When people think about marketing, they typically think about external marketing – marketing tactics aimed at potential customers. But no business can afford to forget to actively and regularly market to its own employees. I’m not sure why business owners and leaders don’t see the importance of targeting their employee base, but it’s often either completely forgotten or it’s one of the smallest line items in the budget.

Why is marketing to your own employees so important? Who usually interacts with your clients? It’s not the CEO. It’s the front-line employees. Typically, the employees who are paid the least and told the least interact the most with your customers.

To your customers – those employees embody your brand. How confident are you that those employees even know what your brand is, let alone how they should deliver it?

There are some ways to consistently market your core messages to your internal team.

Mission, Vision, and Values: 95 percent of companies use these tools incorrectly. They’re either too long, too full of jargon or so full of clichéd words that they are ineffective. If every employee can’t understand and recite them from memory, they aren’t going to do the job.

(Your mission is what you do best every day. Your vision is what the future looks like because you do what you do best every day. And your values are the guiding principles or beliefs that set the tone for the work you do.)

Employee handbook/orientation: What you deem important enough to include in your handbook and your orientation speaks volumes. Don’t just talk about the functional aspects of the job; talk about their role in the company and how they influence and communicate the brand. Take time to tell them how the brand came to be and give them tangible examples so they can begin to connect with it.

Employee recognition and reviews: If it matters enough to you to make it a part of an employee review or in the way you reward employees, they’ll understand that it must be pretty important. When you recognize an employee for something specific in front of the entire team – believe me, they take notice.

They should see everything first: Most employees see their company’s new brochure, TV spot or website the same time the general public first views it. I’ve seen many a retail employee get blindsided by a coupon, special offer or sale that they didn’t know anything about. Make a commitment that you’ll find a way to give your employees first viewing rights to all your marketing materials. Otherwise, they rightfully feel like an afterthought.

Tell them the whole story in real time: Usually employees hear about a great marketing initiative after the fact. They hear about the record sales or huge product demand once the consumer has reacted. Instead, unfold the story as it is happening. Tell your employees about the research and development discoveries. Show them the early comps of the packaging. Depending on what you sell, let them be beta testers. You get the idea – bring them along on the journey so they’re better equipped to talk to your customers about the new offering.

Not keeping your employees in the loop is a little like buying an ad in the local paper or trade publication and then not filling the space with anything. Your employees are going to interact with your best customers and most promising prospects. Do you want them to be full of accurate information or a blank slate?

It’s your call.