One thing is for sure, shared services are typically not good at marketing (with the exception of those who are in Marketing). Where this becomes abundantly clear is when we ask the business what shared services do for us. They may need to think for a while to come up with an answer. in some cases they will say HR does benefits and IT manages the computers but to a large degree this is where this explanation might end.
The unfortunate reality is that while we may provide great service, we need to improve the way we market what we do. After all we, whether we are IT or HR or Finance, need to improve the two-way communication with our business if we want to continually improve the service we deliver.
You have competitors
Your potential external competitors are employing a strategic and targeted marketing plan to provide services that you do today. On the surface they may look faster, better and cheaper. The challenge your shared service teams face is that you may not thinking about providing service on this level and may believe that since you are a department in a company that you do not need to let your business know why your are beneficial to the organization.
Start by thinking what services you are currently providing to your business today. What are you doing well, and what areas do you need to improve. In some cases you may have more questions than answers, and if you do don’t worry. You need to start somewhere. Identify what gaps exists and focus on addressing them.
Do not make assumptions. If you believe that you are doing things well, validate them with those who are consuming the services. Just because you haven’t had any negative feedback (no news is good news) doesn’t mean that there are no issues. In some cases this could represent the opposite, that the service has degraded to a point where the business has lost interest in even complaining and may already be looking to external service providers to replace you.
In the beginning start simple, look at 2 things:
1. What you do well
For the areas which we are shining as a service provider we want to be able to highlight them in a way which demonstrates some level of value. It is likely that we don’t “sell” ourselves very well in this regard. How do these activities impact the bottom line for your business and how does it help them achieve their business outcomes.
2. Areas for improvement
You have the upper hand on all those external competitors in one area, you know your business (or at least you should). Being in a position to understand your business goals and who to connect with within your business allows you to even the playing field against those external competitors who have large marketing teams at their disposal. You should understand your business at this level, if you don’t this should be your first starting point. There are always ways to improve your service delivery, which I am sure everyone would agree to. The key is to focus on the area that matters the most to get the best bang for the buck. This applies to your business outcomes. Allowing your business to know that you understand their pain points and that a plan is in place to work towards some level of resolution can go a long way.
But be careful you don’t want to write cheques that you can’t cash, lip service can be a slippery slope. Make sure that your improvement initiatives are iterative so that you can communicate on their progress regularly to show small improvements each time. Validate that with your communities of practice who consume the service to ensure that your are not making assumptions on improvement.
Make sure that you also understand how your business wants to digest this information. Once again don’t assume that they should get it in an email. Expand your thinking and see what other options are available. Perhaps it will be through social media, a podcast, on a company portal just to name a few. If you have a marketing and communications team at your organization enlist their help to begin this journey to improving your marketing strategy.