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People are your corporate image

Friday, 2 October 2009

A couple of weeks ago, as part of my marketing plan for trainingreality (essentially, an effort to broaden customer base for our management training courses), I directly e-mailed 75 CEO’s of the largest companies in the UK. For a number of reasons, the responses were interesting, but a few really stood out in terms of positively supporting their corporate image.

Of the 75 e-mails, I received a response from only six companies at all. The remainder of the messages (which got through, according to my e-mail system) were deleted or ignored. An 8% response to unsolicited mail isn’t too bad in my experience, but it still feels low for personally and individually written e-mails.

Looking at the six responses, in (my) order of positivity (both in terms of outcome and the quality of the response):

One was a very pleasant and personal-sounding automated response.

Two were “no thanks” from an executive assistant.

One was a very nice personal reply, copying in the person who is responsible for training.

The runner up was a major bank. The executive assistant to the CEO wrote back to say thank you, and that she would forward the message on to the appropriate person. Somewhat to my (pleasant!) surprise, the “appropriate person” then e-mailed me directly. I was delighted with the essentially unnecessary response, and I feel quite positive about that organisation now (a good job really, as my personal bank account is with one of their subsidiaries!).

However, the outstanding performance award goes to a clear winner, whose name should be obvious from the picture, but to spell it out, is Orange. And here is why.

1) On the same day as I sent the email, I got a reply from the CEO’s PA, who said she was going to forward my message on to the PA of the Director of Training and Talent.
2) A few days later, I got a reply from the head of Leadership Development & Talent who not only offered themselves as the key contact, but explained the company’s training provider selection process, told me who to get in touch with, and cc’d them on the e-mail as well.

The first question that strikes me here is who is marketing to whom? I started the marketing effort, but I have been very effectively marketed to by Orange, who I am really impressed with. If they can sort mobile reception in my little corner of the Yorkshire Dales, they would undoubtedly be my number one mobile phone network choice from now on.

Companies whose people act in a way that, regardless of the specifics of any particular interaction, creates a positive image about the the company have an incredibly powerful resource on their hands. Marketing through customer service (and, more subtly, with potential future customers) is the best possible marketing available (see blogs on Customer Service here and here).

The challenge for all organisations is how to create this spirit in every single member of staff. Whether or not they have direct contact with customers (sales people, receptionists, call centres, for example), everyone is critical to this process. I often hear conversations in casual environments where people are discussing the companies they work for, and the difference between those how talk positively and those who don’t is stark.

There are a few critical things that companies need to do (and that means you - wherever you are in the organisation!) to ensure that they benefit from the free marketing that Orange have got on this blog:

Firstly, ensure that the people you work with, for, and who work for you are supported, rewarded, motivated, encouraged, cared for, and that you take a genuine interest in their broad wellbeing and success. If you do this, it is more than likely that they will speak positively about their employer, their company, and their co-workers to others, therefore marketing your corporate image for you.

Secondly, allow your employees the freedom to do the right thing. I’ve often written about this as one of the essential parts of a successful business (most recently here), but it can’t be repeated often enough. Organisations who allow people the flexibility to do the right thing for their customers and contacts will reap enormous rewards from it - directly, as the customers and potential customers will know that they are being treated as important individuals rather then being put on a process conveyor-belt to be dealt with; and indirectly, because employees who have freedom to act are more satisfied, less stressed, and more positive in their approach. In return for the reward and trust their organisation gives them, they will respond with trust and reward back to the organisation.

Thirdly, don’t miss out on any opportunity to delight people, whether they are past, current, or future customers, or will never be a customer at all - they will probably be in contact with others who could be. Everything we do can, in part, offer a reflection of who we work for and how we feel about them. I know that I’ve bought many things on personal recommendation, from having met someone socially or by chance, because I am buying into the values of that person, who I know will do the right thing for me.

Please press (at least!) one of these.
It costs you nothing, and (possibly) helps us spread the word!