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Deborah Malone

BASF Demonstrates that BtoE Marketing is Just as Important as BtoB and BtoC

First published in The Internationalist

By: Deborah Malone

Like many industries with specialized jargon, the business of marketing is replete with terms and abbreviations of significance. Of late, there’s been growing consensus that the strategies of business-to-business marketing have more in common with those of business-to-consumer marketing in our digital age. There’s also increasing acknowledgement that internal communications are as important as external communications in a social media world that empowers employees as well as consumers.

BASF has recently shown how Business-to-Employee (BtoE) Marketing can contribute to a company’s success, particularly as companies grapple to attract and retain the kind of talent that can transform a company’s activities, its image, and–ultimately–its bottom line.

BASF, the world’s largest chemical producer, realized that its employees didn’t fully understand the range of benefits the company had to offer. So, they asked the brand consultancy Monaco Lange to help. Managing Director Jennifer Zanfardino immediately recognized that BASF “needed to communicate with employees regularly, to shift perceptions and change the story.”

She knew that brand perception plays an important role in luring candidates to companies and also in keeping them there. However, few corporations have bothered to develop marketing plans and communications systems to connect employees to the purpose of the organization and the rewards available to them. The result: employees look to leave or are lured away by other companies.

Plus, with global talent wars building, companies must think of employees as customers first, and market in much the same way they do to consumers and retailers– online and offline– to build their business. Studies, from companies like AON Hewitt, have shown that a global talent shortage can stifle business growth. In the US, 32% of employers report difficulty filling critical roles.

Ms. Zanfardino understood that business-to-employee marketing programs can help brands compete in the war on talent.

BASF undertook research in 2010 that revealed how the company’s Compelling Total Offer (CTO) was on par— and often better— than that of competitors. However the perception of BASF’s CTO wasn’t aligned with this truth. There was an awareness problem, not just of benefits, but of overall depth and breadth of their CTO. In 2011, Monaco Lange worked with chemical giant to create a system of engagement that didn’t change the offerings, but changed how the offerings were packaged. And “[email protected]” was launched in 2012.

BASF and Monaco Lange initially focused their “employees-as-consumers” marketing efforts on the 17,000-strong workforce in North America. BASF’s German headquarters liked the idea and decided to roll out the program globally to over 100,000 employees. The “[email protected]” campaign now consists of traditional, digital, experiential and other touchpoints.

Over the course of the three-year campaign, two very important statistics have emerged:

  1. The total number of employees who feel that BASF Total Rewards meets their needs rose from 27% to 58%.
  2. The number of employees that say that BASF Total Rewards strongly factor into their decision to stay with the organization rose from 48% to 63%.

BASF employees now are also engaged by the company’s underlying purpose, which is clearly communicated and marketed to employees and other stakeholders. Employees work in interdisciplinary teams on innovative processes and products for a sustainable future where innovations in chemistry play a key role.

Consultancy Monaco Lange’s ethos is “change or be changed.” They confirmed that BASF could change to succeed while remaining authentic to its mission. In fact, BASF has ambitious future goals that can only be accomplished with committed and engaged employees. And they’re well on their way to succeeding.