Usually, when one thinks about marketing, the target audience is actual or potential customers. Fairly often, two other audiences come to mind:
- Actual or potential investors.
More rarely mentioned is a fourth audience — actual or potential employees. That’s a pity, in that marketing to them is a Really Big Deal. This should be obvious as soon as you consider:
- Recruiting is a hugely important form of sales.
- Where there are sales, there also is (or should be) marketing.
Each of these four “audiences” actually has many subgroups — see, for example, our taxonomy of influencers, or the new-vs.-repeat comments in our execution worksheet. But for simplicity I’m pretending today that they’re one audience each.
In the case of potential hires, this really sank in for me as I picked up more stealth-mode clients, with whom I’d have discussions like:
- “Why launch through TechCrunch? How will a post there help you get more customers, leads, or technical respect?”
- “It probably won’t — but it will help us attract engineers.”
In the case of existing technical staff, I hear more and more that senior management cares a lot about how external coverage affects their engineers. That, I was told, is what lay at the heart of my Greenplum debacle. More positively, it’s sometimes why companies go out of their way to brief me, even in sectors where I rarely influence customer buying decisions. In essence, companies market to key employees by marketing on their behalf.
I also think that academic papers and open source contributions can be viewed through a similar prism. Among other virtues, they show off smart staff and the impressive projects they’re working on, which is good for recruitment and morale alike.
Of course, it’s not just about engineers. Organizations need to encourage and recruit all kinds of employees. This is a key role of leadership. At sufficiently large enterprises, is may be a specialized human resource function as well.
And finally, you need to market to your associates just as you do to other audiences, so that they may:
- Act in accordance with your messages (i.e., prioritize making them be true!), in matters such as service delivery, development or business ethics.
- Communicate your messages to outsiders in a not-too-inaccurate fashion.
If employees (current and future) aren’t your single most important marketing target, then at least they’re close to the top.