No matter what type of team they run, every manager has to be a good marketer. Of course I don't mean the traditional sense of marketing, as in promoting products and services to your potential customers. Managers must instead master internal marketing, which typically takes two forms:
- Marketing the activities of their team to the rest of the organization
- Marketing the big-picture mission to their own team
Done well, both of these forms of internal marketing promote cohesion, engagement, and higher performance. Let's take a look at how each works and why it's important.
Marketing Your Team
Silos will naturally arise in any organization. It’s very natural to identify more with your immediate team than with the organization as a whole. However, managers can't let this mindset take over: they must actively promote the key activities of their department or team across the entire organization.
If you want your managerial peers, the CEO, and the rest of the organization at large to support what you do, they must understand what you’re doing and why it is important. This means clearly communicating the key responsibilities and priorities of the group.
How, practically, can you market your group’s activities to the organization? When I ran NetQoS, I placed a bulletin board outside each manager’s office and asked them to post the 3–5 most important metrics for their group. I asked them to update their progress against these metrics when appropriate, but at least once a quarter. (That system eventually turned into Khorus, where managers can easily share their departments top priorities and update not only the CEO but other groups on how things are going.)
But you don't strictly need Khorus to keep the company abreast of what's happening on your team. Here are a few tips:
- Know your elevator pitch. Each quarter, you should know your team's 3–5 key metrics, how they support company goals, and how they're tracking. Be prepared to communicate about them at any time.
- Keep it simple. No one wants to see your 60-slide PowerPoint or hear you get into the weeds on project details. Cut out the noise and get to the signal: What's critical for people to know? What's the coolest thing going on? How is it relevant to your colleagues on other teams?
- Create your own mechanism for sharing information. Whether it's an app like Khorus, a bulletin board outside your office, or a simple Google Doc, keep a concise summary of your team's priorities and the latest updates where people can see it.
Marketing the Mission
The second form of internal marketing—communicating the mission, priorities, and brand of the organization to your team—is typically a simpler responsibility. The message changes less, and your audience is usually smaller. Nevertheless, it's just as important to get right.
One of the key managerial responsibilities is to "clarify the why" for your team. What is this company all about? Why do we do what we do? How does our local team contribute? And how do I, individually, contribute? Failing to answer these questions concretely and consistently for employees is a recipe for disengagement.
Here are some guidelines for marketing the mission to your team:
- Use aligned goals. Aligned goals are an excellent way to build line of sight and show employees how they tangibly contribute to the company's strategic objectives.
- Integrate external marketing. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Ogilvy & Mather's Colin Mitchell advises managers to ensure that external and internal marketing messages are consistent. In other words, make sure that what you tell your team and what your company tells the outside work aren't in conflict. Mitchell describes one company that got this wrong:
One health insurance company, for instance, advertised that the welfare of patients was the company’s number one priority, while employees were told that their main goal was to increase the value of their stock options through cost reductions.
- Work it into onboarding. Although you must constantly reinforce the bigger picture to all employees, onboarding is a critical opportunity for internal marketing to people just getting oriented to your team. As you introduce a new hire to the company and team, paint a cohesive, purpose-led picture of their role (rather than pitching it as a list of duties and tasks).
As a manager, you're a critical conduit of information. Thinking of yourself as an internal marketer to two key audiences—your own team, and your peers in other groups—will help you connect the dots and keep people energized about getting the right stuff done.