Is your idea of "internal marketing" a dull-as-dishwater company newsletter or a monthly promotional piece slapped on a bulletin board in the back of your salon? If you're like many business owners, you might assume that internal marketing is in the realm of corporate HR. But according to Susan M. Drake, co-author (with Michelle J. Gulman and Sara M. Roberts) of the book Light Their Fire: Using Internal Marketing to Ignite Employee Performance and WOW Your Customers (Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2005), selling your brand promise to employees is an absolutely critical aspect to the success of your salon—and one that must begin with you. "It's all about getting your employees to love your brand so they, in turn, will convince customers to love it," says Drake. "Employees who are ho-hum about your brand will do a ho-hum job, which means lost business." That certainly has serious implications for your bottom line. Nothing is more important than lighting the fire of the people who work for you and nipping any hints of complacency in the bud. Here, the authors offer the following steps to ensure that you and your staff are all on board with your business' goals.
• LOOK FOR THE "E" FACTOR Drake describes "E" employees—engaged, enabled, empowered and ensured, as workers "whose passion for what they do erases the boundaries of service." To illustrate her point, she recalls enjoying a manicure at an Elizabeth Arden spa in Chicago when someone smelled smoke. Everyone calmly evacuated the building and gathered at the spa entrance. Drake's manicurist suggested she take a seat on a stack of lumber (the building was being renovated), and proceeded to finish the manicure right there, on the sidewalk. "All it took was one employee who put my needs first to cement my favorable feelings about that establishment," says Drake. So let employees know that they can—and must—go to such lengths to keep your customers happy, and they'll be well on their way to "E"-hood.
• CHOOSE A GOOD LOGO You're probably accustomed to thinking of your salon's logo as a tool for communicating with your customers. But a well-designed logo can and should be used to communicate messages internally as well. Use your logo lavishly, everywhere, or just employ its shapes and colors in unusual places to keep your brand present at all times. "Disney uses this technique very effectively," notes Drake. "At Disney World, you'll see Mickey's shape in landscaping features, carpet patterns, bathroom fixtures. What a great way to deliver a happy, positive image of its brand to its employees." So start branding from day one. Employees will never be more excited than the first day they're hired, so make orientation a time to build employee pride in your organization. Tell them, "You're important to us, and we're honored you came to work here."
• CONNECT THEM TO THE COMMUNITY When your employees see that they work for an organization that promotes community efforts and allows them to use the salon's resources toward the greater good, they're likely to feel a greater loyalty for both you and the community. Employees who might not ordinarily donate their free time or money to a charity often follow the example of their coworkers and find both personal and professional fulfillment in their newfound involvement.
"The sum of all the benefits of internal marketing is something that is less tangible, but possibly of greater value than anything else a company can aspire to—a great brand," says Drake. "A reputation in the market for having the greatest talent, treating them well and delivering exceptional service and products is your most valuable asset." Now, can you think of any reason not to make that relationship your top priority? To order a copy of Light Their Fire, visit www.amazon.com. —M.N.