In my last blog post, I discussed business development and how, at the core, it’s really people development. This time around, we’ll look at how focusing on the human side of your operation directly impacts marketing.

As we know, marketing is all about developing new opportunities, attracting new clients and amplifying messages that keep existing customers coming back. As I mentioned last time, I’ve worked in organizations that focus on the team concept as well as those that operate by a far more autocratic model. As a result of these experiences, I believe that without a team-oriented culture, creating new and sustainable business opportunities will be challenging at best, if not impossible.

The fact is, organizations with dictatorial leaders and revolving doors rarely create the synergies needed for long-term growth. On the other hand, organizations that do put employee development first always seem to find ways to thrive, and do so with far less struggle.

Spreading the word about your company’s attributes and virtues best takes place when the message is carried by team members who feel valued and are emotionally, if not financially, vested in the team’s success. When you do a little research on job satisfaction or employee retention, it doesn’t take long to learn the top needs of a team member include job security, benefits, compensation, opportunities to use skills and abilities (crucial) and feeling safe in the work environment. With those elements in place, the way an employee talks, works and relates to existing and prospective clients simply takes on a positive tenor.

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With satisfied and engaged employees, marketing becomes intrinsic to your company culture. In contrast, without a solid grasp on “people development,” you can throw all the money you want at marketing and advertising, but you will barely scratch the surface of the opportunities it might bring.

In other words, if you don’t develop your team, you’re more than likely to miss out on sustainable growth.

That basic principle has probably been true for eons, but it’s also true that the rules have changed in the digital age. Today’s marketing plans include social media, email, events and, perhaps most important of all, reputation management. Businesses today know everyone they encounter can help or hurt them with the push of a button.

With so many ways to promote your business, it can be hard to come up with a plan. Ultimately, I think it boils down to two paths:
1. Commit enough money to advertising and marketing to drive a constant supply of new leads so you don’t have to worry about keeping your sales team busy. (In other words, throw enough money at the wall and hope that some will stick.)

2. Develop a “nurture and harvest” mentality.

I personally go with the second option.

In other words, to develop a great marketing plan, start by understanding what kind of company culture you want to cultivate. Are you developing your employees into the ambassadors they should be for the company they work for? If you can honestly answer yes to the second question, you probably already know how quickly the energy and attitude of a team culture is transferred to your end user. Once that happens, you can then watch those same customers create new business for you. In fact, I find this strategy so effective, traditional marketing and advertising becomes nearly obsolete.

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Keep in mind that just because everyone else advertises or sees it as the thing to do doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Personally, I’ve never been much of a fan of traditional advertising; TV is expensive and radio is hit-or-miss.

I think traditional advertising, print or broadcast, does get your company name out there and can reinforce your brand. However, massive amounts of unqualified leads, constant turnover, lack of synergy and unmotivated or dissatisfied team members create a deficit of energy and creativity that no amount of advertising can overcome. 

Systems, protocols, canned sales pitches, reading from a script or other manipulative or outdated management practices certainly are tools you can implement, no question. Understand though, the people you employ are the ones executing those rules and procedures. That’s why, as I outlined in my last piece, “people success equals business success.”

I believe that if you’re not getting stellar, tangible, sustainable and trackable results from your current marketing plan, it’s time to shift it — or scrap it entirely and move in a new direction.

So, what is the message here? Simply this: Your marketing plan must include people development. Your marketing plan must include creating salespeople out of everyone within your organization. Your marketing plan must include developing past, current and future clients into de facto salespeople. Finally, your marketing plan must include more than simply spending dollars on traditional and expensive mainstream marketing techniques.

The reason I’m so passionate about all of this is because I’ve seen how it works on a day-to-day basis.

In 2011, I made this type of switch for an organization that saw a 65-percent increase in sales in the first year, followed by another 50 percent increase the year after. Though I left after several years as the vice president and general manager of that company, it remains at a very strong No. 5 position in our highly competitive market. I have no doubt laying this groundwork helped them continue to grow.

In 2003, I grew a startup from zero pools to more 400 annually — in less than four years. I hired nearly everyone from outside the industry and trained them using a people-first approach. (Truth be told, I brought in a group that was much smarter than me and let them do their thing while coaching them with training, support and encouragement.) We did this without a traditional marketing plan and it worked like a charm. This was an exceptional team.

And, way back in 1997, I worked closely with mentor. By handing many of the day-to-day operations over to me, we took a very unconventional pool company from around 50 pools to more than 500 pools a year using this exact method. We trained, sharpened our skills as a team and worked together. Many of those who worked with us have gone on to successful businesses and endeavors of their own or still work in the industry as highly capable and talented designers, superintendents and admin staff.         

In short, my bottom-line advice is to make your marketing plan congruent with your mission statement and your culture. Invest in your people and in turn they will invest more into your vision. Share it with them and make them part of it. The time and effort you spend promoting your business will be far more effective as result.