Guest post by Allison Rice
Imagine you are at a networking event with several of your employees, enjoying an appetizer and mingling with other small business types, when suddenly you overhear one of your own team members struggling to explain what, exactly, your business does and how you do it. Would you be embarrassed? Of course you would.
But scenarios like this don’t have to happen. Instead, you can arm your team with the information necessary to talk about your business in the outside world. After all, word of mouth is the best advertisement for any business — and happy team members who can readily discuss how the company works are a sure sign of success.
Find out how much everyone knows
First, find out where your team stands in terms of discussing business affairs. Arrange a meeting with the entire company, from college interns to managers and partners, and give everyone a simple worksheet of questions to answer. Don’t tell them before the meeting what the meeting will be about or you won’t get a true picture of how much training is needed.
What should everyone know?
The worksheet should include questions that you would want your team to be able to answer in a variety of business situations. Whether an employee is attending a networking function or encouraging a new client to consider your product, he or she should be able to speak candidly about what your company offers and have a general idea about everyday processes. The classic questions of who, what, when, where, how and why make a good starting point. For example:
What Does the Company Offer?
This question seems simple enough, but often employees and managers don’t have a clear answer. Narrow it down to specifics with the following hints:
- Is it considered to be a product or service?
- What makes the product or service unique?
- What kind of competition exists in the market, both locally and nationally, for this product or service?
- Does your company include “perks” or benefits with its products or services? (For example: a hair salon offers a 10-minute scalp massage with each wash and haircut.)
Who Might Benefit From What the Company Offers?
Understanding the demographics of the company’s product or service is also important. Make sure your team knows about the qualities of your ideal client, such as:
- The company’s target age range
- Target educational and/or economic status
- Gender, if applicable
How Does Your Company Deliver?
How your company delivers a marketing message, or navigates today’s economy, is important. What do your employees know about your marketing efforts?
- Mass Media: Does your company use television, radio or live events to deliver a message?
- Websites: How does your company’s website work? Is it possible to purchase your product or service on the web?
- Social Media: What social media tactics does your company use?
- “Old School” Methods: Does your company send out brochures and/or fliers, hang posters or mail newsletters?
Why Has Your Company Thrived?
The “why” portion is a chance to share the philosophy of your company: its history and its current mission. While you might not think people will ask about these matters, this is important information that each employee and business owner should have.
Where Can Someone Get More Information?
This should be a no-brainer, but make sure everyone on the team is aware of all the different places a potential client can find out more, such as:
- The company’s website or email address
- The company’s storefront(s)
- The company’s contact information
When is the Best Time to Get in Touch?
Answering this question could be as easy as relaying the business hours, but, if you have a website that offers purchasing, a client would need to know that the product or service is available any time.
Follow up the worksheet session
After you give your team the worksheet and let them fill it out, you’ll be able to see how much, or how little, everyone knows. You’ll also be able to notice any similarities in the answers. If the answers are not similar at all, that means there’s more training to be done. Sharing the same company information is important. If you find that your team didn’t respond in the way you wanted, it might be time to schedule a training session or two and get everyone on the same page.
Remember, every single employee within the company is likely to be delivering your message to the outside world at some point, so it’s important to figure out what the message should be and make sure it’s understood by everyone.
Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing (www.amsterdamprinting.com), a leading provider of promotional marketing pens and other promotional products to grow your business and thank customers. Allison regularly contributes to the Promo & Marketing Wall blog, where she provides actionable business tips.
The Product Management Perspective: Product managers play a key role in ‘arming’ the company with product messaging, especially in answering questions about what the company offers. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking everyone in the company knows what your product will do for your customers. Take advantage of every opportunity to share the value of your product and get your coworkers excited about how it helps your customers.