Ever try to redeem a coupon at a restaurant and encounter a server completely in the dark about the offer? Even when all ends well, that situation often can leave you with a bad impression of the employee or the establishment’s management, or sometimes both. Unfortunately, it’s not all that unusual for business owners in a variety of industries to fail to inform their employees about their marketing efforts.
I help shop owners execute marketing campaigns on a daily basis, and I find that very few involve their staffs in the planning process. Instead, employees typically find out about new offers and promotions after a marketing program already has been launched. There are serious ramifications to this approach. Your customers might receive poor service. Uninformed employees could make your business appear disorganized and less credible. Employee morale also might suffer because your staff could end up feeling neglected and out of the loop.
The simple solution to these problems is to engage your employees in your marketing efforts from the very beginning. Having staff buy-in from the start will help you maximize the effectiveness of your advertising and marketing campaigns.
My suggestion is to create a communications plan to inform your employees about your marketing program. When developing your plan you’ll need to answer the following questions:
· What is the best way to spread the word about your plans?
· What are the goals of your marketing campaign?
· How will you prepare staff to respond to leads and business generated by your campaign?
Determining which vehicle to use to communicate information about your promotions can be a challenge. While some employees read their emails religiously, others might check their inboxes infrequently. Newsletters are nice, but there’s also no guarantee they’ll get read. I prefer a personal touch and recommend hosting weekly staff meetings where you can share vital information about your marketing efforts and other key initiatives. Make these meetings mandatory and try to schedule them at a time when the majority of your staff can attend.
These forums offer the opportunity not only to disseminate information verbally, but also to show your employees the marketing pieces you’ll be using, so they can become more familiar with what offers are being advertised. Make sure you also keep copies of your most recent flyers, postcards or other materials at the front counter or posted somewhere where employees can easily access them.
If staff meetings aren’t feasible because of time or scheduling constraints, consider utilizing another vehicle that will provide the most convenience for our employees. Maybe having managers pass along information on a one-on-one basis would be more effective in some cases. Some companies also have developed intranets or microsites where employees can find updates and crucial information about new programs.
Simply informing your staff about an offer or promotion isn’t enough. Your employees need to understand what you expect your offers and promotions to accomplish. That means you’ll need to have the goals for your campaign clearly outlined. Your staff, particularly your front counter personnel, will need to know if your aim is to attract new clients, drive sales or increase brand awareness.
For example, if your goal is expand the audience of customers who receive your offers and updates, you’ll need your front desk staff to make it a priority to obtain email addresses from customers. To drive sales, you could lure customers in with a discounted oil change and then have your front desk managers promote a free vehicle inspection that could reveal other needed repairs. Walk your employees through the logic behind the offer and the anticipated end result.
How many times have you heard a coach of professional sports team blame a loss on poor preparation? Even with the most talented players and a clever game plan, a team can fall prey to failure without practice.
The same holds true in business. You might have a great marketing plan and a wonderful staff, but if your team hasn’t received the right training, the chances of success are slim. Having an ongoing training program helps prepare your employees to handle the inquiries and potential sales calls that might be generated by your campaign. Your program should equip employees with solid phone skills and offer guidance about how to not only respond to leads, but also how to turn those leads into sales.
You also should teach technicians how to prioritize jobs if your offers result in an on onslaught of new business. Instead of fixing cars based on the order those cars arrived, they should service automobiles based on when they need to be delivered. That might mean placing a longer repair job on hold to take care of an oil change, but that strategy will allow your shop to service more cars in a more efficient fashion.
It’s also key to train your employees on the right questions to ask. Tracking the success of your campaigns can be tricky, but with practice, your employees can help eliminate some of the guesswork. For example, some customers come in for service but don’t bring a postcard with them. In those cases, it’s crucial for employees to ask how a customer heard about your shop. It’s also important to prepare your employees for potential issues that might arise. It’s not unusual for customers to try to take advantage of offers that don’t apply to their vehicle (i.e. an import owner attempting to use an offer geared for domestic cars), but if employees are trained to handle those situations, the better the chance for a positive outcome.
Finally, don’t forget to ask your staff about feedback on your marketing efforts. Because they are on the front lines, they can offer valuable information about which offers were most popular, what kind of customers you attracted and how to improve future marketing programs.
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