4 Reasons To Expand Your Definition Of ‘Marketing’ In 2022

Chris Wallace is the President of InnerView, a marketing consulting firm that specializes in internal brand alignment.

When was the last time you read a marketing textbook? It might not seem like a high priority, given the daily demands of life, work and a raging global pandemic. It is a worthwhile exercise, though.

I’ve had some experience with this recently. I am teaching as an adjunct professor this spring semester, and my challenge is to help 18 MBA candidates make sense of modern marketing challenges.

My companion on this journey is Marketing Management, the 16th edition of the book from renowned marketing scholar Phillip Kotler and his co-authors Kevin Lane Keller and Alexander Chernev. The great thing about textbooks is they are written by people whose primary jobs are to observe and think. While we are all too busy for those things, these scholars look at the big picture and the broad forces that are impacting the profession and they build models and frameworks to help us address the challenges.

One notion that stands out immediately is how they challenge the traditional “definition” of marketing: product, promotion, placement and price drive demand, end of story. Right? That model is all about the customer, the external audience. Kotler and company introduce the idea that modern marketing encompasses another key audience: employees. They discuss the idea of “internal marketing” as one of the four main components of a modern marketing foundation. As they state:

“Smart marketers recognize that marketing activities within the company can be as important as — or even more important than — those directed outside the company. It makes no sense to promise excellent service unless the company’s staff is ready to provide it.”

The marketing department’s job was hard enough before. Now this concept expands the role marketing plays beyond just engaging customers to engaging internal audiences as well. While the concept of internal marketing is not new — thought leaders (including me) have been touting this new discipline with articles, podcasts and other content — the idea that internal efforts are now a fundamental expectation will challenge most marketers to think differently.

Are Kotler, Keller and Chernev right? In the real world, is internal marketing an imperative for organizations to deliver value to their customers? The following factors make a great case for making this an area of focus:

• Experience dominates. Customer experience is becoming the critical factor shaping consumer attitudes toward brands. The passage above explains this perfectly. Brands are making promises to customers to grab their attention and build a relationship. If the employees or partners who represent that brand don’t understand or can’t deliver on that promise, trust is lost with the customer. That means they take their money elsewhere.

• Differentiation is hard. Consumers have seemingly endless choices for the products and services they need. Standing out is a challenge, even for good marketers. Progressive companies are making front-line employees a cornerstone of the brand. Building a team that can deliver value consistently and passionately can become a competitive advantage.

• Performance matters. Marketers are expected to deliver results. Every customer interaction is critical. Effective delivery of the brand’s promise can improve metrics like sales conversion, order size and other key metrics. Higher conversion means marketing efforts are more efficient (i.e., lower cost to acquire). The return on marketing investment with employees is high because a small improvement gets applied to countless customers.

• Labor is tight. It is hard to deliver a great customer experience and strong performance if you’re struggling to staff key front-line positions. Finding and keeping employees is a challenge across most industries. People want to work for a brand that is committed to serving its customers. It makes their lives easier and their work more enjoyable. Internal marketing can play a key role in reinforcing the value a brand delivers to employees, which can help attract talent and improve retention.

Modern marketers are being forced to adapt to a new set of fundamentals. Consumers buy in different ways, and brands are searching for smarter and more effective ways to compete. While outside forces are the ones grabbing the most attention and the most resources, there is a tremendous marketing opportunity within each company.

Our research has shown that 80% of marketers believe that front-line employees play a key role in making a brand successful. Marketers need to expand their role to include internal marketing as a key part of the marketing strategy. Start thinking of employees like they are a “buyer” and convince them of the value your brand can deliver. That’s your homework.


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