Two Out of Three Is Bad, Part 2: When the Messengers Are Missing

cricket.jpg“We heard crickets,” a nonprofit leader said in a low moment, when sharing the underwhelming results of a development initiative. “Our own people just never got excited about the campaign.”

Logic might suggest that the people closest to a business—employees, alumni, current customers, suppliers, and the like—would naturally be the first to line up behind any new campaign or message. After all, don’t those people have the emotional connection and/or economic interest needed to become enthusiastic advocates for the business? And yet, unfortunately, organizational leaders sometimes find they’ve failed to hit the mark, move the needle, or otherwise motivate their internal stakeholders.

In my experience across many different types of organizations, I find that it’s not because those internal audiences lack enthusiasm. Rather, they typically don’t understand and internalize the message. Furthermore, they often don’t know where to share it within their personal networks nor would they feel confident if they wanted to give it a shot. That is why I refer to internal audiences—employees and others who know the business well—as the “missing piece” for most growth initiatives.

How can you best add the missing piece? I have identified three traits that people need in order to become Messengers for the business:

  • Knowledge: What are the things that everyone should know about the organization? Hint: These “must-knows” likely have little to do with a mission, vision, tagline, or campaign theme. Rather, they should relate to how you serve customers, what you offer, and how you serve the greater good—and all in a conversational format.
  • Skill: Many people never learned the skills for real-time customer interaction (over the phone or face-to-face). That will require some intentional coaching, training and reinforcement.
  • Confidence: With appropriate coaching, practice, and celebration of every success, confidence will come. Helping your Messengers master knowledge and skills deserves organizational resources.

This is all doable, yet there is also a potentially complicating trend at work. By 2020 nearly half of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of Millennials, according to Already a large number of Millennials are in important positions in organizations, bringing their much different style (and skill level) in communication.

Companies have long been frustrated in trying to develop good Messengers; it is not something most managers have been trained to do. As the generational shift continues and Millennials become more prevalent on our teams–from the sales force to the call center to the installation and service teams–their customer conversation capabilities will play an increasingly large role in your company’s success.  

There is huge opportunity for those who get the “Millennial Messenger” right. This cohort wants to get ahead but also wants their work to be meaningful; they want to believe in the “why” behind their organization. They also have more propensity to share than any other generation. Equipped with the right compelling, resonant stories to share and some new skills, these colleagues can become great Messengers and a new engine for growth.

In my work with many different types of companies, I have found that three components—Message, Messengers, and Management—contribute to a company’s success (or failure) in customer conversations. Very few organizations are strong in all three. When the Message and Management are strong, but good Messengers are missing in the mix, there is a void.

The musician and singer (and Baby Boomer) Meat Loaf famously sang, “Two out of three ain’t bad.” With all due respect to Meat Loaf, that doesn’t hold true in the world of marketing and business growth. Don’t settle.

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