How do your non-marketing interactions affect your marketing performance?

22nd Jun 2016

So much time, energy, and money goes into crafting perfect marketing communications… all those blog posts, email newsletters, web pages, welcome packs, press releases, and on, and on.

Official marketing and press materials pass many eyes, with careful attention to the tone of voice, the brand alignment, and (in the better cases) ease of comprehension. When it comes to interpersonal communication, your customer service team, your sales people… they’re trained and alert to the impression they leave.

But, what about the rest of it? How do the interactions that are not overseen by someone in marketing, sales, or service, impact on the overall effectiveness of your customer acquisition and retention activity?

If you’re working in banking or other regulated industry, you’ve no doubt had someone at some point talk about pulling the Plain English toothcomb over your T&Cs, invoicing, credit control, and other such documentation. This is a great start… but, there are so many other ways in which your organisation leaves a legacy.

The four pools of potential public opinion

There is a whole body of people who have an opinion about you. I break these into four categories. There are the obvious ones like, press and industry commentators (which I’m not looking at today), then there are:

  1. Customer connections: Your existing customers, your previous customers, and those who chose not to buy from you.

There are also swathes of people who didn’t form their opinion by route of your carefully constructed customer journeys. Think about:

  1. Employee connections: The people who work for you, used to work for you, or at some point applied to work for you but were not successful.
  2. Supplier connections: The people who work in businesses that are suppliers to you, used to be suppliers to you, or once pitched to be but were not successful.
  3. Competitor connections: The people who currently work for a competitor, used to work for a competitor, or researched you whilst applying to work for a competitor.

All of these people already have an opinion about your organisation. They have also almost certainly shared that opinion with friends and family. In fact, it’s much more likely that they have done than your customers. After all, who doesn’t talk about (or indeed whinge about) their work from time to time?

What this means, is that through the increasingly connected networks in which we all live our lives, customers (that you work so hard to craft the right message for) are probably speaking to someone in one or more of these other pools of influence.

I’m sure you have a pretty good idea of the size of your prospect, customer and lapsed customer database. But, do you know how many people are in these other groups, out there talking merrily about your business? And, do you know what they’re likely to be saying?

How many people already have an opinion about your organisation?

Here’s a little calculation to help you work it out:

How many people do you think have a customer connection with your company...

  • How many customers do you have now?
  • How many ex-customers do you have?
  • How people have enquired but not become customers?


How many people do you think have an employee connection with your company...

  • How many work for you now?
  • How many ex-employees do you have?
  • How many unsuccessful job applicants are there?


How many people do you think have a supplier connection with your company...

  • How many suppliers do you use now?
  • How many ex-suppliers do you have?
  • How many suppliers have been unsuccessful in winning your business?


How many people do you think have a competitor connection with your company?

  • How many businesses do you think see you as a competitor?

              (do not include this number in your total)

  • How many employee connections do you think they have cumulatively?
  • How many supplier connections do you think they have cumulatively?


Now, use the following table to estimate the number of people who have had a tangible experience of your company:


Now, ask yourself how long it would take and what it would cost to get that many people onto your email permission list, or to an event, or to interact with a social update. I know, it’s a bit of an eye opener isn’t it.

How to positively impact these pools on influence

It is in the conversations between people in their day-to-day lives that stories like the recent ones we’ve heard about Sports Direct take place, a long time before they get a public airing (if ever!).

So, what can you do to positively influence the conversation that’s happening here? The answer is to always treat people decently. Nice line, Bryony, but what does this mean in terms of practical steps?

Influencing employee connections:

  • Get a great HR person in place to advise you on building effective teams that people love being part of, and clarity on what happens if things go wrong.
  • Put in place and Employer Branding programme where you build up your values, tone of voice, etc. for the types of people you want to attract.
  • Have an internal comms programme to keep people informed and inspired.
  • Review the end-to-end communications people receive from seeing a job ad to receiving a P45.
  • Have a process for turning people down with dignity and friendly feedback. This should include those employment enquiries that not come through traditional routes… like the person who emails a friend’s mum to ask for an internship.
  • Consider the communications and little touches you might have in place for the families of your employees – family days, cards of children’s birthdays, etc.

Influencing supplier connections:

  • Consider calling them ‘partners’ instead of suppliers.
  • Create your own Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for how you behave with your partners, e.g. how quickly you respond to them, review points, assessment of how well you are handling the relationship.
  • Show your appreciation for a job well done. This can be as simple as giving your people a stack of thank you cards to pop in the post when they feel they’ve received good service, right through to hosting a ‘wrap party’ at the end of a challenging project.
  • Include your key partners on things like Christmas card lists, group discounts, and possibility hospitality and training days.
  • Offer partners discounted access to your services.
  • Look carefully at how you handle suppliers who pitched for your work, but were not successful. Give them friendly feedback, highlighting some things they did well and naming particular individuals who impressed you. Thank them for their time and effort. Keep in touch… you never know when your needs might change. Or, when someone there (or their other half) might be in the market for what you sell!

Influencing competitor connections:

  • Recognise that having competitors is good for you. It drives innovation. It allows customers to make active choices, rather than plump for the only option. It also creates a pool of skilled people who might work for you one day.
  • Never speak badly about a competitor. People generally react badly to negative people. Bad-mouthing another company can backfire is so many ways.
  • Consider whether you could turn this on its head and have a referral relationship with some ‘competitors’ – is there a one-level-up, and one-level-down, from what you offer to which you could graciously hand over prospects that are not a perfect fit for you? You might even generate co-marketing opportunities and referral income from this.

And, of course, customers. I won’t dwell on creating great customer experiences. There’s a whole bank of content on this site for that.

What’s important to consider in the thinking this piece takes you through, is that the legacy and reputation of your business is created in every interaction you have with a human being. So, when considering true end-to-end customer experience it is as important to map their interactions with other people who already have an opinion, as it is to map their interactions with you.

© Bryony Thomas.

Bryony Thomas is a professional speaker on marketing, the multi-award winning author of ‘Watertight Marketing’, and the founder of the UK’s only directory of quality-assured independent marketing consultants,

Grab your free digital copy of Watertight Marketing here


Replies (1)

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By rachaelwheatley
01st Jul 2016 15:26

Great post Bryony - and some really practical and do-able things to improve interactions. My experience is that businesses don't look sufficiently closely at all the 'moments of truth' that exist within the organisation and also from the organisation outwards. Or realise the impact of an 'ouch' moment.

A couple of thoughts to add:
- it's worth mapping out what moments of truth there are for a customer, employee, supplier and identifying what the interaction is and whether it's as good as you can make it
- regularly and consistently share your company's values and brand and making sure that is made tangible for staff (i.e. what does it mean in their day to day jobs?)

Thanks (1)