June 3, 2012

Marketing to current and future employees

Usually, when one thinks about marketing, the target audience is actual or potential customers. Fairly often, two other audiences come to mind:

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:

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:

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:

If employees (current and future) aren’t your single most important marketing target, then at least they’re close to the top.


27 Responses to “Marketing to current and future employees”

  1. Robert Hodges on June 3rd, 2012 12:08 pm

    Your article makes a great point. The top engineers want to make a difference and have low tolerance for technical BS. Given the feedback loop to engineering you describe, honesty or at least a defensible imitation is therefore a smart business move for company managers. Plus as Mark Twain pointed out it is easier to remember what you said.

  2. Thomas W Dinsmore on June 4th, 2012 8:22 am

    Plus, there’s the obvious point that current and future employees can be your most passionate and loyal advocates. Vendors, too. When you’re pitching to Ford, you don’t show up at HQ driving a BMW.

  3. Marketing communication essentials | Strategic Messaging on July 3rd, 2012 8:56 pm

    […] desirable even if not totally necessary). Your product has a “cool” aspect. Engineers care about that directly, and the rest of your story is easier to sell if there’s a cool hook […]

  4. Marketing communications tips | Strategic Messaging on December 9th, 2012 5:43 am

    […] When pitching investors or prospective employees. […]

  5. Marketing in stealth mode | Strategic Messaging on March 4th, 2014 1:07 am

    […] Recruit employees. […]

  6. Strategy for IT vendors: a worksheet | Strategic Messaging on May 16th, 2015 2:37 pm

    […] Marketing in support of recruiting and retention (June, 2012) […]

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