement is through an effective internal branding program by way of employee recognition. A solid recognition program is at the heart of internal branding and employee engagement.
A recent PPAI industry survey shows that more than 20 percent of dollars spent in the promotional products industry are used for internal purposes. This equals more than $3 billion spent on awards and promotional products. How much of this business do you own?
Internal branding and employee recognition programs are your way to create new sales with your customers and optimize your business.
The most common comment I hear from promotional consultants is that their goal is to grow their business. I’ve seen many changes in the way we do business during the past 20 years. However, the one constant is the need for a strong, committed workforce throughout corporate America. Your ability to differentiate internal and external branding strategies from each other will give you an opportunity for amazing business growth.
Chuck Dahlgren is the president and CEO of Crystal D (UPIC: CRYSTALD), one of the industry’s leading recognition award companies. www.crystal-d.com