Is your advisory team speaking with one voice?
Let's find out. Take some time today to round up a group of employees from various levels within your company and ask them a few questions about your organization: “Why was our business founded? What are our company's most important values? Why is our organization special? What do we do best?” And maybe most importantly, “What do we actually do?”
Then compare. Are they all saying roughly the same thing? Are they hitting the important highlights? Or is there a gap between your employee handbook, orientation materials and the word-of-mouth brand representation going on in the field? Remember, every employee is a potential sales representative.
My bet is that you will get many different answers. It happens in every kind of business, from a new registered investment advisory firm that just broke free of the mother ship to one that has been in business for decades. Most businesses fail to take the time and do the work to go to the market with one voice — one message that will effectively communicate value to your network and attract the right clients. Keep in mind that speaking with a unified voice doesn't mean instituting memorized “customer interaction” scripts. That is a surefire way to get stamped with a big, fat “inauthentic” or “doesn't get it” stamp.
You don't want your employees to be brainwashed drones living in fear of deviating from a strict company line or uncomfortable about inserting some personality into their jobs. Speaking with a unified voice is about cultivating an enthusiastic work force that tells a shared story. They need to know the story well, but they also have to make it their own.
The flight crews from Southwest Airlines come to mind. Working off a scripted safety presentation, they are still encouraged to convey the information in a way that both reflects who they are and gets passengers to actually listen (and maybe even chuckle a little). They know the information they need to express inside and out.
To reach that level, you have to have an understanding of what that information means, as well as the confidence to hold a conversation about it. Forget using canned company lines. How can you create this kind of environment at your business? You need mechanisms in place to teach employees your story and organizational culture.
Immerse them in it. Tell them why things are the way they are.
And by all means, give them a role in the next chapter.
You can do this many different ways. Some companies prefer team retreats. Others hire “personalities,” with confidence that they can teach the skills and culture to the rest of their employees. Some firms get even more creative.
Before serving up a single latte, Starbucks makes baristas spend two weeks learning not only coffee-making techniques but the history of the brand, coffee culture, the values employees are expected to uphold at all times, and why these details matter. Starbucks hits upon the key to making employees effective storytellers and representatives of your organization. You have to show them who you are, what you do and why you matter.
The “why” is especially important. The “who” and “what” can be memorized and regurgitated on demand, but a solid understanding of “why” will allow your team to believe in and expand upon that knowledge. It allows them to have real conversations. Remember, your employees are the people sharing the story of your business day in and day out. No fluffy PR story can replace the experience your customers have with them.
If your message is being lost somewhere between your partners and those who come in contact with the public on an everyday basis, your business is wasting resources and missing out on an opportunity to tell the story you want people to hear.
Getting your employees to speak with a unified voice is an investment worth making, and one that will last a lot longer than any advertisement.