May 13, 2011
Any success I might claim as a marketing and communications professional would necessarily include a lengthy and sincere list of acknowledgements. The English poet John Donne observed, “No man is an island.” In other words, we are all interdependent. Other people always contribute to our success.
In my work, I am most productive when I am surrounded by people who are:
- Grateful. They are glad to be alive and they find things to be thankful for. With an abundance mindset, they focus on what they have rather than obsessing on their deficits.
- Strategic. They think before they act. Before succumbing to the gravitational pull of tactics, they think things through in a purposeful way. They wrestle with questions that begin with the word why?
- Competent. Once they see the big picture and understand why something is important, they know what to do and how to do it.
- Curious. Curiosity never killed anyone. I love interacting with those who think with a beginner’s mind. They are the antithesis of so-called experts who already know the right (and only) way to do something.
- Creative. With a curious mind, creative people look at things differently. They see patterns that others miss. They are able to juxtapose existing ideas in a way that creates something new.
- Innovative. The Harvard professor Theodore Levitt put it this way: “Creativity thinks up new things. Innovation does new things. There is really no shortage of creativity or of creative people in business. The shortage is of innovators. The major problem is that so called “creative” people often pass on to others the responsibility for getting down to brass tacks. They have plenty of ideas but little business-like follow-through. They themselves are the bottleneck. They make none of the right kind of effort to help their ideas get a hearing and a try.”
On the other hand…
Occasionally I encounter individuals who drain my energy and erode my effectiveness. They are:
- Victims. When something goes wrong, it’s never their fault. Someone else is to blame. They’ve had bad luck and were the unfortunate victims of circumstances. They feel powerless, living their lives in a reactive rather than a proactive mode.
- Dinosaurs. They remember the good old days when things were much better. (I really think they just have very selective memories.) The world changes too fast to accommodate those who cling to the status quo, refusing to adapt to the climate changes.
- Devil’s Advocates. They don’t move conversations forward, though they try to appear intelligent with their searing questions. They hinder progress. They are usually part of the problem, not the solution.
So, that’s my list. What’s on yours?
March 29, 2011
Sometimes marketing is viewed as a magical elixir that will somehow cure whatever ails you.
In my 20-plus years of marketing experience, I’ve come to realize that good marketing is based more upon common sense than upon creativity. Though marketing can work wonders, it is not a panacea that will transform failure into success.
As much as I value good marketing, I believe there are times not to launch a marketing campaign. My advice is to delay any marketing activities when:
- We are unclear what success will actually look like. Without clearly defined goals, we are merely groping in the dark, hoping to grasp something—anything—of value.
- We feel compelled to act before we think. In our fast-paced world, we will always experience the strong gravitational pull of urgency. Focusing on what is urgent, though, will often entice us to overlook strategy and jump prematurely into tactics.
- We want to begin with communications. A good marketing process ends with communications but that’s never a good place to begin.
- We focus on obstacles rather than opportunities. Though we must always understand reality, we will never leave the starting blocks if we focus on the hurdles between us and the finish line.
- We have no champion for the product or service. We may all agree that a particular program is important, but unless someone with passion assumes ownership of the program’s success, it will flounder. Of course, marketers will be the easy targets of those who need to blame someone for a product’s failure.
- We believe everything will be okay if only we can “get the word out.” I cannot be more emphatic in stating this: raising awareness is not a marketing goal.
- We talk more than we listen. Marketing success on a 2.0 world is all about having conversations, not trying to speak louder.
- We are unable to profile a target audience. Only the naive believe there really is such a thing as the “general public.” We are headed towards marketing failure if we neglect to define a primary audience. After all, to target everyone is to hit no one.
- We ignore the concept of marketing exchanges. Marketing is based upon the premise that we must build win-win relationships where we exchange value for value. Marketing is never a one-way transaction.
- We cannot differentiate our product or service. If we don’t know who our competitors are, and if we cannot articulate how we are different and better, then my advice is simple: Turn off the lights, lock the door and go home. The party is over.
October 1, 2009
Shortly after I stepped into my leadership role at the American Red Cross, a member of my marketing group chose not to be part of the new team.
Her departure gave me the opportunity to recruit someone new, so I spent considerable time thinking about how to forge a strong partnership between 1) the individuals I inherited and 2) those I would select myself.
In consultation with team members that remained, I developed this list of 10 characteristics to describe the commitment, the loyalty and the engagement of every contributing member of my marketing group:
- We are inspired by the mission of the marketing department, knowing that our special group exists to ensure the success of the American Red Cross.
- As we visualize the role of marketing within the organization, we are proud to be a part of an exceptional consulting team working on projects that really matter.
- We value diversity within our team, knowing that each of us makes a unique contribution to the department, to the organization and ultimately to the community.
- We build synergy whereby the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In so doing, we recognize the interdependence of every member of the team.
- When one of us succeeds, that person appreciates and acknowledges the contributions of teammates, knowing that success is often a team effort.
- We celebrate when another member of the team excels. After all, we know that one teammate’s success reflects positively on our entire group.
- When something goes wrong, we avoid pointing fingers and assigning blame. Instead, we join hands with others to seek solutions and to look for the learning embedded within the situation.
- We assume positive intentions on the part of others. In circumstances where there is a potential for misunderstanding, we proactively seek clarification.
- We are loyal to other members of the team, especially in their absence. We focus on the positive, affirming attributes of our co-workers and teammates.
- We always operate from an abundance mentality that seeks win-win solutions. We refuse to believe that our win implies a loss for someone else, knowing that a scarcity mentality spawns fear, competitiveness and retaliation.
September 29, 2009
When I was chosen to lead the marketing program at the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City, I wanted to make sure each person on the team was pulling in the same direction.
Within my first 90 days, I led my group through a two-day planning session to 1) discuss organizational priorities, 2) plan marketing projects and 3) enlist the commitment of each individual to the team effort. By the end of the retreat we had defined the following 10 characteristics that every contributing member of the marketing department should be able use in describing his or her dedication, passion and internal beliefs:
- I see the big picture.
- I see how the individual pieces fit together, and I understand the importance of my unique role.
- I prioritize my work and spend considerable time working in Quadrant II on projects that are important but not urgent. Because of this, I am proactive and in control of my job, my career and my life.
- I think strategically before acting tactically.
- As an internal marketing consultant, I ask affirming, empowering questions of myself and others.
- I approach consulting projects in a collaborative manner, finding ways to say “yes” and facilitate the success of others.
- I own and manage important projects where I assume responsibility for the entire planning, production and evaluation of my projects.
- I am a collaborative team player, contributing my energy and expertise to those projects managed by others.
- I have a deep desire to learn, to create and to explore. Knowing that the status quo often leads to obsolescence, I seek innovation and welcome change.
- I make a difference. I do work that really matters.