Creating a Marketing Culture

For most organizations, the number one marketing and public relations force is your own employees.  Your company will receive good, bad, or neutral “press” depending on whether the employees are satisfied and feel a part of the company’s mission and vision.  The key to eliminating the bad and neutral “press” is to empower your employees.  If they feel empowered and part of the organization, they can become mini marketers for your organization.  

The degree to which people can identify their contribution to the organization is the degree to which they’ll speak and act positively about the company.  You need to empower your people to make decisions.  They need to take action and embrace a unified entrepreneurial spirit that allows the company to shine. 


In order to do this, you need to clearly understand empowerment.  It’s not simply telling people what they can and cannot do.  Empowerment involves a threefold process that helps to build trust between the employees and the organization.   


  1. How much latitude do your employees have in any given situation?  If it’s clear and they don’t have to second guess themselves when they make decisions, that’s the first step of the empowerment process.  
  2. What’s the limit to their authority?  Empowered employees need to know the limit of their authority. When they reach the authority level they need to  know the steps to take to find out additional information or suggestions so they can get a decision. 
  3. Do the employees think outside the box?  When true empowerment exists, employees are not afraid to think outside the box or make suggestions that might not fit with the norm for your business.  They will only do this if they know they have management support and that their senior executives want their input. 


The true sum total of empowerment is for each employee to understand the vision and mission of the company and to have a culture that understands that the company will do anything and make any changes necessary to meet its vision and mission.  In that environment, the employees will be willing to make out-of-the-box suggestions and assist in following through with them.


Generally to empower your employees, you have to go beyond just telling them they are empowered.  It is quite common to have an environment where employees expect managers to tell them what to do in every situation.  That can become the norm in a business.  Most employees, deep in their hearts, want more responsibility and want to make a meaningful contribution.  They want to play a vital role but experience, management, and colleagues have taught them that to be “good employees” they need to do what they’re told. 


In reality, companies today don’t want a workforce of mini puppets.  They want employees that feel as though they have a stake in the organization’s success. In order to truly harness the collective power of the organization and the people, employees need to feel they can make decisions and they will be supported.  


To achieve this culture change, management’s going to have to stop making decisions for people.  In the future, don’t tell people what to do but implement a questioning style of management.  Ask employees what they think they should do in a situation and then listen to their answers.  If their answers aren’t well thought out, ask them more detailed questions to prompt further thinking.  Whatever you do, don’t jump in with a solution.  Instead create a safe environment where employees can think enough through their options and come to their own decisions.  


Many of our clients are working hard at refocusing their companies to become more customer-centric.  They want to be responsive to their customers’ needs and wants.  The most critical part of this is to understand what your customers’ needs are.  If you ask them, they will probably tell you.  


Generally their customers tell their employees what they want in their day-to-day business interactions.  In order for employees to relay that information to management, they need to feel they will be listened to and taken seriously.  This is critically important because that customer feedback may discover an untapped niche, new product idea, or a better service offering that your competition currently has. 


When you don’t listen to your employees or when you discount their input as unimportant, you squash their motivation and foster a team of stagnant, negative employees.  That’s not an environment conducive to creating mini marketers.  You want to foster an environment in which you listen and respond to their feedback so that the information they have, their skills and motivation can contribute to the company’s vision and mission.  


Being customer-focused is also being employee-focused.  An example of an empowered employee taking action was told recently at the Greater Wenatchee Chamber of Commerce banquet.  The chamber manager, Craig Larsen, told how a visitor to the area had stopped by and inquired where he could get “the best apple pie in the country.”  The staff was unaware of where this would be, but after researching the question they discovered that a local B & B owner had won a prize for the best apple pie in America.    They contacted her and she delivered a pie to them the next morning and they were able to get this to the gentleman.  That’s an example of a truly empowered team pulling out all the stops to achieve the vision and mission of the company. 


If you strive to empower your workforce, take time to detail the latitude each person has, the processes in which to channel new ideas, and ways for managers to show support.  The more empowered your employees are, the greater reward your company will reap in terms of positive “press”, increased sales and higher bottom-line results.