Choosing the White Tuxedo

Have you ever been to a black tie event wearing a white tuxedo or an outfit that was different from everyone else? You end up with that uncomfortable feeling. You made the decision to wear the outfit as you wanted to express yourself, mix it up, change the status quo. On the other hand you have become ever more visible. This is very much the life of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

It reminds me of Steve Jobs and the TV campaign he inspired by Think Different. “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Changing how people think is one of the hardest things to do, to enable people to see the world from a different viewpoint but that is in essence the new charter for any executive, especially in marketing.

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I am constantly surprised by job advertisements that are seeking a CMO who is a digital disrupter. Digital disruption is fundamentally changing the commercial model of the company. There is a clear difference between delivering fundamental changes and making brands more relevant. Making fundamental changes means we have to go back to the basics in creating human relationships and realizing this part is not just about a brand promise but rather it is about building a business. So many times, I see that management (rather than leadership) never really gets to know their people, truly get to know their team. It’s this fundamental that helps you identify what each individual is passionate about and what they are really good at and then aligning this to the needs of both the business and the customer.

We’re living in the dawn of technology and a social marketing revolution that has been forcing organizations to be ever more transparent, focused and relevant. The only way we can keep up is by putting the customer at the top of our organisation chart. When the customer is at the heart of what we are doing we can begin to see the challenges we need to meet and what outcomes we are seeking. This means that to be successful executives need to provide clear guidance on where the organisation is going but more importantly support and empower their teams, especially those that are on the front-line and engaging with customers every day.

Creating fundamental change doesn’t start with planning your team structure. Does your organization structure have dotted lines, direct lines and every other type of line? When you have dotted lines and dashed lines in a certain sequence in Morse Code, it means SOS (Save our Souls). The big challenge is that you don’t need dotted lines if you align the organization around the same customer goals. Get your planning right and the organizational structure will take care of itself.

Is your marketing plan defined by a budget in a spreadsheet?
If the first question being asked is what investment budget do you need next year, you have lost already. A plan should start with desired outcomes and then identify what resources are required to deliver on them. This then becomes a prioritization exercise based on customer needs and not a financial numbers game.

Do you take every network meeting or call?
I have an open door to everyone. You never know where the next great idea will come from. In addition, the world is changing so fast that to keep pace you have to remain connected. And always remember that someone who is willing to start a company and put everything on the line sincerely believes they have seen something that no one else has. Don’t you want to know what that is?

Does everyone complain that you have too many initiatives at the same time?
Changing people’s perceptions and priorities has to happen if you want the business to change. This means executives need to be the catalysts for change by constantly changing the status quo with initiatives that build motivation, passion and innovation. Try and test new things; some may not work perfectly but if they have contributed to how people think, what they know and what skills they have acquired, then there is still enormous benefit to be accrued.

KEY TAKEAWAY: When deciding which tuxedo or outfit to wear to the party, ask yourself whether you are prepared to stand out and be different. “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

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Business transformation; the increased expectations of the connected consumer (Part 2)

Following on from my initial post, here are my five remaining pillars as to how the marketing function can support business transformation in the age of the consumer.

6.) AGILITY
Agility is important as it enables an organization to respond more rapidly to changing market conditions. Creating an agile environment helps support creativity and innovation and can reduce the constraints imposed by the usual planning and execution boundaries. The foundation to be able to adopt an agile approach is to ensure that you set clear objectives and always focus these on defined market outcomes. This empowers execution to take its own path.
Marketing considerations; adopt a flexible organization structure, introduce project teams, take every network meeting you can to learn what is new in the market, deploy a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach and test, test and test.

7.) CONNECTED ORGANIZATION
It is simple and that is that your customers expect an organization to be connected. Their expectation is that however they engage or are engaged, the organization should act as one and to be able to recognize the full relationship that they have with the company.
Marketing considerations; provide a consistent customer view to all functions, establish a single preference center, introduce customer governance with rules on engagement & frequency of interaction and set outside-in customer metrics.

8.) TECHNOLOGY ENABLEMENT
Customer engagement is becoming more complex every day as more data sources become available and there are more ways and channels by which a customer can engage an organization. Technology is crucial to help connect customer insights with engagement, improve response times, enable efficiency and provide organizations with wisdom for improved decision making.
Marketing considerations; always start with process and once defined then look at technology enablement, deploy a test, learn, adapt approach, fully commit don’t half bake and involve everyone who is a stakeholder throughout entire process.

9.) LOCALIZATION
Marketing has always been local. People have connections and ties to the local community, to their home town, to where they live which influence their beliefs, needs and areas of interest. Location is key to understanding context and understanding context is what helps marketing ensure offerings are relevant.
Marketing considerations; segment by geography, adopt a geo-cluster approach that combines demographic data with geographic data, assess impact of environmental conditions such as seasons & weather and ignite word of mouth marketing in key geographic / community / tribal clusters.

10.) MUTUAL VALUE EXCHANGE
In today’s modern era successful companies are those that take a Market-In approach and focus on the customer first and foremost. The real trick is therefore to always ask yourself the following before making any investment or running any activity; will they care, is it important to them and do they benefit?
Marketing considerations; consider introducing a Customer Officer, develop a customer advocacy program where there is a mutual exchange of benefit, establish a communities portal and only engage with customers when there is value for them.

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What are your TOP TEN and do you have any examples as to why they are important?

How journalism informs today’s brand building

My father was a city journalist back in the days when Fleet Street in London was the center of the UK newspaper industry. He once said to me that great writing was based on a combination of clarity and authenticity. It is a simple notion; your audience needs to quickly and clearly understand the purpose whilst at the same time believing what you are conveying.

This is something that has stayed with me throughout my entire career and I think it has as much relevance now for brand marketing as it does for newspaper journalism.

Every brand comprises a brand promise which is the all enveloping commitment that an organization makes to its audience and it identifies what that audience should expect through the sum of all interactions they have with the people, products, services and company they are engaging.

With the fragmentation of media and proliferation of different communication channels, where there is more noise than ever before, brands have to find a way to break through and differentiate. They need to convey a clarity of purpose that is distinct, appealing and empathetic in terms of shared values. This purpose I believe needs to be more than just a good product or service at a good price, consumers now expect some form of loftier goal. They want brands that care, care about communities, environment, human rights, fair trade and humanity.

In addition, brands need to be believable. We have gone from a society where we would blindly buy into a brand promise to one where brand reputation is far more important. Brands are now defined on how they act rather than what they say. Consumers now heavily influence brand perception by conveying and communicating the experiences they have had through word of mouth, social, communities etc. and this sheer weight of voice is more authentic and influential than what a brand can possibly communicate.

I heard a great quote the other day that reinforces this: “Don’t let your marketing get ahead of your customer experience delivery”. I believe this is one of the greatest challenges we face.

ImageSo clarity of purpose and credibility through action, these are the foundations for successful brand building in today’s digital world.