Can You Treat Customers Like Employees and Employees Like Customers?
Curiosity. A hunger to explore what works and what doesn’t. Respectively challenging others’ ideas. These are among the many reasons I enjoy speaking with groups of young adults preparing for leadership roles.
I recall one such gathering that involved an open discussion on marketing. We talked about dealing with difficult customers (it’s OK to terminate a relationship with customers when there’s no longer a good fit) and engaging employees with internal marketing (how to apply marketing inside a company to educate, motivate, and engage employees to deliver the brand promise).
“Excuse me,” asked one of the attendees, “but I think you have it backwards. You talk about ‘firing’ customers as if they are employees, and you also talk about ‘marketing’ to employees as if they are customers? How can this be?”
An excellent question … and one whose answer is based on understanding customers’ and employees’ respective roles and their value to a business and each other.
Customers pay for a firm’s products/services, which means they contribute the revenue that helps pay employee salaries. No customers = no operating income = no business = no employees.
Employees serve customers by providing the products/services offered by the firm. No employees = no business to compete in the market = no customers.
A company needs to apply both marketing and management strategies to developing positive, loyal relationships with employees and customers so it can:
- attract, engage, and retain the right employees who are competent and committed to serving customers, and
- attract, engage, and retain the right customers whose needs will be best and profitably served by employees.
The takeaway: Yes, you can market to employees and you can manage customers. Done effectively, you’ll be able to work with the best of both.