Category Archives: Positioning

The art of listening can be the art of leading

In celebrating both the 500th anniversary of The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli, and the life of Claudio Abbado, legendary conductor of La Scala, we celebrate leadership.

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THE ECONOMIST used “the art of listening” to draw a picture of Abbado for readers, connecting the young musician’s ability to hear and memorize music in his head with the professional orchestras he would lead and ultimately, the listening audience he invited into the music before he died.  For Booz&Co, James O’Toole takes us through what he believes we must understand about Machiavelli’s legacy — the situational leadership model taught in most business schools — and he leaves us with the questions Machiavelli’s work must provoke in each of us as we work.

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We can find one thing in common between these two diverse leadership cases:  whether the leader is making music or making money, he or she is creating an experience.

When a leader had all the power, he got to decide what the experience was going to be.  Today, however, she doesn’t have all the power — just a portion of it and maybe for not a very long time.  The one thing we can make consistent in an era some are already calling “the age of experience” is the experience we provide from our end of the exchange.  Besides quality and what the customer wants, how does the customer feel?  Does the skilled employee want to stay and help create the experience?  Do the suppliers want to be part of the experience, too?  Whatever our role in a transaction, we’re in a relationship — and our ability to transmit respect, trust and even authority can keep our “customers” coming back.

A Child's Machiavelli book cover

It’s better than the alternative.  As Claudia Hart reminds us in A Child‘s Machiavelli, A Primer on Power, her translation of The Prince, “Never be afraid to beat someone up if you have to.  First, try to talk ’em into listening, but just in case, you know what to do!”

Eight marketing lessons CEOs must learn from the Mitt Romney campaign

  1. Never let a rival define you
  2. If your rival is worried, find out what he knows that you don’t
  3. Employ one marketing smartie who thinks like an outsider, will tell you the truth, and is endowed by you with veto power over messages and themes
  4. When your rival punches you, punch back – but elegantly, by taking the conversation above him to a bigger point
  5. Be who you are but put your energy, vocabulary and instincts on steroids
  6. Stats and numbers can keep you in the weeds; use them shrewdly but don’t depend upon them – tell the story of what they mean in the aggregate to your customer
  7. After a distinct, authentic viewpoint, put nimble thinking and decisiveness above all else
  8. Incessantly cultivate the mindset that every customer is yours to lose; this is the wellspring of both the confidence and the humility every person needs to lead and to prevail
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How to learn content marketing best practices

The Content Marketing Strategies Conference is happening in Berkeley May 8 and 9. If you want to get a quick but deep immersion into the topic of content marketing, this is the place for you.

Digital and social tools are changing the way companies of all sizes position themselves to customers.  That’s why there are a lot of clichés getting thrown around in the branding/marketing sphere.  Content marketing simply means using your company’s facts to connect with your markets online.  For the purpose of doing business.

To market your content via all the channels available to you, there are three things you need to understand.  And this conference will help you with that, through case studies from companies like SAS, Dell, Ogilvy PR, Kelly Services, HiveFire, and Altimeter Group.

  1. How your customers and fans gather information about you and your products – so you can share the content they want on their terms
  2. How your customers use content about your products and services to make a buying decision – so you can engage your customers more effectively
  3. How to integrate online content marketing practices with your offline sales and marketing activities – so you are delivering a consistent message and leveraging your entire marketing spend

I’m really pleased to have been asked to serve as a media sponsor of this gathering – and I’m even more pleased to be able to share with you a discount opportunity.  Just click on the image below to learn more about the Content Marketing Strategies Conference and register using the discount.

The Content Marketing Strategies Conference

Nine ways you can help job hunters and boost your own marketing

This morning's news — that the recovery from the recession is weak and people still cannot find jobs — prompts this post. 

Here's how to help if you are in a position of financial and/or professional strength.  And how to consider your help an actual tactical step for positioning your company — and your own reputation — now and in the future.

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  1. Recognize that if you have a friend or former colleague who's looking for work, she is vulnerable.  Be positive yet candid.  Do not shine her on about opportunities that are not there or how quickly you're hiring, but do remind her that you will do whatever you can to help.  Then actually put some time to the task.
  2. Keep an eye out for what's available in your company.  If you're on LinkedIn, post it to your contacts there.  Spread the word.
  3. If someone approaches you to help him pursue an open job listing in your company, connect him and stay on top of your HR people.  Keep following up with HR and stay in close touch with the applicant.
  4. If you're in HR, for heaven's sake, reply to phone calls and emails.  Even if all you have is bad news.  Even if all you can manage is a robo-email.  There is nothing more disrespectful — and unkind/inhuman/rude — than ignoring people.  For HR, it is nothing short of unconscionable.  You are, after all, being paid to deal with a key corporate resource. And in this age of email, it is inexcusable to leave people hanging.
  5. If you're a marketing executive, make it company policy to be communicative, professional and kind to people who approach your company for a job.  Recognize that not returning calls or following up is bad marketing.  Encourage your HR people — indeed, all your people — to exhibit only the finest of manners to all who cross their paths.  Some day, someone your company has rejected or ignored may be in a position to buy your products and services or influence the decision to do so.  You must look at any sort of job negotiation or communication as another avenue of marketing your enterprise.  I predict that once this nasty era of business is over, people your company treated well will remember it and become at least an ambassador, if not a customer.
  6. If you're a CEO, start hiring now.  Follow the example of Howard Schultz of Starbucks.  Stop looking to Washington.  Make some sacrifices, because millions of your fellow citizens are living on sacrifice.  Oh.  And cut a few hundred thousand from your own paycheck and hire a couple of people.
  7. If you're a hiring executive and you know you're going to transfer someone internal into a new or open position, suspend the practice of posting the job outside the company unless you are seriously looking.  You are wasting everyone's time by making people think they have a chance of employment — the candidates', HR's, yours.  And tell external candidates that they have internal competition and where they rank in the queue.
  8. If you know someone needs cash and you have more than enough, give someone a gift.  At least pick up the lunch tab.  If no one in your circle is hurting, find someone who is.  Ask your coworkers, your religious leader, your friends.  Keep it private and put cash directly in the hands of someone who needs it. 
  9. Be kind.  It's easy, it's free, it's helpful.  My mother used to be the taskmaster in one area of our school report cards:  what was called "deportment," at least in Big Stone Gap, Virginia.  She used to tell us that the easiest thing to do was to behave.  Same principle here:  the easiest thing to get right is to remember that if someone is asking you for help, he deserves your respect and attention.

The economy is in recovery.  Innovation is happening, and this crash is going to help in the long run.  Position your company for that long run.  Even if you don't believe in karma, or you don't think it's your responsibility to help others, the very best kind of marketing for your enterprise is based in relationships.  Show the world that you know relationships are key to commerce.  And that you know the key to good, sustainable relationships is the personal touch.

Marketplace differentiation starts with a story. Your story.

The advent of the social enterprise is upon us.  We are all about to embark upon corporate communication as we have never known it.  Communication across multiple media and multiple lines, with folks we know or want to know. Immediate communication.  Precisely targeted communication.  Democratically sourced communication. 

722673_waters_edgeFluid boundaries are the mark of the social enterprise — so enterprise messages must be ever more precise.  And they must be distinguishable from those of other enterprises, especially from your competitors.

One thing has not changed.  Differentiation begins with your story. 

So before you even begin to embrace the potent advantages of the social enterprise experience, know the story you want to tell.  Don't even think about technology or new marketing initiatives without pondering your story.

 

 

 

The leading corporate advisor Nancy Duarte has a terrific approach to the personal story, and it applies perfectly to the enterprise.  

   Duarte focuses on what she calls the transformative idea.  What is the idea that led to your enterprise?  What are the ideas that gave it shape?  What are the ideas that keep it relevant and of use to your customers and stakeholders?  Who are the characters that enrich your story?  Where are the new chapters of your story being written?

Your story drives your messages, your brand, your presence.  Or it should.  Think Zappos, Starbucks, Trader Joe's, Apple, Dyson.  Your story will fortify your organization as it transforms into a social enterprise.  Your story will help your stakeholders understand who you are and give them reasons to build relationships with your enterprise, person to person.

 

Seven ways to turn customers into advocates

Let's assume the product or service you sell is of high quality and holds significant competitive value.  

You can add another important competitive barrier, and a differentiator, by turning your customers into advocates of your company.

Companies like Salesforce.com [my client] are supplying technology that enables companies to share information, solve problems and consult with customers in real-time.  By example, Salesforce is now showing us how the pursuit of advocacy brings you even closer to your customers — and augments traditional sales and marketing powerfully for this new age.

Essentially, when your customer is your advocate, he or she shares the good news with others.  Also important:  your customer advocate tells you first how well your product works and what will make it even better.  A customer advocate is as committed to your company as you are to the relationship — giving you, as Salesforce likes to say, a customer for life.

Rome-roma-italy-2624701-l Imbed these seven actions into your customer relations activities and you'll be on your way to recognizing your customers as advocates.

Show your customer you are listening.  When a customer contacts you, respond immediately.  Use the words your customer uses to describe a situation or to answer a question.  Talk about the business and customer challenges.  Ask about the team. 

Be useful to your customer in a variety of ways.  Read periodicals and blogs about his industry.  Send her articles and site links that will help her do her job.  Share stories about other customers that will spark ideas. 

Connect to your customer beyond the sale.  Send a one-line email or leave a short voicemail just to say hello.  Follow the customer's blog, Twitter feed or Facebook page.  Connect on LinkedIn.

Embrace your customer's culture.  Pay attention to the office environment when you visit.  Bring a small food gift that you know will be put to use in the kitchen.  Acknowledge a dress code not by matching it exactly but by a slight adjustment to your own style.  If the customer communicates only by email, use that; same if it's voicemail or text message.

Take up as little of your customer's time as possible.  When you have a meeting or conference call, stay on point and only address product features if they relate to a specific topic.  Stick to the agenda.  Keep meetings under 45 minutes.  Be on time.

Leave your customer wanting more of you and still blown away by your product or service.  Be available and free with information, but be careful about sharing too much extraneous detail about your process.  Share your successes and acknowledge that you couldn't have done it without him.  Connect your experience with her — and what you've learned from her — to the success of your company. 

Be where the customer is.  If your customer is holding an event, buy a ticket.  Buy his products, if appropriate, or share stories of people you know who use them.  Make a business connection for her.  Always demonstrate that the customer is front-and-center in your priorities — that you appreciate the relationship — and that the business you conduct is more than a transaction.

Five posts on the essentials of corporate communications

However much you're using social media to talk with your customers — what I call the muscle of engagement — you still need the skeleton.  These writers do a great job of showing what that is.

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  • Writing:  Pay attention to how you write and it will help you organize your entire communications effort.  This approach is from Journalistics.
  • Culture:  Look for these qualities in your agency of record — and promote them inside your marketing and communications teams.  From BrandingStrategy Insider.
  • Crises:  Have this in place for those issues that catch you by surprise.  From MyVenturePad.  
  • Questions:  Always answer a question from the media, even if you don't have one.  From Journalistics.
  • Speaking:  Focus on the needs of your listeners and stakeholders and let that inspire you to speak from the heart.  From the Bishop of London.