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Intranets and digital workplace initiatives are often seen as completely separate from the world of advertising and campaigns. But people who have worked in both observe that insights from advertising can be used to ensure that digital offerings inside organisations speak clearly to staff and support organisational strategy and goals.
The term ‘Mad Men’ was coined through the living-out-loud advertising men of Madison Avenue in the 1950s and attained recent notoriety via the popular HBO TV series of the same name. What would your digital workplace or intranet look like if the Mad Men were running it? In their hands, what internal customer problems would you solve; and what kind of new, previously unknown need would it create in the minds of your consumers (internal users and stakeholders)?
These are provocative questions, the answers to which require an advertising approach. This article explores typical advertising agency thinking to brand perception and product marketing for digital workplace offerings in the broadest sense.
The four cornerstones of advertising
Far from the hype and glamour, advertising rests on a rigorous science that sits at the nexus of human need and desire, supply and demand, competition and authenticity. Despite its reputation, advertising is not an industry that deals with superficial notions of consumer behaviour; campaigns are built on deep insights, and are carefully crafted over thousands of hours.
This article takes some of the core tenets of advertising and applies these to digital work inside organisations, as follows:
- Brand is about more than the name of your intranet and the colours that you choose; a good brand is built on customer thoughts and insights; it’s consistent; and each and every experience counts, from a chance meeting with a team member in the kitchen, to accessing content online.
- Consumer understanding is, or at least should be, at the centre of your digital offerings. Everything you do should be built on clear insights into the customer and be a part of a well-understood customer journey. Understanding where the customer is now, attitudinally and behaviourally, and where you want them to be, is the first step. You can then begin to move them toward the end-goal.
- Campaigns are a part of every good brand. It’s not a set and forget mentality, but a constant, never-ending series of activities to keep the brand and the product fresh and relevant in the eyes of the consumer. It is hard to imagine a brand developing a new product or innovation without investing in communicating this in some meaningful fashion and engaging consumers around the initiative with the end-goal of converting them to the new offering.
- Measurement is an often-maligned term for internal digital teams. Many think it’s too difficult to measure the intranet and related digital offerings as they develop. Understanding the important things and working out how to measure these from the outset will not only help improve your efficacy, it will also help you focus effort by showing, for example, who is dropping out of the process and where.
All of this will be applied to the ‘workforce consumer’, the sum total of staff members, stakeholders or other internal end-users. In this way, the perspectives of the external consumer-oriented world will be brought into the enterprise.
Most intranet managers and internal digital workplace practitioners will have limited-to-no experience in delivering with an advertising focus.
Chances are that you will have teams inside your own organisation that are well-versed in the science of advertising. While they will certainly be busy, they may be happy to look over your insights and plans.
Here is a cheat sheet to get you started and enable you to share your plans with confidence.
Every experience is a brand experience
When people hear your name, or the name of your intranet, it conjures up a set of impressions that influence how they think and behave. These thoughts define your brand; it resides in your customers’ minds as a result of all the impressions made by encounters with your name, logo, content, and everything else that people see and hear.
Without a well-managed brand, you’ll spend almost half of every internal consumer contact trying to introduce what you do and make your case.
‘The three Ss’ can be a good starting point:
1. What do you stand for?
Think about what you do and why. What is the reason you exist? What positive change do you aim to achieve? Boil your findings down to one concept that you honestly believe you can own in the minds of the people you do business with. Check this with the business and try to move beyond simple platitudes, to achieve real, and often hard-to-take feedback about what you can and should stand for.
Here are the things that some famous brands stand-for:
- Virgin – to embrace the human spirit and let it fly
- Nike – Just do it!
- Apple – We believe that the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
2. What is your story?
Building on initial work to define what it is you stand for, work out the narrative behind everything you do. Start by looking at what you’ve done (or will do) and why. Try to move beyond simple facts to arrive at a story that will resonate with your workforce consumers in an emotional way.
Chances are your consumers are already telling stories of their own; how do you listen and include them? Can you share them? Collaborate around them?
There are many different ways to tell stories: visually, across different media, two-way and even collaboratively.
Good stories create change in the way we think, feel, act and behave.
3. What is your strategy?
Simply put, a strategy is a plan. Now that you know who and what you stand for, and you have defined and communicated the emotional hook for your audience, what is your plan to move them towards the ideal, end-goal state?
This is your game plan for what you are going to tackle, how and when. All of the above will help you define your brand, but these things alone will not help you build it. From this point on, every experience is a brand experience. Every conversation that you have with your workforce consumers and your suppliers will fix (for better or worse) your brand in their minds.
Good brands are consistent – they don’t change for change’s sake. Vegemite, for example – while the marketing folks may have long since tired of looking at that label, it works and therefore it stays put. Your brand is your promise to your customers and it must be unwavering, through the look of your intranet and online offering, the tone in your communications, the level of quality and the product and services offered.
Good stories create change in the way we think, feel, act and behave
Teams often make the mistake of assuming that because they work in the same organisation as their workforce consumer, they have an innate understanding of them. The most successful intranet or digital workplace initiatives are built on deep insights into the user that can be married to a clear and easily articulated user journey.
It’s always good to go out and actually interview end-users, and there is plenty of good ‘how-to’ material to help with this (see the previous articles Finding staff for intranet research and for help recruiting staff members and Insight is more important than numbers to understand more about gaining meaningful workforce insights).
Always try to understand the current state of mind of your consumer. For example:
- Are they time-poor, working long hours and still not getting through their core work?
- Are they holding their own in a front-line environment and feeling isolated from support and from their peers?
- Is the nature of their work time-critical, such as looking up information for customers on-the-spot?
The insights that will spring from answers to these questions will result in more nuanced and effective approaches to your planning and delivery.
Whatever the specific answer, it is imperative that you always give more to your workforce consumers than you expect in return. You should ensure that you are never asking more from them in brain power than you are giving, and that you are saving your end-users more time than you are taking.
Today’s consumers have a finely-tuned sense of what is true and authentic versus shallow and contrived. They have outpaced business when it comes to their expectations of how information should flow to them and their experience of a digital world.
The digital workplace remains a far cry from the day-to-day digital experience of most employees who are using their own devices to stay connected to friends and information, and to carry out their tasks (buy, sell, update, check) online.
As a digital practitioner, it is your responsibility to push current boundaries, seeking to deliver the kind of connected experience inside the workplace that the majority of us now consider the norm in our private lives. Without such a focus, intranets will almost certainly go the way of Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Our mobile phones are about to become our wallets. Screens may soon become irrelevant, replaced by Google Glass, or virtual overlays on the world, allowing our devices to stay in our bags or pockets.
There are few, if any, digital workplaces that get close to approximating the private digital experiences of our workforce consumers. Increased access to technology means consumers will adapt at a faster rate than organisations, and this will be relentless and ongoing. Physical hardware (smart watches, activity trackers etc.) will provide individuals with their own personal data that can be used to improve their lives.
It seems at once impossible and not so unrealistic to expect the systems inside organisations to provide a similar and suitable experience.
Start small, if you are unsure, but whatever your undertaking, seek to ‘surprise and delight’ your consumer.
A holistic view of customer touch points will help build your digital ecosystem
The rise of the new digital consumer has dictated a major change in the way the advertising industry approaches campaigns. Advertising is no longer about ‘the ad’ as an art-form. Today’s campaigns play out over a complex network of sites, devices and online platforms as well as traditional media.
Understanding the platform, its unique qualities and characteristics, along with an understanding of how people are naturally using these spaces, is imperative for the modern Mad Man.
This thing we are describing is a ‘digital ecosystem’ and the consumer is a valid and integral part of it. With the goal of engaging and converting the consumer, successful campaigns overlay their own ecosystem.
Similarly, the intranet should be thought of as one part of the digital ecosystem inside your organisation, which also includes email, mobile, and other core business systems. This ecosystem is alive with the interactions of, and content created by, humans from inside and outside it. Understanding your unique ecosystem means taking a holistic view of the workforce customer touch points both online and offline.
What are your consumers doing and when? If they are checking email on the commute home, why not push an email to them at this time to share the latest update on the intranet, or show them how to use a key feature?
Understanding this behaviour will enable you to ‘fish where the fish are’ – designing activity around actual behaviours. There is still very much a set and forget mentality when it comes to intranets and digital solutons. At best, we often see a once-only flurry of activity at launch.
Every top brand works hard to stay relevant and top of mind for the consumer, through product innovation and development. Advertising campaigns focus on the consumer wherever they are in the ‘purchase pathway,’ from attracting relevant leads at one end to delighting loyal advocates and turning them into promoters at the other.
While internal initiatives may well have a captive audience, there are few intranet teams and digital practitioners who wouldn’t benefit from better uptake by staff. Campaigns should focus on understanding where your consumer is on the purchase pathway and look to move them along as follows:
- Acquisition – provide new leads with a trusted, relevant, compelling experience
- Activation – engage consumers with clear calls to action, landing pages and forms
- Retention – continue to build on, and respond to, the experiences of your current customers
- Loyalty – reward the most loyal followers, give them the opportunity to test new functionality
- Advocacy – help your best customers tell everyone about you, provide the mechanism to make this easy, with buddy and friend-get-friend campaigns
Focus on understanding where your customer is on the ‘purchase pathway’
Who is the enemy?
In an external environment, the enemy may or may not be a competitor brand. More often than not, the enemy is closer to home, and it may include a poor brand experience, a premium cost above what the consumer is comfortable paying, or a close group of peers that don’t use the product.
For the digital workplace, ‘the enemy’ may be too many competing systems, a high pressure environment where people have only enough time to get through their core activities, or a general apathy.
Identifying the enemy of your efforts will help you with strategies and campaigns to either meet the challenge head-on, or to avoid it completely.
Identify ‘the enemy’ and understand how you will win in the eyes of the consumer
How will we win?
Once you have identified the enemy, the challenge is understanding how you will win in the eyes of the consumer.
As a starting point, brainstorm ideas as to what this might look like for your consumers (staff). Don’t edit, just try and understand what they really want from the digital workplace or intranet. When you find the answer, make sure it is something you can actually do or own, then match it to one of the following psychological triggers to make a campaign.
- Reciprocity – when we give people something, they are more likely to give us something in return. This could be as simple as the gift of content, such as a fun workplace profiling quiz to amuse while waiting for your printing to come out.
- Commitment & consistency – it has been proven that stating goals in some public way means you are more likely to achieve them. From a marketer’s perspective, a public declaration may be as simple as getting the consumer to sign up to receive your newsletter, or policy updates from their favourite part of the site.
- Liking – people are more likely to say yes to a request if they feel a connection to the person making it. In addition to your interactions, use the interactions of others, display what others have accessed online, using real people on the site and imagery that people can identify with.
- Authority – we seem to respond to a supposed authority telling us why to buy; this is a tactic used in many ads. Position yourself as authoritative. Include your team’s professional qualifications, get someone to endorse your site, note that it has been expertly curated for the consumer.
- Social proof – this is a no-brainer. We like things because other people do, even if we don’t know the people in question. Have people said great things about what you do? Received some great feedback lately? Tell your consumers.
- Scarcity – people are motivated by the fear of missing out on something, there is even an acronym for it, FOMO. Can you provide limited access to corporate discounts or offers? Seasonal content? Time-boxed opportunities to participate in some way?
When we give people something, they are more likely to give us something in return
There is no spend in advertising until the potential returns have been analysed and modelled. This is as much about where there isn’t likely to be value, as where there could be.
The following questions will give you a framework for measuring your campaign and business-as-usual activity:
- What different types of data will you gather?
- When will you collect and analyse data?
- How will you go about collecting and sharing the data and insights?
The specific data that you collect will depend on the type of campaign activity you are undertaking and the objectives.
If your campaign is to launch a new online form, then you will want to know how many people successfully completed the task online. Only knowing the number of people who visited that page will not give you useful information.
While internal online teams may be familiar with general statistics or analytics to gather (eg number of visits, unique visitors and time on site), they tend to be less aware of more sophisticated measures such as ‘conversion rates’. A conversion can be defined in different ways, such as filling out a form or downloading a document.
To effectively measure conversions, set up a ‘goal’ in your onsite analytics. Low conversion numbers could be the result of bad design, poor content, or a disengaged customer. Capturing these early and addressing them immediately are part of any well-managed, effective campaign.
Other types of data to collect include:
- Split testing, or A/B testing, that will allow you to test different email headers, online calls to action, or two different form layouts etc.
- The devices that are being used to access the site, and their relative success rates.
Whatever you select, don’t choose too many. Around five measures should give you adequate and meaningful measurement of your initiative, with enough information to provide checks and at the same time prevent you from getting bogged down in data.
When will you collect & analyse the data?
Now that you know what data you will be collecting, the next step is to understand when you should collect it. Ideally data should be collected at multiple points:
- before – so that you have a benchmark to measure against
- during – early enough so that you can make any necessary adjustments
- after – to see how you went and inform future work
How will you go about collecting and sharing the data and insights?
The final decision is how you will collect and disseminate the data.
From the analytics packages on the site to end-user surveys and everything else in between, there is a multitude of ways to measure effectiveness.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- survey the business overall or within a particular area or function
- record the number of calls and emails to the business owner/area of the initiative you are launching
- onsite analytics to measure visitors, unique visitors, conversions, rate to return, average time on site, average views per visit etc.
- click-through rate from email marketing and communications
Putting a clear set of measures in place early will help focus the efforts of the team and provide a common understanding of which things are most important.
Having gathered the data and carried out the analysis that has enabled clear insights, it is important to share and act upon this information. Ensure that it is shared deliberately and with the consumer in mind, and that it ultimately aligns with organisational imperatives.
If the Mad Men had hold of your digital workplace or intranet, there would be a constant and ongoing party around there. Hours would be racked up thinking about the workforce consumer and marketplace trends, and finding ways to bring these together in original ways that resonate with the consumer.
We hope this article has inspired you to think about your initiatives in a fresh way. If nothing else, take a few more risks and let us know at Step Two how it all works out.