Marketing and sales leaders recognize the importance of the brand promise. Yet many of them also express to me their frustration in trying to get team members to consistently “live” their brand promise.

I hear from leaders that, in actual customer conversations, brand messages are either delivered inconsistently (“our people all tell different stories”) or not at all (“for whatever reason, our people don’t seem to want to talk to customers”). Like the old game of “Telephone,” the brand message changes through the filter of each individual who passes it along.

The people who most frequently carry that brand promise reside outside of your marketing, sales, or even customer service teams. A client with an extensive HVAC business discovered that sixty percent of its customer conversations are led by field technicians. In ad agencies, much more client contact happens through AEs and production managers than through creative directors or principals. Retail clerks—often lacking much in the way of customer-conversation training—can drive the customer buying experience.

Connecting the Brand Promise to the Brand Messengers

Is there a missing piece that would help the message travel smoothly all the way down the line? In my experience, yes—and it lies with the set of human beings who are most likely to deliver the brand promise directly. I refer to these people as “messengers.”

The pressures on marketing leaders are more intense than ever. New channels, rising (and sometimes unrealistic) expectations, consumer skepticism, and new technologies are some of the trends that squeeze leaders’ time and attention. In response, some marketing leaders react in a less-than-strategic way. They might try to motivate potential messengers through speeches, events, incentives, or other short-term moves. They might try to “educate” internal audiences through more communications or collateral. Or, they might just stay out of the way—believing that the customer conversation is beyond their ability to manage it. Chances are, none of those approaches will work.

What do the people closest to your organization need in order to become great messengers?

  • Literacy, or a basic knowledge including whom you serve, how you do so, and what your customers gain from the relationship;
  • Fluency, or fundamental conversational skills (face-to-face and over the phone); and
  • Confidence that, in their role as messengers, people will not sound foolish and that they are not alone (e., this is a group norm).

The good news is that marketing leaders can influence each of these components. They can condense and simplify key areas of knowledge to make them conversation-ready. They can help managers become good conversation coaches to their direct reports. They can socialize the effort to take the brand promise more directly to customers, celebrating wins and business results.

Your success in bringing the brand promise to life will never be about “command and control.” Still, the customer conversation can be managed. The results can include better employee engagement, more customer conversations, greater consistency in delivery of the brand promise, and ultimately more opportunities to grow.

When employees, suppliers, distributors, and others are equipped to be messengers, you will likely enjoy the business benefits of a brand promise that is amplified rather than lost in translation.