Marketing your company? Here’s your sign

Create a culture that enables your employees to become the sign that helps your business the most

Vancouver is flush with sign companies eager to help businesses capture attention enough to fulfill a business plan’s goals, enhance customer experience, engage community, optimize street traffic and comply with regulation. Every enterprise is fraught with any number of challenges that a sign might solve.

Yet there is another kind of sign that can either enhance or deplete your business plan goals: employees. Think about the hundreds more communications consultants available compared to the physical sign companies. I believe it’s because of the challenges presented by the “sign” each employee wears through his or her expressions, words and tasks. Getting an employee to put on their best sign helps the business to achieve more business.

So how do we get employees to do this? The task of accomplishing such is for the manager to do less, not more. The manager is a critical part of communications building. However, in order for the employee to be truly engaged with their best sign, they must own the process. Many times as marketing consultants we see tireless managers/owners who are striving to control employees’ outward signs. Yet those sales teams in these controlled environments are not as engaged or productive as they could be, primarily because the manager takes too much ownership of the building process.

According to the Karsten Institute, the most common misconception regarding people is the control believed in managing people. Bob Cook, COO of the Karsten Institute says, “People must be led – only things and mechanical processes can be managed.” As a consultant, I say that if you put everything into writing, then there’s nothing left for your employees to communicate outward. The same holds true when you put everything into an advertisement; there’s nothing for your sales team left to say.

It’s obvious that Fortune 1000 companies have advantages by the large physical signs placed at their business location. Typically these companies have seasoned management teams and, most likely, loyal customers. However, they don’t have what a smaller community-type business has, which is adaptability of signs. Our firm believes speed and adaptability will create the best signs that are showcased through employees. And we think the companies that put a high premium on these traits will win the business – thanks to the great marketing messages that their employees wear.

I’m not saying firms that act on small budgets shouldn’t have a large physical sign placed outside of their business. What I am saying is the firms that engage employees in what they want to achieve will ultimately control the business. Why? Because they can act with greater speed and responsiveness to better capitalize on opportunities, react to threats and thrive in uncertain times.

Sign, sign, everyone’s a sign

When every employee is a sign, how do you change the message when something has gone wrong? If employees are in control of the sign they wear and understand such, you are halfway to showing your customers a billboard sized sign. As we all know resistance to change happens at all levels of an organization, and resistance can mean inconsistency in the signs your employees are wearing. However, employees who understand the “why we are doing this,” will be the first to implement a big message. I really believe employees who understand the direction or the reasoning behind trying something are the first to make things happen in a company – not the CEO. When employees don’t understand, that’s when resistance happens and that’s when the message can get mixed.

When there is a change to internal signs, it’s important to realize that this is more than changing the marquis. It’s about bringing your customers, your employees and community through the process of building the signs that are seen throughout. This is why change management (changing out the signs employees wear) is a newer growing discipline within the marketing consulting community.

Create a culture where you hire talented employees and commit to your employees’ understanding of the message. That way, they’ll advertise the right message consistently through their words, actions and tasks, 24/7.