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Build a Work Culture to Match Your Internal Brand

Companies spend millions each year on burnishing their brand to become well-known and well-beloved by customers. But before you launch your company’s logo or tagline, there’s one thing every SMB needs to shore up: your internal brand.

As an SMB, you wear a lot of hats. And one of those hats should be as an internal brand ambassador. But, what does this mean to the employees of the business?

David DeRam, Greenlight.Guru CEO, advises that teams create rituals that work with the personality of your business. At they use their ritual to jump start the day or for any occasion where they need to get positive energy flowing. “Rituals are fantastic and they contribute to the construction of your identity.”

Turns out that when employees work in a place that encourages them to create a culture that matches the external image of the company, good things happen. And in today’s workplace, where some or all of your employees may be working remotely, it’s even more important than ever to be clear about your internal brand.

And, according to the Harvard Business Review, it’s not enough to have a culture that emphasizes traits like team work or integrity. Every company emphasizes these types of traits—or they would like to. What is more important is to find those unique characteristics that reflect your company.

So what is your internal brand strategy?

Define your core values and your mission

It’s important for you to identify the core values in your company. And then, you need to know what foundations are needed so that the business can support your employees and in turn, your core values. 

You probably are aware that a company brand needs to be distinctive. But, what have you done to truly assess how distinctive your company culture is or how much more distinctive it could be? Are you asking your team for their input on your purpose, vision, and mission? And how involved are they in making those decisions (are they bought in)?

If service is a core value of your external brand, emphasize care and empathy inside your company. Or, if you pride yourself as being a disruptive brand, are you encouraging your own employees to take risks and be innovative? 

It seems simple enough, but many companies just don’t do it. Successful companies like Salesforce are really clear about their internal and external brand. Nili Gur, Senior Director, Marketing & Employer Branding at Salesforce, says they have four core values: trust, customer success, innovation, and equality. 

And those four values aren’t just meant to be posted in the company intranet. Instead, says Gur, they are used as a “practical tool that guides our decisions and comes to life in everything we do.”

Aligning your internal mission with your external mission isn’t always easy, but it is the way you ensure success with your brand.

Engage your staff

As we talked about in an earlier post, it’s important to engage your employees. And as we pointed out in that post, it’s human nature for people to support what they have had a part in creating.

Let your employees know their opinion matters. After all, they are the ones who show up day after day and work with your customers. They carry on the work of the company far beyond what a few marketing staff can accomplish. So, you definitely don’t want to miss an opportunity to have them be your strongest brand ambassadors.

And there may be times when a staff member gives you some unpleasant — yet important — —feedback from the outside. They may let you know about something that is not working or has failed. But acting on that information will earn you not only their loyalty, but that of your entire company.

Reward and offer incentives to your staff

Let your staff know you care, no matter how small the detail. Is it an Employee of the Month ceremony? Is it a grocery gift card before Thanksgiving? Free tickets to a popular sports or culture event? 

There’s still debate on whether financial incentives are effective. A report in January 2020 by the Incentive Research Foundation showed that although cash incentives did improve motivation, recognition for outstanding work also increased motivation among employees. 

Beyond offering material incentives, there is also the sharing of knowledge. While you may not have thought of training and development as a gift, it can be. Research shows that employees feel a stronger bond with their employer when this is done.

In fact, a ResearchGate study found that non-monetary incentives were better motivators for long-term engagement than monetary ones. This study showed that while monetary gifts were appreciated, they only motivated the receivers for a short period of time.

Here are five non-monetary incentives you may consider:

  1. Recognition and Praise
  2. Physical Rewards
  3. Growth or Learning Opportunities
  4. Flexibility and Work-Life Balance
  5. One-on-One Time with Management

The answer to which method works best will depend on your company and on the core values that you have shown to be important at your business. Bottomline, it’s worth giving some thought as to what will work best for your company and your employees.

Uniting your company

Give your employees something to stand for. And stand for that yourself.

Dave McIndoe, founder and CEO of Netwave Interactive Marketing, a branding, strategic and creative marketing agency, says that it is vital for your company — large or small — to be united in your internal brand. Even if it is just you as the CEO, you are the window to the outside world to monitor your external brand as well as ensuring your work culture resonates with that brand.

Think about offering a workshop to not only talk about your internal brand but to listen carefully to the opinions of your staff. Or, it may be useful to post reminders around the office.

How are you onboarding new staff? Do they learn about your internal culture when they join your company? If not, it might be time to think about what you want them (and all of your employees) to know about the company.

And in the end, you as the SMB owner, also need to live the life and behave in ways that also reflect your company culture. Your employees are definitely watching.

A solid branding program will strengthen your strategic execution

Every business needs a branding/identity strategy. It’s one of the four tools — along with email, online presence and a CRM — that will solidify your marketing strategy as you begin to execute it.

When your employees are informed, engaged and excited about your company culture, it creates a successful cycle. That will be the time they are more likely to make decisions and take the daily actions that truly reflect your brand “face to the world.”

Tomato Fish Is An Indianapolis Consulting Company Focused On Helping Small And Midsize Businesses Make Good Strategic Planning Decisions.