When a fast food brand decides to launch a new sandwich, do they just start selling it and hope word of mouth leads to sales? Not usually. Instead, that brand is more likely to introduce that sandwich to current and potential customers through a marketing plan that includes showcasing photos and details about that product in an array of mediums – TV, satellite radio, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, websites, you name it.

And these tactics aren’t deployed on a whim. A meticulous plan has been put in place to promote that new sandwich in the most positive and appealing ways possible. After all, if you want lots of people to forgo their favorite, tried-and-true sandwich and instead spend their hard-earned money on something they haven’t tried before, then you’d better give them all the details they need. Do this properly and you’re practically guaranteed to have a line of customers waiting to make a purchase the day the new sandwich hits the market.

It’s Time to Make Your Organization More Like a Fast Food Restaurant

If you’re a CEO of an organization and your leadership team has crafted a new strategy that you want your many employees to jump on board with and start activating, even though most of them are very comfortable with the current way of doing things, then you’ve surely crafted a stellar plan of your own to entice them – right?

While most organizations should be shouting, “YES,” the answer to this question is more often a quiet “no.” Millions of dollars are spent each year in boardrooms as executive teams determine the best strategy to win in the marketplace, be more competitive, and change the growth curve to the positive. No doubt it is hard work to get this right. Leaders must marry up market analytics, organizational strengths and competencies, and make the right investments to advance the ball. After all of this work, executives feel immense pressure to act and act quickly.


Typical statements heard from the C-suite include:

  • “We’ve got to move and move fast.”
  • “It took forever to bake this thing. Let’s make sure we capitalize on it before the market opportunity passes us by.”
  • “I don’t have time or patience for employee resistance. Let’s take our pain and get moving.”

In these moments, many of us can forget what it takes to mobilize hundreds or thousands of employees and make them actually want to accept the strategy we have invested so much time, energy, and resources to create – ultimately sending a smart strategy straight to failure.

This pressure often leads to rushed implementations that entail wordy memos emailed to employees or standalone town halls or video conferences where strategies are shared via PowerPoint presentations. These scenarios tend to fail because they are simply a broadcast of information.

Success is found when leaders work to design experiences to win the hearts and minds of their people.

Internal Marketing Is a Must

Executive leaders in large organizations may think employees will like what we tell them to like. After all, we are paying them to like it, to implement it, to give their all so the company can be successful. Their interests are automatically aligned with ours. We can just tell them what we need and they will do it. Right? Wrong!

If you want employees to push aside feelings of uncertainty and unease and adopt a new way of doing things, then you might want to take a page from the fast food restaurant’s sandwich launch – give your people all the information they need (i.e., every ingredient in that new sandwich) so they want to be a part of the new strategy or change.

The most successful organizations will be the ones that apply the principles of experience design (the five E’s) to engage their people in change – Entice, Enter, Experience, Exit, and Extend.

Bringing the Five E’s to Life

Organizational strategy is a premium purchase for your employees. If they don’t want to buy it, it is highly unlikely they will give their discretionary effort to help execute it. This means you need to engage them in ways that mirror a buying process. You likely won’t win the hearts and minds of your people with a memo from your CEO announcing the bold new frontier of your strategy.

If your organization’s strategy requires additional effort by your people or enhanced levels of productivity or customer engagement, then you need to be active in wooing your people to the strategy and helping them discover that they’re tired of the same sandwich they’ve been ordering for lunch for the past year and that it’s time to try the new item on the menu.

Ready to develop a strategy activation plan that entices your people to want the strategy and extends the effort into their daily work? Here are five tips to consider:

  1. Share Bite-Sized Pieces of Information (Entice them!) – Entice your people and let them know something cool is on the horizon, but don’t spell it all out at once. Give them some time to get interested with a set of “teasers” that entices them and makes the subject interesting – and maybe even fun.
  2. Intentionally Create an Entrance – After people have been enticed and their curiosity is piqued, don’t just dump the rest of the information via an email or at the next team meeting. This is the time to make a memorable entrance! Design an online invitation or animated video that welcomes and engages people in a way that is personal and demonstrates that they matter. A memo isn’t going to get it done.
  3. Make the Experience Consumable – Eating an elephant is just about impossible (at least we hope so!). Think through what amount of content and change people can absorb while still doing the critical work needed in their daily work. If you want to dump the entire plan at one time, people likely won’t have the mental bandwidth to consume it. So stagger the information, giving people the time to digest it and the opportunity to share concerns, ask questions, and provide feedback. By mixing the amount of tell and engagement, you can help ensure people are “getting it” and that they want to help bring your strategy to life.
  4. The Exit Is Important Too – Think about what you want people to think, say, and feel as they leave a strategy activation experience (such as a meeting, event, or town hall). Create an exit that is memorable and connects your employees to the strategy. Sometimes this is done with gifts, contests, or personal reflections and sharing that unite a group to a common cause.
  5. Extend the Experience – The best strategy activation is a two-way experience. Leadership provides direction, and employees provide feedback and ideas for how to enhance the next steps. Then leaders provide the next step of direction (using some element of the feedback or ideas from the field), and employees weigh in and continue to make plans and actions more relevant and effective. Employees are much more likely to “buy the strategy” when they feel part of creating it (even if that creation is a small, tactical idea they can put into action in their daily work to make a difference).

The Power of Internal Marketing

Designing an internal marketing plan and related experiences to engage employees to crave your strategy is time well spent. It isn’t just about a single event – think of multiple touch points with your people during which you consciously try to engage them rather than simply telling them. Instead of communication, think activation. Create a series of meaningful experiences so your people want to understand and contribute to your strategy. This is different from telling people so they will comply with it. Engagement and compliance are different. True engagement captures hearts and minds and leads to employees giving you their true discretionary effort. Much like that delicious new sandwich – don’t just tell them it’s good. Give them a taste and make sure they enjoy every bite!

Are you ready to win over employees to help activate your strategy? Let’s chat.

July 28, 2022

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