People leave.

They find a new job. They are lured to a competitor. They are fired. They retire. They get hit by a bus … or they win the lottery. For whatever reason, people leave your company, and with them goes all their institutional knowledge.

Smart companies create a backup plan to retain and share that knowledge. After all, most companies have backup protocols for their computer systems, power systems, or other critical components, so why not people and the critical business and customer knowledge they have?

Use CRM software
There are many ways of capturing institutional knowledge and keeping it safe. Many companies use salesforce.com or other CRM platforms. Systems like these can be used to capture all kinds of information about customers, their preferences, notes on what interests them about your products, training they’ve taken or events they’ve attended. The more robustly your teams fill out this information, the stronger your marketing efforts to customers can be. And when entered into a database, that knowledge stays with the company.

Many organizations struggle with getting sales teams to actually enter this information on a regular basis. “I know this, so why should I put it in a system.” But in this age where knowledge is power, and sharing is king, secluding information helps very few people and can do more harm than good to the enterprise.

Build audience personas
Another way to gather institutional knowledge is through the creation of audience personas ― something we do as part of our content strategy efforts. A key component of developing valuable and useful personas is interviewing experts within a company. Manufacturing companies in particular benefit from many loyal and long-term employees with years of experience solving company challenges and coming up with customer solutions. Front-line sales team members are also valuable contacts to consult in developing a persona since they are out in the field closest to the product and its users. They hear the stories firsthand.

When interviewing these people, they often talk about their daily job and experiences and don’t realize the marketing value of their experiences. We listen, ask questions, and capture that information to help develop personas, and ultimately find a secure home for that institutional knowledge.

Create shared documents
Even something as simple as creating a shared document to capture conversations, observations, and other factoids as you interact with people within your company can help build a repository of valuable information. This is probably the simplest and most informal way to capture that information.

But, you have to actually do something. Make capturing institutional knowledge a priority. Write it down. Keep it safe. Learn from it. And most importantly, use it to help drive your marketing efforts.

Because you never know when someone will hit that Powerball jackpot and not show up for work, taking all the great knowledge about your business, clients, and customers with them.

About Patrick McGill

Patrick McGill is our very own Sherlock Holmes. As the managing director of strategy, Patrick puts his detection skills to work by helping our clients develop successful strategic plans that more effectively communicate with their target audiences. When he’s not immersed in research you’ll more than likely find Patrick traveling – those travels have taken him to all 50 states. You can email our inquisitive Mr. McGill at patrickm@2rm.com.