There's a cute little coffee-house/cafe that I recently visited on one of my trips. It's the kind of place, that when you walk in, everything about it says "authentic, indie, gourmet espresso house." They serve fair-trade coffee, artisan sandwiches and gelato.
There's a case with fresh-baked pastries, and it smelled like, well - gourmet coffee. Behind the counter are a few barista's that look exactly like what you expect, and from the decor, to the menu, to the signs in the windows, everything about this place screamed "indie-boutique coffee house." That is, until one of the women behind the counter started talking to a customer.
"What's the difference between Gelato and Ice Cream?" a young lady asked her.
"I don't know, I used to work at Dairy Queen, and they're all sweet, cold, and creamy to me." She replied.
(sound of authentic, cool, hip vibe crashing to the floor.)
Whoa, wait a minute. Did that just really happen? Imagine walking into an Apple store, and a customer asking "what's the difference between this MacBook Air, and the stuff made by Dell?"
"I don't know, they all have buttons, a power supply and a keyboard." replies the soon-to-be former Apple Store Employee.
Of course, this isn't really about Gelato. Except, that if you've invested a ton of energy, time, and resources in positioning your little storefront as an authentic "indie, gourmet espresso cafe," it might be nice if the woman behind the counter doesn't start her explanation of Gelato with the the words "Dairy Queen."
Companies spend a lot of money putting up a front of Marketing. As small business owners, we do the same thing. We spend money, time, energy and resources on things like our logo, our website, a storefront and print ads. And then the phone rings, or the email comes in, or someone walks in to your location. Ask yourself a question - will the experience they have on the inside, match with everything you've done on the outside?
Your brand is only as good as it's lowest common denominator.
If your brand is about high-touch, boutique-level service, will that be the experience a client has if you take 4 days to return an email? If your brand is about fun, high-energy, bubbly personality, will that be the experience a client has if the person answering the phone is having a bad morning?
That's the difference between inside marketing and outside marketing. Outside marketing is things like advertising, logo, website, print and online advertising, word of mouth referrals, etc. Inside marketing is things like: the way you answer the phone, the way you reply to emails, your follow up time, the way people are greeted in your office or store, and even the way your staff are dressed.
Edit: As I finished typing this, the "lowest common denominator" barista (yes, I'm really calling her that), has taken a seat at a table with guest who apparently works at a nearby shop. In earshot of at least a half dozen of us guests, while drinking a mug of her own hot chocolate, she keeps talking about how much she can't wait to "lock the doors, and get out of here."
Bottom line: maybe spend a little time thinking about your inside marketing, because - if you don't nail that - none of your outside marketing will matter anyway.