Why Manufacturers MUST Bridge the Marketing/HR Divide

For years now, there’s been a big to-do and a lot of articles, conversations and efforts focused on the sales/marketing divide. That dysfunction has cost untold amounts in the form of miscommunications resulting in lost business, missed opportunities, and degraded customer experiences.

Largely glossed over in all that frenzy is a root cause of that dysfunction: the marketing/HR divide. And it’s costing manufacturers — large and small — untold losses in new business and recruitment and retention.

Truth is, sales and marketing are often working much closer than marketing and HR, which tend to keep each other at arms’ length. Marketing and HR have seemingly different agendas and measurements for their success. But in real time, they NEED each other. HR has talent needs to fill in an increasingly competitive world. Marketing needs the right people delivering on the customer experience they’re promising, or all their efforts are for naught.

Once that’s solved, the gap between sales and marketing is much easier to bridge. But many manufacturers are lagging on addressing this issue.

Leaders can help the effort by setting clear goals, expectations, vision and mission. But in order for true alignment to happen throughout the organization in practice, marketing and HR need to get on the same page before all else. It’s really about delivering bottom line results.

Your recruiting efforts can set the expectations for the type of experience that employees will be called on to deliver to your customers. Each interaction your employees have with people – trade shows, industry events, projects – provides opportunities to network and get the word out about your company and employment opportunities.

What’s more, great branding is not only about marketing your desired position and image, but by delivering on the promises you’ve made to prospects and customers as part of that process. That means company culture and corporate brand need to be in lock-step. Your employer brand, attracting the right talent, and employee experience are just as important as the communications going out to your customers.

Not only that, but because manufacturers and their customers are such a tight-knit community, an employee today may be a customer tomorrow, or vice-versa. It makes real financial and strategic sense to get aligned.

The Fluid Brand

One of the things we’ve talked about for years at Imaginasium is the concept of the fluid brand. That means you have many audiences to address internally and externally, and you’ll need to address each of them on their own terms and in customized ways. But in the end, they should all understand the same basic concepts and feel the same way about your organization.

That’s evident in the thinking of a growing number of leaders. In my Coffee and CEOs video series, I recently talked with Craig Dickman, Chief Innovation Officer of Breakthrough Fuels, about his unique approach in bringing together the internal and external experience. Dickman doesn’t have an HR department…instead, he gives responsibility for both internal and external experience to the same group of communicators. Here’s an excerpt from my interview with him:

“I always found it fascinating and frustrating that you would see organizations that would talk about themselves in the marketplace one way…and then behave very, very differently inside the organization. It’s a huge disconnect.

There’s so many times I’ve walked into a company and could tell just be the look and the feel, by the way people acted, dressed, behaved, and the way the environment was, that they weren’t who they were saying they were.

So for us, having that exact same feel, whether you’re outside looking at the company, whether you’re a customer in the marketplace, or whether you’re inside assessing if you want to be a part of our team, we wanted to have a very constant and continual, consistent feel.  That’s why we created the Breakthrough Experience. It defines what it means to interact with Breakthrough at any level — from the market back to the core of the company.

And so we have one unified team that does the marketing work…anything that we’re doing in the marketplace around the brand. Plus, that same team brings the brand into the people process to create a real continuous feel of who we are. That kind of alignment is so important and one of the reasons why it’s easy here to connect the people with the work.”

— Craig Dickman, Chief Innovation Officer, Breakthrough Fuel
(watch the full video here).

Larger Trends

It’s important to know that Breakthrough Fuel isn’t just an isolated example, though. Consider the trends that Forbes published last year in an article entitled, Consumerization of HR:

The Workplace As An Experience — HR often leads internal communications, but marketing drives brand and customer experience expectations. Why not tag team to deliver a great combined employee and customer experience through workplace design and culture?

The Blurring of Marketing and HR — Increasingly, you can simultaneously drive company image and effectively increase recruitment. That’s because the line between customer and employee is blurring, too (especially in highly niched industries). The article quotes GE’s wildly successful campaign from 2015: “What’s the Matter with Owen?” which helped attract young people while changing GE’s image from strictly a manufacturing company to a digital industrial leader.

Employees Become Brand Advocates — Engaged employees mean a better customer experience. Not only that, but content shared online by employees gets eight times more engagement than content shared by brand channels and is re-shared 25 times more frequently. Seems marketing should have a lot of interest in that, right?

Hackathons Used to Reimagine HR — Larger organizations are increasingly bringing together creatives, strategists, programmers and software developers for short-term, focused initiatives to drive innovation. Originally focused on creating new products and services, but to reimagine things like employee engagement, job retention and career development. Marketers are experts at the process; HR can greatly benefit from the collaboration.

Gamification of HR — Online games and contests have been shown to increase customer engagement. And with Millennials now cited as the least engaged segment of the workforce in many organizations, games are an effective channel for that segment to connect with the company’s goals, vision and mission.

The Gig Economy Workforce Expands — The rise of the gig economy (shorter-term temporary or freelance workers), is forcing employers to re-think how the source and develop non-traditional talent. That makes the employer brand and communications all the more important to not only filling talent needs, but in creating the right understanding to deliver the desired customer experience.

Workspace As Cultural Differentiator — Not only is culture itself important in driving engagement (and sometimes even differentiating in the marketplace), but the experience of place has a lot to do with how the customer experience is delivered AND in how well the organization delivers an employee experience that retains high performers.

HR Is A Team Sport — The employer brand and the employee brand have now become one and the same. HR professionals are fast becoming Chief Employee Experience Officers, much as CMOs have transitioned to Chief Customer Experience Officers. Their alignment is more important than ever to deliver a seamless experience inside and out.

It’s clear that the lines are blurring. And that doesn’t rule out the need for both disciplines. But it’s time for marketing and HR to engage much earlier and more collaboratively if organizations want to compete effectively in an increasingly tougher competitive world for talent and customers.

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Imaginasium helps manufacturing leaders drive profitable growth and change through inside-out marketing—building communication programs that drive culture, draw customers, and deliver a superior customer experience.