What It Looks Like When You’re Winning Inside First

Every one of our clients has heard me say the words “winning inside first.” We challenge our clients to consider their employees as the most important advocates they will ever identify. We set out with intention years ago to win inside first. Now, we get to look back and see the fruits of investing internally. There’s evidence in every direction of what happens when you aim to win inside first. But it didn’t always look that way.

Winning inside your organization is the most meaningful thing you can do. Your employees — we call them your Ideal Internal Advocates here at Fervor — need to be your loudest fans.

In Fervor’s first few years, it was just me and a handful of talented, trusted creatives. As we served clients and exposed their real strategic marketing needs, we developed our signature Brand Impact Assessment™ + Strategy. In the process, we help clients develop Ideal Advocate profiles. Critical to smart marketing is answering this question: Who’s it for?

So we conducted that same assessment on Fervor. But here’s where I missed it. None of our Ideal Advocates were focused on our own people. I was out hustling for business, helping implement great strategies for brands to grow and our own agency was growing. Yeah, we paid them, and yeah, we tried to be a cool place to work. But we missed a huge opportunity. So we set out with intention to truly do what we tell our clients to do: win inside first.

What it looks like when you're winning inside first | Fervor Marketing Kansas City Digital Marketing Agency

Winning inside first means we have a shared vision and all understand our collective focus. This requires that you spell out and codify what it is you’re aiming for.

At Fervor, that’s our Manifesto. We worked tirelessly to design our Manifesto, because it’s our way of saying: This is what we stand for. Are you with me? Most companies have core values, mission statements, vision statements, what have you. Well-intentioned for sure. But I would argue that if your corporate values are foreign to your employees, then those values don’t matter.

Okay, wait: isn’t this HR’s territory? What does company culture have to do with marketing? I’ve talked to many business leaders over the years who struggle to understand why a marketing company, whose job it is to find and generate new business, spends so much effort talking about internal employees. Some have even questioned if it’s a waste of time.

Winning inside first has everything to do with marketing. When you’re aimed at the same thing and the culture of the organization is healthy, then what you produce can’t help but become better. When your team is focused in the same direction, what they produce is amplified. I can confidently say that our clients are getting better products, better websites, better content, better management, better ideas, better execution because we are healthier than we’ve ever been. It’s stronger collaboration.

If they’re not empowered to spread your culture through your brand’s message? If they’re not encouraged, nurtured and cared for inside? No amount of marketing can save you. Harsh, yes. But it’s part of our story. I’m going to keep beating this drum because I know it’s true.

Here’s what it looks like when you’re winning inside first, practically. We’ve given each other permission to call each other out. We’ve assembled a team to build structures and rhythms around our Manifesto. We’ve created a workspace that is friendly to collaboration — and supplied our team with noise-cancelling headphones for the tasks that call for concentration. We’ve stocked the kitchen with healthy snacks, because families stock the fridge. We’ve encouraged and facilitated generosity, matching funds, volunteering together and more. We’re deliberate about bringing in the right team members into the right roles and holding them accountable.

Now, please hear me out: winning inside does not mean every day is perfect. We’re still a team of humans. Broken humans. But with our eyes squarely focused on the same goal, we’re bound to hit the target far more often.

The best marketing can fill your funnel. But if you’re not winning inside, then all you have is a full funnel spilling on the floor. Disregarding your own people is short-sighted at best, and dangerous at worst. I’m humbled to say that today at Fervor, we’re more focused than we’ve ever been at winning inside first. Only when your Ideal Internal Advocates are thriving can they come together and help your organization thrive.