It’s the Customer, Stupid
Spend the next few days quietly listening in every meeting you attend and lead.
Discuss your insights with your colleagues without shaming anyone.
Consider, in every applicable meeting, agreeing to spend five minutes talking about how the meeting topic relates to real, identified, verified customer needs
Set a new (and short) recurring meeting, perhaps weekly and no longer than thirty minutes, to discuss only your customers. Each time an idea is introduced, ask these questions:
- “How do we know that?”
- “Which customer told us that?”
- “Who did they tell it to?
If you had a war room, what would the sign currently say?
Marketing Is Not Just a Division
Have a conversation with every associate to reinforce their role as a brand ambassador (beyond what’s been communicated in the compulsory policy manual)
Talk about proactive efforts associates can engage in to build the brand and even easily promote your products and services, including:
- Making it affordable for associates to use, wear, and even distribute your products and services to their networks. Setting some preapproved guidelines can also shrink or eliminate employee theft.
- Discussing the “undiscussables,” such as dress, hygiene, and other reasonable protocols related to representing your brand well. Morals and standards clauses are increasingly common beyond the C-suite.
Focus on building a winning culture—a place where people love to come because they are challenged, respected, and given the freedom to take reasonable risks that stretch their skills. Associates who feel trusted and trust their employer (and their direct leaders) are more loyal and protective, often intentionally choosing to “talk up” their organization. Pride in association is an undeniable motivator.
Stay Close to the Cash
Ask yourself why you’ve chosen a career in marketing? What do you believe that really means in terms of your contribution to the cash-generating machine?
If you haven’t proactively chosen a marketing role but ended up with it as an additional responsibility, how will you fine-tune your marketing and business acumen to ensure relevance when it’s potentially not your real passion or area of expertise?
Challenge your marketing-role paradigm.
- Are you hiding from revenue responsibility in the marketing department?
- Why are you in marketing instead of sales, product development, or some other role or division?
- What’s your contribution beyond traditional (and important) marketing activities to ensure the long-term growth and viability of your company?
- Ask yourself on a daily or hourly basis, How is what I’m working on now ensuring cash generation for the company?
- How will you insulate yourself from the winds of change (a.k.a. the whims of the C-suite) when they need to cut costs or change strategy?
Become the Leader of Business Development
Recognize that brand is invaluable, but you can’t deposit it into the bank and fund payroll from it.
Check your ego and better align marketing’s functions (and your own skills) to support sales
Ask the questions you should be asking but likely aren’t.
- Do you have the organization’s revenue goals committed to memory?
- Does every member of your team know them as well?
- Do you know daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly how the organization is performing financially?
- What measures are sales struggling to meet and exceed; and how, specifically, can marketing address them?
- Is the CEO confusing marketing with sales in a good way? What could you do to create more of that positive confusion (without hijacking or undermining the sales leader’s role, which could erode trust if done with bad intent)?
- Can you demonstrate, without puffery or scraping the bottom of the barrel, how marketing is driving, not just supporting, business development?
- Do you possess the humility and vulnerability to meet with your leader, or the leader of sales, and have a candid conversation on what exactly the marketing division or team could do to measurably increase their support?
Understand and Define Your Charter
Become more self-aware about your general level of guessing in life.
Take control of the conversation with your leader as it relates to clarifying your charter.
Exercise the maturity, wisdom, and sound judgment to establish your own charter if there is no clear direction from your leader
Ensure that every necessary stakeholder has agreed to and bought in to your marketing commitments so everyone owns the successes and failures (there will be both).
Identify areas in your life where there’s interpersonal conflict.
Consider how clarifying expectations could not only lessen or eliminate the stress, but even build higher trust in the process and person.
Decide Your Own Tenure
Think carefully about what you’d like to accomplish through your marketing contribution:
- Can you achieve it in eighteen months? thirty-six months?
- Are you building a clear plan to execute on the goals you’ve committed to so you can declare victory and move on to something greater?
- Remember Acuff’s advice: “Perfection is the enemy of completion.”
Assess where you are on your career track:
- Have you discussed with your leader what’s next? Or is that conversation premature or too awkward or too scary, so you’re avoiding it?
- Accept that there is likely some dissonance going on between how you and your leader see your career. Take control of the dialogue by showing the courage and vulnerability to ask for their assessment, in real time, of your skills, contribution, and expected tenure. Nobody has these conversations with their boss, which is why everyone is caught off guard during a difficult performance appraisal—or worse, when they’re terminated.
- Take control of your career so that you decide when it’s time to make a move. The more you understand your reality, the more you can accomplish your goals and be in control of your destiny.
Bruise Hard and Heal Fast
Assess how adept you are at bouncing back from adversity, feedback, or disappointment. (You’ll likely rate yourself higher than a critic or detractor in your workplace would.)
Set a goal to become nimbler, both emotionally and mentally.
Have an emotional contingency plan
- A good contingency plan will capture an event’s likelihood and impact (low, medium, and high), then present several mitigating strategies to employ if the emotional event takes place. Look online for more suggestions and examples of contingency planning you can draw from.
Lots of Stuff Won’t Work
Recognize that everyone has blind spots—even you and me.
- Privately, with nobody watching or judging you, make a T-chart (a simple listing of “pros and cons”) on a sheet of paper and write a theme such as “My Strengths” and “My Weaknesses,” or “How I Focus Others” and “How I Distract Others,” or even “How I Add” and “How I Subtract.”
- Use whichever heading will tighten your thinking on how you are part of the solution or problem regarding what’s working and what’s not.
Open your calendar and set aside time for uninterrupted thinking, perhaps at the start of each day or even the beginning of the week.
- To quote Nir Eyal, author of the bestselling book Indistractable, “People prefer doing to thinking.”4 Remember, how is doing; what is thinking. You may have to get out of your comfort zone as you begin to build muscle memory in this practice. And to further quote FranklinCovey’s chairman and CEO, Bob Whitman, “Thinking is a legitimate business activity.”
- Use your T-chart to consider what you should start, stop, continue, or fix. Have the courage to let go of things you might enjoy, but that just aren’t working.
Don’t Only Do What You Know and Like Best
Determine the things you don’t like to do and are avoiding.
- Ask yourself which parts of your marketing role bring you “discomfort” and how many of them you are avoiding, neglecting, or outright abandoning.
- Brainstorm what you can do to feel less uncomfortable so that you gravitate toward them, not away from them.
- Look for ways to improve your skills in that area.
- If appropriate, delegate it to a colleague you trust and have empowered.
- Identify someone to coach you so your confidence grows and the pain associated with it lessens.
Determine the things you like to do and are possibly overdoing.
- Recognize that all people generally lean toward their strengths.
- Evaluate if there are marketing areas you’re leaning too aggressively toward that may be damaging your brand or underdelivering to your company.
- Deliberately align your passions with what you are good at (or can become good at) and with what your organization and industry values. Be prepared to move outside your comfort zone to new technologies, channels, and mediums.
Augment Your Business Acumen
Make the language of the P&L second nature.
- If you’re adept at reading a P&L, then take this opportunity to gather your team or anyone in your life who could benefit and run them through the categories.
- If you work for a public company, access and review your annual report.
- If you’re in a private organization or perhaps new in business and a P&L doesn’t exist, find one on the web and use it as a model to learn and teach from. It doesn’t really matter; just make the investment in helping others become better educated.
Find an expert to help you.
- If your head hurts at the thought of calculating EBIT or EBITDA, (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization), take two Advil and walk over to a friend in finance or accounting. I am 100 percent certain any member would be delighted to talk you through all the lines on the company P&L and bring you up to sufficient speed.
- As soon as you’re proficient in it, you can heed the action in the bullet above.
Learn your company’s money-making model.
- Sit your team down or meet with a senior leader and talk about the most impactful levers of your business and how you can drive them.