Your in-house marketing department is likely made up of capable, well-qualified and talented people, yet it may feel that you never get any respect from management or the rest of the company. You seem to get stuck doing all the small, tedious jobs while outsiders are brought in for the big, important projects. You obviously know your credit union, its products, services, members, and even your competition – so why are you not seen as experts at what you do?
There are three likely reasons:
1. You’re too close. In corporate-think, when you are right down the hall, you can’t be experts because experts are hard to find. Familiarity may not always breed contempt, but closeness and apathy are often best buddies.
2. You only have one built-in client. That client isn’t going anywhere, so you don’t always see the need to keep that client happy. Paradoxically, you also can’t tell your client “no” if you want to be seen as a team player.
3. Because you only have one client, you have never had to market yourself.
[What’s that? Marketing?I already have too much to do, so why should I “market” to a built-in client?]
Because Marketing is about controlling the type of work you get to do, not the volume of work you get. If your client only knows what you have done in the past rather than what you’re capable of, that means you need to market your department internally. Think of department as a client, and develop a marketing plan to get where you want to be.
As with most marketing plans there are three distinct phases:
The first step is to gather all the facts. Not only do you need to find out what everyone knows, you also need to find out what they don’t know. You could do this yourself, or hire an outside consultant. Either way, these are the first important steps to take:
• Start by assessing your team. Every member has different capabilities and skills, and may have picked up additional training on their own or at previous jobs. Some may have even been stuck in a position that needed filling rather than a position which they’re better suited. You need to know the capabilities of your team (potential), where they excel (expertise), and where they could use some help (need).
• Survey internal clients. Ask them how you have done in the past, whether you have kept them well-informed on the progress on those jobs, and whether they got the results they needed. Then, if they have used an outside firm, ask if there is anything they experienced that they would like to see as part of your internal process.
• Understand your own brand positioning. If you position yourself as the low-cost, do-it-all resource, you also lower your perceived value to your internal client. Outside firms tend to get projects because they are focused and specialized, not all-purpose generalists that try to do everything as cheap as possible. Remember, you are THE Brand Champion. No one knows your credit union like you do.
Once you have uncovered all of your positives and negatives, then you need to build the structures you will need to improve your processes and capabilities:
• Develop internal systems. Treat your internal clients as clients. That means developing a standard process for starting every job, setting up a system to ask all the right questions and get all the pertinent information before beginning the work. That means your clients have to treat you professionally as well (no more being told “we need an ad Thursday” while you’re passing someone in the hallway.) You also need to start tracking how you use your time so that you can provide realistic timetables and consistent progress updates, as well as accurate estimates of outside expenses and delivery dates.
• Create your own marketing plan. Now that you have the structure in place, you need to show everyone what you can do. Options you might want to consider are: company-wide emails that highlight the results you accomplished for another department, lunch-and-learn marketing seminars for co-workers that are both fun and informative, and updating your workspaces to make the atmosphere as creative as the people in it.
• Build a list of who you want to bring in. Now that you know your strengths and weaknesses, you need to focus on doing the work that fit your team’s skills so that you excel at those projects, and connect with outside partners when it isn’t a good fit. That way you remain in control of projects, and are seen as the expert because you always provide the best solutions.
• Consider a chargeback system. When dollar signs are attached to a project, expectations are higher on both sides. These can be on paper only, with funds “transferred” when the project is complete, or, even better, part of each department’s actual budget. Not only will your internal client focus on the important projects instead of silly requests, but you will be accountable for the quality of the work and share credit for the results. Offer to help other departments with their marketing budgets and you open more opportunities to talk about what you do.
All of which leads up to the third and final phase: