Light Their Fire [Book Review]

If you have any doubt in your mind about the value and importance of internal marketing to build employee loyalty and performance, this book will make you a believer!

In just under 250 pages this “how to” book covers it all: the benefits of internal marketing, interesting case studies, proper messaging, audience segmentation, appropriate delivery systems, measurement tools, survey samples, recognition strategies and integrated planning timelines.

Light their Fire by Drake, Gulman, Roberts

Authors: Susan M. Drake, Michelle J. Gulman, Sara M. Roberts

A brief summary of the authors’ description of what internal marketing is all about:

“Here’s the long and short of internal marketing: Employees must buy your message before your customers do. They must understand why your product or service is important, know what it can do for customers, believe in its integrity, and be inspired to make it even better. Employees have to understand where the company is headed and why. And they must be treated as grownups who can handle the truth, even when it is unpleasant. They have to be dedicated to working together to build the business. And finally they should feel proud to tell people what they do and where they work. When they feel like that, everyone will know it—especially your customers.”

The “E” Factor

The process for creating motivated employees is based on practicing what the authors call the four “E” behaviors:

  1. Engaging: Involve employees in helping create your company’s vision and then paint a clear picture of how to execute it. Let them help define the heart and soul of your brand…what makes it different, special and wonderful…valued by customers and employees alike. Then craft the story and keep talking. Authors cite Steven Jobs, CEO and founder of Apple as one who has an amazing talent for sharing a clearly defined story and cause as he articulates to his employees what Apple stands for and where it’s headed. He really gives employees something to believe in. The result: Apple is a “cult brand” and an inspiration to many of its employees and customers.
  2. Enabling: Once the vision, mission and values are created a company must provide a supportive and positive work environment along with proper training, tools, direction and the power to make the vision a reality.
  3. Empowering: Great companies provide the autonomy and platform for employees to do what it takes to do their jobs well. They give people permission to make mistakes. They let them know the desired outcome, but allow employees the flexibility to do it their way.
  4. Ensuring: Great companies have methodologies in place to establish clear goals, accountability, measurements for success and give appropriate rewards and recognition for performance.

“E” Employees

“E” employees are the kind of people who:

  • Take risks
  • Make suggestions
  • Support others
  • Smile a lot
  • Motivate their co-workers
  • Enjoy work
  • Attract trust
  • Like customers
  • Define service as whatever the customer needs (whether it’s an external customer buying the product or an internal customer who needs assistance with a project)

“E” Employees Wow Your Customers

The authors state that the greatest differentiator a company can achieve is its reputation—its brand—for phenomenal service, superior products and quality in everything it does. And that kind of brand is built on the shoulders of “E” employees.

Engaged employees are passionate about the company and their work and this comes through every customer interaction, every product or service and the quality of everything they do. At the end of the day, a company does not take care of its customers—employees do.

Enabled employees have the resources and information to provide better customer service, deliver higher quality products and services and help the company grow. Being enabled imbues employees with the responsibility and accountability to be successful.

Empowered employees have a sense of ownership that makes them extremely passionate about their work. They also have the freedom to provide the highest level of service for customers.

That’s why:

FedEx management focuses on internal marketing because they understand their “E” employees will deliver fantastic service, wow their customers and turn tremendous profits. They named their corporate philosophy after a concept called PSP—people, service, profits in that order.

Richard Branson, the highly successful entrepreneur, and CEO of Virgin has the same philosophy, “We give top priorities to the interests of our staff; second to those of our customers; and third to shareholders. This is not only a reflection on the importance of our people; it is also the most positive way of fitting together these three priorities.”

Southwest Airlines is also a firm believer in marketing to its employees. As a result the company has created one of the strongest internal brands and cultures in the world—a culture of happy, loyal employees who want to treat their customers well. Southwest has been able to sustain its culture by constantly strengthening its internal brand through its core values.

It Starts With Culture

The process starts with a company’s culture…a reflection of a company’s leadership, philosophy, history and shared beliefs and values. A company’s culture inevitably affects whether employees will support or hinder desired change; it drives behavior. Misalignment within a company’s culture can cause employees to be resistant and slow to change. They may even sabotage desired behaviors. Internal marketing communicates a vision of the company culture, strengthens an already powerful brand culture and gives employees a roadmap for action. When management lives and communicates the culture every day two very important things happen:

  1. Employees see that management adheres to the company’s stated beliefs, also known as “walking the talk.”
  2. It proves that management believes employees to be the heart and soul of the company.

Brand promise + Company’s ability to deliver = Business results

Eight Steps to Success

The authors have identified eight steps to implementing a successful internal marketing program. A lot more detail is provided in the book but here’s a very brief outline:

  1. Set a course from A to B – SWOT analysis and goal/objective setting for the plan.
  2. Define your audiences – Segmentation by associate profile, level of responsibility and location.
  3. Assess the climate – Take the pulse of the organization by area or department. Are employees happy, disgruntled, trusting or suspicious?
  4. Define your key messages – Motivational, strategic, news, training, management directives, and recognition.
  5. Match the vehicles to the message – Company meeting, video conference, newsletters, email, and intranet.
  6. Choose the champions – Leaders and managers who are articulate, enthusiastic, well liked and have a vested interest in the success of the program.
  7. Execute the plan – Launch strategy and scale. Timelines, milestones and frequent communication.
  8. Measure and adapt – Measure performance against objectives: focus groups, surveys, interviews.

What I’ve shared are just few of the ideas and thoughts from this great book. If your company or brand is overpromising and under delivering, Light Their Fire will provide you with inspiration and direction that could reignite your organization and set it on a course for new growth. Of course, reading the book is the easy part. Implementation will take serious dedication and commitment. Watch for the next book review on Living the Brand. In the meantime if you have any thoughts on internal branding in your own organization I’d love to hear them.