Last Monday, I presented the first two of my four rules for why marketing internal audit is important – thoughts that sprang from a blog posting from Seth Godin. To recap:
Rule #1: To want your audit services, people have to know you exist.
Rule #2: You must persuade people they want you.
Rule #2A: And persuade them to pay anything to get what you have.
(Yes, I know I know that’s really three rules – but work with me here.)
Godin’s blog goes on to say: “We don't hesitate to motivate employees by marketing them the benefits of being promoted, even if they all can't possibly get this. We don't hesitate to tease kids by marketing every conceivable unattainable Christmas gift at them, relentlessly. Teenage girls are taught what to want by magazines and by peers. Patients are taught what to want by doctors who prescribe new tests. And doctors are taught to do that by lawyers eager to sue if they don't. Imagine going home and saying, ‘the doctor wanted to give me another test, but I said no...’”
The preceding is a little cynical. I’ll get to that in a second. But let’s first explore the concept of what we are marketing. While people have natural proclivities, they don’t always know what they want. Maybe a better way to put it in relation to internal audit is customers don’t always know what is good for them. In many situations, people have to be educated (marketed to) in order to understand the value a service might provide. Per the previous rules, they are taught that something exists, and that they can’t live without it (at any cost.) If we have taken those first steps, then our next role is to continuously market our value – not stopping after the first time we notice them noticing us from across the crowded room. And the only way this works is to move past the dry “we saved you this many dollars” kind of marketing (although that doesn’t hurt). We have to reach for those “Wow” moments. We have to make the customer look back at the audit and say, “Can you believe they did that?” Most importantly, we have to make them talk among themselves saying, “How did we ever live without them?”
Rule #3 – Constantly reinforce the message of internal audit’s value and teach people all the things that internal audit can be.
And now let’s go back to a discussion of the cynicism that seems to exist in Godin’s blog. After the quoted section of the blog post, Godin goes on to make the following point, “And so, once again it seems to come down to a personal decision. If you decide what you want (instead of letting someone else decide for you) perhaps you could choose the things that would actually bring you and your loved ones the satisfaction you can live with.”
For audit to be considered desirable to the company we most be more than a favored choice. If we are true partners to the business, then we have to be the best choice the company can make for its internal audit service needs. There are those who rant about the evils of outsourcing internal audit services, and I will say that I do not believe outsourcing is generally the correct choice. However, if internal audit has not done the broad, value-added job it is supposed to do, then the next best choice for the company may well be outsourcing.
Rule #4: For marketing to be a success (not just succeed), internal audit must be the right choice – the one that brings satisfaction to the company and its employees
In case you haven’t noticed, that is the hidden message in this. Marketing only works when you have something of value for the customer. Marketing internal audit will only work if you have an audit shop that “knocks ‘em dead” (and I don’t mean because auditing got everyone fired.)
So rule #0 (the rule before all the others): Be an audit shop that constantly reaches to do more – the kind that has something to market. (Hint: If you vision statement is “We told you so”, then you may have work to do.)