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The Key to Successful and Useful Internal Branding

To build a unique and compelling internal brand, it has to start with developing a strategy. This can be used to correct and improve upon any challenges your small business has internally.
By Anna Doan | EnvZone Staff
on October 01, 2019 | 10 min read
Image Credit: David Jones

As you know, branding is a form of identity your small business has to the outside world. Things like the logo, other design elements, and how your small business speaks which separates your small business from competitors.

The goal of the brand is to build a positive reputation, establish credibility, and creating a brand that consumers, prospects, and current customers trust.

Internal branding is about connecting employees to your business’s external brand. This means showing your team what that brand means and to ensure they understand and believe in the small business mission.

If you do not yet understand or read is still vague about the internal brand and how to build it, the article below is for you. Please read it carefully

What is Internal Branding?

Internal branding is a continuous process in place by which you ensure your employees understand the ‘who’ and ‘why’ behind your small business proposition. Internal branding rarely gets the attention of external branding, yet it plays a crucial role in small business success.

Internal branding can help you translate the elements of your brand into physical employee behaviors. If done correctly, it creates a virtuous cycle: Attract employees who love your brand, and those employees will communicate that brand to your partners and customers, thereby strengthening the brand and attracting even better employees.

Advantageous and Disadvantageous of Internal Branding

1. Advantageous of Internal Branding

Internal branding is very advantageous for a brand as it cements the foundation of a small business. Here are the various positives:

  • Internal branding helps small business to move forward along with all its employees.
  • Any deficiencies are easily rectified during the training stages, thus making the end teams stronger and efficient.
  • The interactions during training sessions make the bond stronger among the employees developing a feeling of ease and familiarity.
  • The workshops help to gain a better perspective about the brand and its products.
  • The training helps to remind the employees about the values, vision and mission of small business.
  • The right exposure helps the employees to gain the confidence that would reflect in their performances.
  • This self-confidence makes a positive impact on the daily internal activities.

2. Disadvantages of Internal Branding

  • In many cases, small businesses do not pay proper attention to the concept of internal branding.
  • The lack of proper guidance does affect the attitude of employees.
  • The main shortcoming of internal branding is that it may lead to groupism and favoritism.
  • When this starts happening it often leads to chaos and confusion.
  • Internal branding has an indirect impact on the external branding. If not handled properly it may lead to far reaching consequences on a brand as both are intricately connected with each other.

The Importance of Internal Brand Building

The influence of employee word-of-mouth marketing is undeniable. When employees talk about their small business’ brands, they make the brand more human which adds a level of trust in the brand for consumers.

However, you can’t just assume your employees understand and believe in your brand promise. Truth be told, the vast majority of them probably don’t, and that’s why internal brand education is critical to brand success. If you don’t teach your employees about your brand on an ongoing basis, they won’t fully understand it or care about it as much as they should.

To build a unique and compelling internal brand, it has to start with developing a strategy. This can be used to correct and improve upon any challenges your small business has internally.

Your goal for the internal brand should be transforming employees into willing brand advocates that will contribute to your small business success.

Below are some tips for building your unique internal brand.

Top 5 Tips to Build Internal Brand

Tip #1. Define your mission and values as a small business

When creating your internal brand strategy, it has to start with defining your mission statement and your brand values.

Your business’s employees have to be aware of what these are, understand it, and believe in them.

Without defined values and mission, your small business will lack purpose with which your employees can easily identify with.

The goal of this is to give your employees a reason to work for your small business besides looking only at it as “just a paycheck.”

Additionally, it gets your whole small business on the same page. Thus making it easier for them to provide the best insight for customers and prospects.

Tip #2. Include employees in your internal branding development

While leadership may have the final say in particular branding matters, it’s important to give employees a voice to be heard.

Include them in your internal brand initiatives, ask for feedback, thoughts, what could be improved, etc. It creates a better sense of community in your small business. Employees want to feel involved beyond their day to day job function.

You must trust your employees, if not, your small business would not have hired them. Allow them to share their ideas and insights about the internal brand and work culture.

Tip #3. Invest in a personalized employee experience

Do you want an invested team that cares? A small business that has strong values in its internal brand? To do this, you need to care about the employee experience and personalize it.

Do not treat employees as just a number. And do not treat every employee like they are work-drones. Personalize and invest in their work and individuality. Meaning, get to know their goals, interests, and values.

When employees are first hired to when they are growing their careers, employees should have a tailored plan for development and customized experience with your small business.

Tip #4. Adopt software for employees to access information

Newsletters and memos do not have the same appeal and value as they once had. And just emailing employees also tend to get lost in inboxes or forgotten.

For employees to be connected to the brand, informed, and activated as brand champions, you need to provide the right tool to deliver and execute. That’s where employee advocacy software comes in.

Think of it as a central hub where brand content, small business news, industry news, company documents, etc. is all hosted for employees to have access to. They can hook up their social media accounts for easy access to share or schedule to their networks as well.

Tip #5. Appreciate, recognize, incentivize, reward

For your business’s internal brand to succeed long-term, you can’t forget to continue spending time and resources to the initiative after launch.

Management and leaders should continue to appreciate and highlight those highly engaged employees. Or even share how said employees are helping the small business reach their goals. These highlights can motivate others to get involved.

Your small business can take a step further too and incentivize your internal brand and reward those who go the extra mile. This also should not just focus on money, as it’s not always a guaranteed motivator for developing brand ambassadors long-term.

Think of outside the box and offer non-cash incentive ways as well to get employees more hyped and engaged with the brand.

Besides, your small business needs a brand that is developed with intention and a clear strategy. If you are not entirely sure if your brand is being used properly, or if you even really have a brand, read on, this post is for you.

Top 7 Internal Brand Mistakes your Small Business May be Making

Mistake #1. Inconsistent identity

When your marketing materials or website are out of date or do not align with each other, it will cause potential customers to be confused. The company’s business cards, website, promotional materials, and social media accounts all seem completely unrelated from a design standpoint. This can cause clients to doubt the integrity and honesty of your small business, lose interest, and choose a competitor that has a clearly articulated message and brand identity.

Even if you have proper branding, rolling out brand changes poorly can also compromise the integrity of your brand. Brands have many facets and touch points, from the logo and website, to business cards, flyers, marketing materials, signage, internal documents, social media accounts and more. If your brand is not consistent across all platforms, prospective clients will lose interest quickly and move to the next business in your industry.

Every single facet of your brand must have a focused, distinct, and clear message. Visuals should reflect your company’s core values and communicate them in a way that is easily understood by your target audience.

Mistake #2. Not creating strict brand guidelines or enforcing them

Once a brand is created, it is crucial to have proper guidelines in place, as well as a team dedicated to stewarding the brand. Creating a small team, even if only a part-time task force, to answer brand-related questions and to monitor brand usage across the small business can prevent costly mistakes and strengthen brand value. Proper brand usage should be communicated throughout your small business. Make your brand guidelines and brand assets, including logo files, colors, and typography readily available, both within your small business and publicly. This can be as simple as having a simple web page dedicated to communicating brand usage and providing easy access to brand assets. Nothing dilutes the power and effectiveness of a brand more than failing to properly maintain it.

Hold a quick rally with employees when launching the brand, sharing the vision behind it and what the future holds for the small business. Educate them on proper brand usage, and make it easy for them to access the information and assets they need when interacting with the brand, from brand guidelines to standard templates. Utilize reward systems for proper use among your employees to ensure your brand remains consistent and unmanipulated, allowing your small business to build trust with your customers.

Mistake # 3. Not using existing customers to help spread the new brand

Many small businesses fail to leverage their greatest assets when launching or updating their brand -- existing customers. Recurring customers, especially those who speak highly of your product or service, are a great channel in which to project your small business’s brand.

Mistake #4. Not understanding the power of a brand

Many small business owners simply do not understand the proven benefits of a brand, but ignoring the importance of a well-developed brand can cause you to miss out on huge financial gains, recognition, and a competitive edge, among a myriad of other benefits.

A strong brand increases customer loyalty and engagement and creates trust. Consumers are more likely to purchase products from a small business with a clear brand story because it’s easier for them to form an emotional connection with that brand. A well-curated brand also improves perception of quality and recognition by consumers. Customers are much more likely to pay a premium for certain products because they are from a certain brand.

This, in turn, allows your small business to command a higher price and maintain larger profit margins, increasing overall revenue. Advertising costs can also be affected -- consumers who are loyal to your brand are more likely to recommend your brand to others, reducing customer acquisition and advertising costs.

Mistake #5. Not communicating a clear message with your brand

What exactly does your small business do? What makes it unique? Why are you in business? How are you making people’s lives better?

If you are not able to answer all of these questions in a sentence or two, it may be time to rethink your messaging. It can be easy to try to communicate too much in an attempt to explain every single service you offer rather than simply focusing on one or two core services or products that your small business provides. Consumers must have a clear understanding of what your small business does and how it will benefit them, otherwise they may become disinterested and move on to a competitor with a similar product or service.

Spending time refining your business’ core mission and values, as well as your service offerings will serve your small business well in the future.

Mistake #6. Not having an attention-grabbing and believable tagline

Your tagline should be simple and to the point, memorable, and unique. The most effective taglines condense the essence of a brand into three to six words. The words you use in your mantra or motto should be believable and accurately represent who you are as a small business.

Many companies struggle with having a tagline that is too generic or simply not believable. If in doubt, don’t use one. A tagline that seems overly contrived can actually damage your brand more than helping it.

Mistake #7. Making your brand too complicated

When creating a brand, steer away from current design trends or fads. Attempting to chase the latest and greatest in design can cause your brand to become outdated in short order. Focus on creating an identity that stands independent of the latest trends, by developing something simple and communicates your message in a clear and succinct way.

Conclusion

When employees believe in the brand and are engaged in your small business initiatives, they generally are going to be motivated by their work, more loyal to the business and are more likely to be powerful marketers and sellers (brand advocates), spreading your small business message.

This is exactly why internal marketing and having a strategy in place is essential to the success of your small business brand. If employees are in the dark or unaware of their business’s goals, products, and services, there is a huge gap in effectiveness with customers and prospects.

Hopefully, the above has helped you realize why internal marketing should be a priority within your small business or help you adjust your current internal strategy. Don't worry, EnvZone here to help you. If you have any problems, don't hesitate to contact us.

This article is also credited to Becki Hall, COLIN BOVET and LAURA LAKE

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