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Marketing To Your Most Important Customer

by Ryan Joy — July 17, 2010

Question: What is the most important market segment you should be targeting?

Answer: Your employees. Good companies aim first to make raving fans within their own team. Employees should be excited to tell your stories, sell your products, and explain how you provide value to customers. If your employee culture is authentic and vibrant, your other customers will feel the magnetism of a special place. Here are five ways to market to your employees:

1. Orientation

Tap into the power of first impressions by creating an experience for new employees that tells them everything you want them to know and feel about your brand. At Whole Foods, the entire team votes to decide whether to accept the new team member—a process that tells employees a lot about the company’s values and culture. New employees at Apple stores are given an iPod to watch movies about the brand, including their famous “1984” commercial. How can your orientation process tell your unique story?

2. Employee-Only Tasting Events

As employees taste your unique products, explain how it was produced and what makes it special. Or give employees a punch card of signature products to try for free on their own time.

3. Names

Why does Trader Joe’s call their store directors “captains” and their employees “the crew”? Why are Starbucks employees called “associates,” while employees at the Ritz Carlton are “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”? Language creates perception, and perception creates reality. What parts of your business could you infuse with new meaning simply by changing its internal name?

4. Communication Materials

A break room poster, an employee intranet, or a newsletter stuffed in an employee pay stub envelope should do more than inform employees about new programs and policy changes. Use them to reinforce the reasons you believe in your company’s offering.

5. Slogans

Nike tells the general public “Just Do It,” but has a different advertising slogan for their employees: “We’re all about sports, and then some.” That expresses exactly why anyone would be excited to work for Nike—because of a love for sports. How would you summarize the most potent reason to work at your company into a memorable statement?

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