Marketing — those colleagues who try to catch customers with colorful flyers, posters, and Facebook ads, right? And now you, as an internal communicator, are supposed to do internal marketing? Really? We’ll explain why you should familiarize yourself with the concept of internal marketing and provide you with a definition, benefits, goals, and strategies for implementation. And to keep it practical, we’ll play it out with an example from the grocery retail sector.

Definition: What is internal marketing?

Internal marketing is a strategic approach where the employees of a company are considered “internal customers.” The goal is to increase employee engagement and satisfaction by ensuring they understand and support the company’s values, mission, and goals. Internal marketing thus promotes employee retention and turns them into brand ambassadors. Through colleagues with customer contact especially, positive effects transfer to customers (and other external stakeholders) and therefore to overall business success.

External vs. internal marketing

What’s the difference between external and internal marketing?

This Or That

Traditional marketing aims to market products or services to existing or potential customers. In this context, employees are typically not a prioritized target group.

The concept of internal marketing places more emphasis on this target group. This does not mean encouraging employees to buy the company’s products and services. Instead, they should be convinced of the company’s vision and mission. 

Therefore, it is crucial that employees know the company’s goals, positions on key issues, and products. Ideally, they can identify with them and perhaps even become fans of the company philosophy and its offerings.

Both approaches — external and internal marketing — are important and complement each other to achieve the company’s overall goals.

Why is internal marketing important?

Internal marketing plays a crucial role in the modern business world. An engaged and motivated workforce leads to higher productivity, lower turnover rates, and stronger company loyalty.

When employees understand and identify with the company’s mission and goals, they become advocates for the brand. This not only improves the work environment but also enhances the external image of the company.

A marketing mindset that is lived throughout the company leads to stronger customer orientation.

Sticky notes and the claim “Change Your Mindset”

In plain terms: If I conduct good internal marketing, my employees will do good external marketing. Possibly unconsciously, but definitely directly in contact with customers, applicants (keyword: employer branding), etc.

12 benefits and goals of internal marketing

Some goals and benefits of internal marketing directly affect employees. Other effects are more indirect, through employee contact with external stakeholders.

Here are some of the key benefits and goals of internal marketing at a glance:

  1. Transparency (knowledge of marketing strategy, customer expectations, etc.)
  2. Employee development and knowledge building
  3. Trust building
  4. Alignment (shared values and goals)
  5. Increased employee engagement
  6. Brand identification
  7. Employee retention
  8. Employer branding
  9. Increased innovation power
  10. Customer orientation
  11. Better customer experience
  12. Higher customer satisfaction

Establishing internal marketing: strategies for implementation

To develop an effective internal marketing strategy, the following steps should be considered:

Clarify responsibilities: Who’s in charge? Is it IC, HR, or Marketing? Or is a cross-departmental task force responsible for internal marketing? Clarify these questions from the start.

Status analysis: Is internal marketing already taking place? To what extent? What is going well and where is there room for improvement?

Target group analysis: Surveys and focus groups can help you find out what is important to employees — e.g., career development, sustainability, or work safety.

Segmentation of target groups: One-size-fits-all is rarely successful. If necessary, use the personas approach popular in marketing.

Definition of goals and KPIs: What do you want to achieve and how can you measure it?

Channel strategy: Which channels are available and which may need to be established?

Topic planning: Company strategy, vision, mission, values, and your target group analysis provide the input to create a topic framework.

Editorial planning: Initially plan the focus for quarters or a whole year, then move into detailed planning of measures.

Consistency: Regular formats ensure all employees are always up to date.

Data analysis, impact measurement, and feedback: Anonymous surveys and regular feedback sessions allow employees to share their opinions and suggestions for improvement. Also, evaluate campaign data on visibility, engagement, sentiment, and alignment.

Once the framework is set, you can get started. But which measures make sense?

12 ideas for internal marketing

Woman has an idea

Creativity knows no bounds. We recommend a combination of classic formats and channels of internal communication with new measures created specifically for internal marketing.

Here are 12 ideas for internal marketing that have proven effective in practice:

  1. Dedicated content hubs for vision/mission/values, product categories, markets, etc.
  2. Posters with company values in prominent locations
  3. A “How employees live the company values in everyday life?” campaign
  4. Regular training sessions (live or on-demand) on strategy, products, etc.
  5. Contests or a quiz night where product knowledge is tested, and prizes can be won
  6. Monthly insights into marketing activities (e.g., as intranet articles)
  7. CEO updates as video messages
  8. AMA (Ask Me Anything) with the CEO
  9. Mentoring or buddy programs: Experienced employees support new or less experienced colleagues with knowledge building and cultural aspects.
  10. Internal podcasts: Regular podcasts with interviews and discussions about company goals, projects, and successes.
  11. Internal product newsletter with all new developments
  12. Employee magazine with key topics (cultural and business-related)

Of course, there are many more ways to conduct internal marketing. For more inspiration, I recommend our blog article on the 8 most important channels and formats to reach all employees.

Best Practice: internal marketing in the grocery retail sector

Does this still sound too abstract? Let’s take a look at how internal marketing could look in practice.

Imagine you are a communicator at a large grocery retailer. The market is competitive, and you know that the perception of your brand is one of the most important factors in whether customers shop with you or your competitors.

In your industry, customers also have many direct contact points with your employees. Besides the store setup, the assortment, and of course the pricing, these contacts significantly influence the customer experience, brand perception, customer satisfaction — and ultimately the sales.

Therefore, you should be aware of the interaction between external and internal marketing. In external marketing, supermarkets are known to use promotional flyers, billboards, social media and display ads, TV and radio commercials, own apps, discount campaigns, and numerous other advertising formats.

When planning these marketing activities, the target group of your own workforce should always be considered.

Teller in a grocery store

Let’s assume your company wants to become more sustainable. To do this, several initiatives are being implemented, which also affect the assortment, for example, in the form of a larger selection of vegan and organic products.

Your customers learn about this from all the above-mentioned media. Before this happens, your employees should be prepared. They need to be able to answer questions and explain new product categories.

They should understand the bigger picture, the vision and mission in which sustainability plays an important role. Ideally, they fully support it and want to contribute to fulfilling the mission out of conviction. They need to be informed about the strategic decisions and the goals of the initiatives. Finally, they should be able to answer some key questions about the new products.

If there is no strategy for internal marketing yet, you should look at the 10 steps to implementation described above. Here they are again in brief:

  1. Clarify responsibilities
  2. Status analysis
  3. Target group analysis
  4. Segmentation of target groups
  5. Definition of goals and KPIs
  6. Channel strategy
  7. Topic planning
  8. Editorial planning
  9. Consistency
  10. Data analysis, impact measurement, and feedback

Now, let’s take three of the ideas mentioned for internal marketing and apply them to our example from the grocery retail sector:

A content hub in the intranet and the employee app consolidates all important information: reiteration of the company’s vision and mission, derivation of the initiative for more vegan and organic products, introduction of new product categories and products, FAQs, etc.

The management could explain via video message how the decision was made and what it means for employees specifically. Additionally, a form could be provided to submit questions, which would be answered later in an ask-me-anything event.

In an internal podcast, store managers could talk about how they have redesigned their stores and how customers have reacted, so others can learn from these experiences.

As you can see, these measures cannot be implemented without the necessary technology. So let’s take a brief look at this topic.

Technology: internal marketing is best achieved with a communications cloud like Staffbase

One of the most effective ways to implement internal marketing is through modern communication platforms like Staffbase. With this communications cloud, companies can plan their communications and align all campaigns with strategic goals. Content creation is then done collaboratively and across departments in one central location.

The Staffbase Communications Cloud enables companies to do multichannel content management

Staffbase offers its customers employee apps, intranet, and email — all branded in the company’s corporate design. Integration with Microsoft 365 is also possible.

Are your measures achieving the desired success? You can find out with Smart Impact. Analyze visibility, interaction, sentiment, and approval of your campaigns and thus prove the business impact of your work.

Mission Control Analytics Features

With Staffbase, inspiration succeeds across all channels — for successful internal marketing, stronger employee retention, and a better customer experience.

Conclusion

Internal marketing is an indispensable tool for companies that see their employees as valuable ambassadors and key to success. Through targeted strategies and the use of modern technology, companies can build a strong, engaged, and loyal workforce. Internal marketing not only strengthens the company from within but also enhances its external image and significantly contributes to long-term business success.