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Internal Marketing Communication

Internal marketing communication is a combination of internal communication and internal marketing methods. It is regarded as internal communication with a marketing objective. It is a tool to win employees trust, commitment and buy in to achieve marketing goals and strategies. Human resources are a very integral part of an organization. Employees of a company provides it with competitive advantage in many ways. In almost all businesses, especially service related businesses, employees are a main interaction between customers and the company. Their selling and marketing abilities make a product successful or unsuccessful. In order to be productive, the vision of employees must be in sync with the company’s vision and goals. Internal marketing communication is an effort by the top management to win employees support in their marketing strategy which in turn results in greater employee effectiveness. Internal marketing is based on the philosophy that employees are the internal customers of an organization and hence, it is necessary to promote the firm, its policies, mission, vision, products and strategies to the employees of the firm. Employees and business partners are called internal customers because they interact within the organization in order to generate long term value to the company. In order to be effective, a firm must accurately segment the internal customers (employees) according to their own buying behaviour. Employees can be divided into three segments: supporters (who support the internal strategy), neutral ( who neither support, nor oppose the strategy) and opposers ( who outright refuse to or are against the strategy). Internal marketing communication aims to identify all the three segments of employees within an organization and then target all the three segments effectively in order to achieve a corporate culture comprising of empowered employees, equitable reward and recognition system and an overall good organizational structure that promotes learning, total quality management and business re-engineering. Internal marketing communication also plays a role in the three P’s of marketing strategy, push, pull and profile. The most important role played by internal communication is to decide upon which strategy to use for the company. Internal marketing communication plays a key role in internal marketing by communicating internal information within all departments in order to achieve organizational objectives. It aims to achieve the following purposes in an organization:

  • It creates a common understanding of the business organization which helps employees to identify if their personal goals are in sync with the goals of the organization. It gives an understanding to the employees of what the organization expects from them and how they can meet organization expectations. This helps the employees (internal market) to perform better.
  • It helps in promoting a culture of employee empowerment in order to encourage them to learn to take responsibility and accountability. In this way, employees are encouraged to come up with innovative ideas which help in new product development. Moreover, motivated workforce results in less employee turnover rate for the company.
  • It encourages employees to offer a superior service to customers which in turn results in greater market share and more profits for the company. By recognizing the importance of customers and appreciating their contribution to the success of the business, employees treat the customers more favorably.
  • Internal marketing communication integrates the organizational structure, HRM, culture, strategies and vision with the social and professional needs of employees and helps in promoting coordination and cooperation among different departments.

Internal communication can take place in an organization formally or informally. Internal communication should be top-down and bottom up in an organizational hierarchy in order to achieve the real goal of internal marketing communication. For example, the organizational structure of a company should be such that the subordinates have direct access to even the top most management of the organization and doesnot have to depend on their immediate managers to convey their message to the top management. At the same time, the structure should be transparent enough that any message by the top management must directly reach the lower management or staff without being passed through different intermediate channels. The different forms of communication that can place through the formal and informal channels are:

  • Formal channels:

Formal channel of communication includes those forms of communication which are framed according to the organizational structure. They include formal channels such as intranets, email, newsletters or any other electronic means. The other forms of internal communication can take place through periodic sessions, Open house, briefings, staff magazines, notices and posters. Traditionally, memos were used to communicate a message in an organization. However, with the advancement of technology, they are now replaced with emails.

  • Informal channels:

While formal channels are an important medium of intra organization communication, informal channels play and equally important role in the organization. For senior management to achieve continuous efforts from the part of employees, informal communication plays an important role.  There is no need for a proper medium or place for informal communication, it can take place anywhere such as canteens, while walking etc. Informal communication channels enable two way communications in an organization which provides top management important information regarding employees’ perception about the company. Informal communication includes direct face to face interaction, over the phone. With the advancement of information technology, new sources of information communication have also established such as blogs on company’s websites, video or audio conferences etc. Before any product is launched or marketed in the market, employees must be the first ones whose comments and suggestions must be taken into account by the top management. If for example, a company produces products which are targeted for middle income earners, for such a product, the best way to initially test the marketing strategies such as sales promotion is through the employees of the firm as most of them belong to the same market segment and more or less, have the same economic conditions of an average middle income household. This does not only hold true for lower staff, but for also middle and top management. The organization must first attempt to look at the internal market before launching the product in the whole market. Therefore, the best and the cheapest way to test marketing strategies is through internal communication. The events at Heathrow terminal 5 and its later consequences is a perfect case study to explain how internal marketing communication could have played its role to regain the image it lost due to negative publicity and lost customers. The terminal was developed as a state of the art, world class terminal but due to lack of risk management and contingency plans, it ended up with negative publicity as mismanagement resulted in chaos. In order to avoid such mishaps in future and to regain the popularity and customer’s trust, the top management of Heathrow Terminal 5 must use internal marketing communications effectively. First of all, they must form a risk management strategy, which must be dictated to all the employees through formal and informal channels, in order to cater to any such problem arising in the future. Proper contingency plans must be developed and all the glitches in the system must be solved in advance. Secondly, the management and employees must take responsibility for their actions and must ensure the customers and media that the mistakes will not happen again in future. Accepting the mistakes and taking responsibility can result in positive publicity as customers would feel that they are accepting their mistakes rather than blaming others. Finally, the management must identify their areas of weaknesses which they must communicate among employees so that the organization learns from its mistake. For an organization aiming to get TQM, analysing mistakes and learning to overcome them is an essential part of continuous improvement. In conclusion, in order to ensure that the mistakes are not repeated again, the organization must make use of risk management, well trained staff and a good organization structure effectively. All this can be achieved by using internal marketing communications which would have long term benefits for the company.