Be a Marketing Super Hero in 2010 - Part 1 - Build Some Muscle

As budgets shrink and headcounts freeze, there's greater pressure to do more with much less. In addition to managing traditional channels, marketers face the added challenge of learning to harness the power of new, low-cost social technologies - often with insufficient knowledge and resources.

It's not just the rapid pace of change and the evolution of new tools that impact the marketing cycle today that are daunting. There's a new language to learn and new communication dynamics exist. There's a need for more technical knowledge, channel expertise and core competencies not present in the current skill sets of the enterprise. There's not only a need for new talent, but a requirement that enables them to challenge the status quo, rock the boat, test and experiment that may threaten or intimidate co-workers. There's a need for increased cross-divisional and departmental collaboration -- juxtaposed with the reality that marketing is often either not empowered or respected enough to drive effective integrated, collaborative and coordinated delivery.

Today, it's more important than ever to work efficiently and effectively. Yet, for many, this seems to be an impossibility. This is not only because of increasing pressure and demand - but because in truth, marketing has fundamentally shifted. It demands new planning, skill sets and approaches to business that many people inside the enterprise do not yet understand. Breaking it down simply, it might look a little like this:

The unprecedented shifts of the last decade have left a host of traditional marketers and other executives very uncomfortable, and very afraid. Some companies are in denial. Other companies are stuck in a position of analysis paralysis -- unable to break out of the ice of inaction.

The truth is, denial, fear, and inaction are our worst enemies! They are dangerous to both individuals and the organizations they serve -- and they don't have to reign in your organization. There's a bright new future ahead - and while change is required - it's worth it. Breaking past the fear -- we find ourselves in a place of revitalization, with amazing new capabilities and stimulating new ways to learn, promote our products and services. We find ourselves closer to customers, and more able to understand their unique needs as well as market opportunities. To succeed, it's not necessary to become a new marketing guru overnight (P.S. overnight gurus are not gurus at all!). It's possible to take things one step at a time and retrench the organization in a way that creates some order in the chaos.  So let's get started.

Building Your Super Muscle:
  • DISCOVER YOUR SUPER POWERS  - It's easy to get caught up in "Aspirational branding." That is, the promises, stories and campaigns marketing creates. However, this is focusing on the wrapper -- not the candy. The good stuff is what your company does better than anyone else - this may be delivering unique products or services, or your ability to reach a unique market. There must be something your brand delivers better than anyone else. Examine your competitors. Study the customer and develop a clearer understanding of the pros and pitfalls of the customer experience. Define how your product or service makes life better for the customer. Write down your strengths clearly and succinctly, and keep a separate list of issues that undermine the customer experience so that you can address problems as you move forward.
  • EXPLORE SOME SUPER TOOLS -  Get on the learning track. Sign up for some courses, do some reading failures of others.  Get yourself and your team learning about the host of new technologies that are transforming businesses today. If you don't have the expertise in-house, hire a consultant with an established track record to help you. As you begin to experiment with new tools (not just Facebook, or Twitter) and channels, it's important not to think of the tools as "marketing tools." Think of them instead as valuable channels supporting the extension of sales, service, support on the web. Champion these ideas within executive ranks. Dispel myths about Social Media, and help executive leadership understand key shifts (see chart above) in marketing, and the opportunities present in the new economy. Use the more educated leadership to help garner internal support.
  • ESTABLISH MISSION CONTROL - Create an environment for collaborative planning, research, analysis, testing and strategy. This may be a center of excellence or a cross-organizational task force focused on improving customer-focused delivery. Focus less on ownership and control and more on support and facilitation across the enterprise. It's okay to fail - but fail fast and recover. Showcase key learning and present opportunities. With the help of executive leadership, invite other divisions to participate in proactive planning, research, testing and execution. Establish credibility by keeping the ego in check.  Develop tutorials and communicate best practices in a manner that facilitates and encourages engagement. Share openly and provide value-added information (articles, information, etc.) that can benefit the entire organization within an accessible knowledge base. Publish knowledge and key learning in a proactive, timely manner (perhaps using a few Super Tools like Yammer or a password protected Wiki). Communicate upward, outward and downward, and celebrate success with hearty approbation.
  • WIN (AND EARN) SUPPORTERS - Agencies and silos don't typically develop integrated customer experiences that drive long-term success. Long-term success requires winning the hearts and minds of divisions like Customer Service, Sales, Product Development, Operations, IT and other divisions to a new way of doing business. Hearts and minds are won best through servant leadership, consultative selling and listening - and Marketing can play a much more successful and influential role in rallying the organizations around the customer.  New marketing requires the breakdown of operational silos, which is threatening to many stakeholders. Start by engaging in open dialog. Listen first!  If they're already engaged in the use of new technologies, learn from what they are doing. If they're not already engaged, think of ways you can help, educate and facilitate. Discuss your learning, thoughts and plans in an open manner.  Demonstrate customer centric behavior.  Describe the potential and up-side of involvement in new, social channels.  Show and teach - rather than Stand and preach!  Repeat the call to "support and facilitate" and you will your organization through servant-leadership.
  • NEUTRALIZE YOUR FOES - Getting past denial, fear and inaction - it's time to tackle the enemies of customer experience within your organization. Create a "wanted poster" of the biggest enemies to consistently positive customer experience within your organization. Work with the front-line, sales, IT, operations, product development and customer service to resolve these problems. While other teams resolve issues outside your marketing's purview -- create wins by extending service through new, cost-effective channels where it makes the most sense. Consider how you may user the Super Tools to create improvements in the experience that are remarkable.  Respond quickly and with grace, celebrate positive feedback from customers. Work cross-organizationally to create a more integrated, cohesive customer experience that creates wins across-the-board.
Marketers who follow these steps will develop powers they didn't know they could have. They will find new courage and strength and build greater influence within the organization. Most importantly, they will be properly focused:   working proactively to improve and champion the customer experience, which results in a more positive brand identity and stronger outcomes. They will also begin enter the new era of Marketing, which is less about marketing and more about relationships, starting within the organization and working toward the best interest of the customer and the business.


Eric Brown said...

Leigh, For sure, the Directional Flow of Marketing has changed. Who would have ever bet that Pepsi wouldn't be in the Super Bowl Ads.

However, I am not convinced that it is really as complicated as we sometimes make it, and what may be the missing piece is Courage, enough of it anyway to push back the naysayers, and Lead.

Folks aren't so excited about trying new things, and some marketing studios are likely reeling. For example, having watched BBDO evaporate from Detroit has been brutal,

However, There IS Marketing Opportunity Abound, but to your point, It Looks, and Feels a whole lot different than ever before, as for now, Every successful marketer WILL Know the Customer/Client

LivePath said...

Eric - I agree - COURAGE is often the missing piece!

I also think the marketing part becomes SO MUCH easier when we 1) know the customer 2) have been focused on improving experience and 3) are positioned as an organization to mobilize FOR customers... you know? After that, the marketing becomes easier - like icing a very well formed cake!

Diane Court said...

So much food for thought here, Leigh, a real marketing protein boost for disciplined strength-building in the year ahead! The richest phrase for me is "participative messaging" in your list for today's marketing. It captures the essence of purposeful engagement and respectful attention to the customer.

It does take courage, as Eric said, to invite and enable it; as well as an open-minded approach to collaborative thinking to deliver and sustain it honestly, productively. Eagerly awaiting Part II!

mbrewer said...

A good deal of insanely great change is influenced from the bottom up.. Why is that? It’s precisely for the reason that a front-liner’s negative capability meter is on par with Shawn White’s eXtreme fearless factor. The being said, many front-liners work for people who subscribe to the theory John Keats brought to life a long bit ago - negative capability. Negative capability defined as one’s ability to embrace uncertainty. For many firms across the country, embracing social media in all it’s implications will rest on those with the ability to exercise or greatly influence negative capability within their respective organizations. It really is that courage thing that Eric speaks of [thanks for turning me on to this blog btw]. I do believe the tide is turning.

Great blog you have here - I'll be back for sure.

Mark Arnold said...

Leigh: Thanks for this thoughtful blog post (all 3 parts!). You made many salient points but the most significant one is to continually keep up the learning.

We must make sure we know and are using the new tools ourselves. However, we must balance the new tools with a strategic outlook.

Being a Super Hero means using vision power as well: having the vision to know what your customers want before they do.

Post a Comment





TwitterLinkedInYouTubePosterousFacebook G+

Live Path Experience Architect Feed


I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


The Customer Experience Edge


Age of Conversation 3 - Get yours now in hardcover, paperback and for the Kindle.


Web Redesign: Workflow that Works