At its core, marketing is about communication. It's about getting people to buy what you're selling. Sometimes, that means communicating your brand or a product's benefits to customers, to convince them to buy from you instead of someone else. But sometimes, it's about communicating your brand's "big ideas" to the customer facing employees, managers, stakeholders and others who will carry that message out to the world.

This is what internal communication seeks to do. It's not just about providing employees a place to check out job openings, policies and pictures from the company Christmas party. It's about giving your internal customers a place to gather and get energized about the purpose or vision that makes your company special.

Here are three ways marketers can make energizing and engaging employees part of their marketing strategy.

Intranets and Employee Hubs

We've talked in the past about media hubs and how they drive engagement with customers. So it is no great surprise that building a tool to do the same thing internally would be our first suggestion. Intranets and employee hubs are great tools for keeping employees connected to your message and to build stronger engagement as companies grow across multiple locations and teams.

An intranet - sometimes called an employee portal - allows a company to share information internally. It's a place where company policies and news can be pushed out to employees via the web.

An employee hub, on the other hand, is more collaborative. It can include more diverse content from a wider range of sources, and can employ more methods to push that information to employees. Employees themselves can contribute - perhaps with news about what's happening with a project or a specific location. It's also a place where important work-related tools such as content management systems, apps and other content can be kept.

What does an employee hub look like? Take Chicago-based Byline Bank's BYway, which is a full-service intranet platform offering a one-stop-shot for employees to access reference material, read departmental blogs, quickly launch key systems, and even share short notes to other colleagues that can be seen bank wide, to thank them for going above and beyond. "We're really proud of the BYway," says Erin O'Neill, Director of Marketing for Byline Bank. "It's one of the best-performing intranet sites I've seen in my career and it's really exciting to see the way it continues to deliver on our goal of not only communicating information to our team quickly and clearly, but really becoming the core of the fun and engaged culture we're excited to building here at Byline."

Video and Video Conferencing

As workforces grow and become more widely distributed geographically, communicating face to face can be a challenge. Employees may feel disconnected from top level managers, marketing messages, and even from the company's purpose. In the past, this was why companies often held annual company meetings exotic locations. But not only is this costly, once a year, face-to-face meetings aren't enough to build real connections between people.

That's why video conferencing and live streaming are becoming such valuable tools to engage employees. These tools are relatively inexpensive, yet they can bring employee communications to a more human level. You can use video for anything from "all-hands" quarterly meetings to smaller, project based communications.

A good video conferencing tool is a must for growing companies that want to make effective internal communications a priority. It's also a great tool for connecting with customers anytime, anywhere. That's why it should be part of your marketing strategy.

Video, whether pre-recorded or live-streaming, also help customers and employees make those human connections. Pre-recorded video makes a great tool for communicating brand messages during on-boarding processes, delivering training, and sharing knowledge. For more immediate communication needs - such as those quarterly sales and marketing meetings, live-streaming tools, such as Periscope and Facebook Live, are catching on as a way to deliver timely, high quality video broadcasts that can be watched live or recorded and watched later.

These solutions promise impressive business results. Network solutions provider Cisco was an early adopter of using video conferencing and live streaming tools for internal communications, claiming more than $6.5M from video conferencing, $18M million in savings from its live video events, and more than $25M million from on-demand video.

Social Collaboration Tools

Social collaboration tools like Slack, Facebook Workplace, Trello and Yammer are catching on with many marketing teams to make internal communication within teams or even company-wide a much simpler task. These tools go beyond the ability to simply send instant messages. They're a lighter weight solution than email for creating networks based on project or team needs, sharing information and updating team members quickly on project status or other communication.

Developers at Jet Propulsion Laboratories use Slack to manage their internal project communications. JPL even uses Slack for its daily "stand up " meetings, allowing the company to quickly conduct meetings and report status. An added benefit of using this type of tool to conduct meetings is that there is a permanent record of every discussion available to all team members, eliminating confusion and misunderstandings.

"For us Slack is the tool that makes the biggest difference," explains Jane Oxley, President of Smokeball. "We have integrated it into our other internal systems. Every time we get a positive response to a post-helpdesk survey from a client (which is more than once a day!) it automatically posts to Slack. This has made our team so proud of the support and service we provide our clients. It ties beautifully to our purpose which is to help small law firms serve their communities better. It is such a great feeling when a client says "We couldn't live without Smokeball!" and now every staff member at Smokeball feels ownership of that pride and helps us to spread it out to the world."

It's important to remember that marketing isn't just about external-facing activities. Although we typically think of internal communication as a human resources endeavor, it should also be part of your marketing strategy. After all, when it comes to communicating your brand's purpose, vision and values, employees will likely be your company's biggest evangelists. By giving them the tools they need to better understand and engage with your core messaging, marketers can turn employees into more effective brand advocates.