The Key Factor Missing from Your Marketing Strategy

Brands are increasingly putting their marketing efforts under a microscope – scrutinizing them for predictable ROI and concrete business result.  This focus and detail oriented approach is something to be praised, it ensures high quality campaigns and instills an onus of accountability within the marketing department or agency.  It does however, leave the door open for one major factor to be missed when new campaigns are created.

The underlying factor in good marketing is empathy.  The dividing factor between good and great campaigns is the ability for a marketer to put themselves in the shoes of their audience and think ‘What would interest me?’, ‘How could this provide value to my life?’ and ‘Why is this relevant to me?’.  It is relevant across the board, from automotive to financial, healthcare to SaaS, advertising to PR and beyond.  Tony Zambito puts this beautifully ‘We cannot communicate well if we do not know who our customers and buyers are, what things are important to them, and why what they hope to accomplish is important to them.’  Unfortunately, this factor seems to be an element being given less and less credence in an increasingly data-driven world.

Not to downplay the importance of data, but I am often reminded of the quote by Andrew Lang ‘He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts – for support rather than for illumination.’  It is crucial that data informs rather than justifies decisions.

Empathy is an aspect that, in its very nature, is unquantifiable.  It has no data points, and has no unit of measurement – it just is.  To be empathetic, a brand must use human innate judgement based off research, experience, and a deep understanding of the target market.  It requires a level of trust that comes from a recognition that marketing itself is not a set of skills, but a philosophy – one which stems from an understanding of people, rather than tools.  This tends to be easier for small companies and startups than larger more developed businesses – this is because as a company grows, their departments become increasingly specialized and siloed, with more partners and a heavier reliance on pure data to prove their effectiveness.  This specialization can be very useful for productivity, but run the risk of creating an ‘Us and Them’ mentality, which can create isolation and rifts.

If you are reading this and realize that this is something missing from your external marketing, understanding why it is missing in the first place can reveal a huge amount about the current Modus Operandi of an organization.  A great example is Zappos.com – a company that built its entire business model on the idea of empathizing with its customers.  Their answer to buyer hesitancy was to offer a no questions asked returns policy that directly addressed the needs of their customers – every piece of marketing underlines this, and every action is anchored to the need for understanding how customers react.

Empathy should filter throughout all departments and all communications, from TV adverts to internal communications, website copy to journalist interactions, down to the hiring process and office layout.  Empathy should be a standard factor used in all aspects of company growth and marketing, but unfortunately, until it is measurable, many companies will continue to downplay and ignore this hugely valuable parameter.

For those not currently doing so, choosing to actively champion empathy as a core element to the construction of marketing campaigns may seem like a gamble at first – not relying solely on data, or behaving like a company in the classical sense.  Kevin McKeon from the agency Olson puts it beautifully – Think like people, not marketers.

How to Generate Over 200,000 Views on a LinkedIn Article

Last year I published ‘The Single Most Poisonous Factor in the Workplace Today‘, an article that to date has generated 212,000+ views, 10,000+ likes, and 3,400+ shared. Here is how I did it.

The goal is to get featured by the LinkedIn Editors – this will flag your content to thousands of active members, which will drive a huge amount of attention to your article. The first thing is to create good content worth sharing, no matter what steps you follow afterward, without good content, it will drive very few views. By good content, I mean a well referenced, well written, compelling, interesting and relevant article, with a great headline (avoid being too clickbaity, but a little is encouraged unfortunately…)

Secondly, the initial few minutes and hours are crucial, if you write an article that gets tens or hundreds of views, shares, comments, and likes in a short period of time after publishing, you are more likely to get featured. This can be done by having a good social network reach, and if you are part of a company, get as many people internally to read (not just open), like and share (with comments) as possible.

Thirdly, share your article in relevant groups on LinkedIn, this will increase your reach also.

Finally, go on Twitter and share your article including the phrase ‘Tip @LinkdedInEditors’, this will flag your article for human review, if they like what you have written, it will get featured.

I hope this is helpful for as many people as possible! If anyone has any questions, please get in touch – always happy to help!

If you have any other tips for people – please add them in the comments section.

4 Key Processes to Motivate Your Team

A well-motivated workforce is like a well-oiled machine – necessary or else it will tear itself apart.  Though linked, motivating and incentivising are very different, and though both useful tools, they should not be confused and used interchangeably.  An incentive will only yield results when everything is going right, the moment the incentive is removed, the behavior will return to normal.  As an example, by paying someone more money in return for working longer hours, you are giving them an incentive, but take away the bonus money, and the behavior will return, often with a sense of entitlement, and resentment if the same framework is not provided in the future.  Correct motivation will make the employee happy to work longer hours, often without the need for additional remuneration and without expectation for future incentives.  In short, it is a long-term imperative for a company to work out how to motivate its staff for consistent and sustainable positive results.  So how do we motivate?

The first thing that must be understood is that motivation is an art, rather than a science.  There is no magic formula that can be waved over an employee or team that will magically transform them into motivated, driven and hard working superstars.  Rather a motivation strategy must be curated, like a fine dining experience, with each interaction complimenting the last, building to a crescendo and leaving a profound and sustaining impression.  It, unlike incentives, cannot be turned on and off like a faucet – but has to flow constantly, building cumulatively and being ever present.

So with that in mind, how should a company, and indeed a manager go about creating such a process?

As with all things, a good motivational culture is simple to implement but challenging to master.  I have included below a few easy to start, highly motivational processes that can fit into almost any workplace environment.

Purpose

An employee who doesn’t know the why behind why they wake up in the morning and come to work will have a hard time being motivated when the going gets tough.  Where people know the impact of their work on the wider company, as well as the goals of an organization, the task at hand become part of something larger and as such, they become part of a community, all pulling towards the same objective.  I can’t recommend highly enough that people read Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’, it is a true guidebook to inspiring others through asking a few simple questions.

SMART objective

Create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound) goals for each employee, write them down and ensure that both the employee and manager has the same understanding of what is being asked, and review on a regular basis.  The smaller and more precise objective can be, the better understanding the employee will have as to what is expected of them, this will also give managers the opportunity to implement arguably the most important learning point from Dale Carnegie’s masterpiece “How to Win Friends and Influence People” – managers should ‘be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise’.  Simply, managers should praise individuals frequently, genuinely, even for small wins – this will evoke a sense of pride (providing the praise is from the heart), that will drive them to work to the same standard in the future.

Engagement

Every employee should feel like they have a voice.  This may sound like an insurmountable task, but the implementation is easy.  Each employee, on a regular basis, should have a one-on-one conversation with their direct manager.  It should be formalized and scheduled but can take a format appropriate to the workplace culture, with or without a checklist, in a café or a meeting room, these points are irrelevant.  What is relevant is that the management is aware of not just what their teams are doing, but how they are doing, what is going right and what can be improved upon.  Regularly taking the pulse of your team can shine a light on problems in an organization, but that will only be translated into motivation for a team if they feel they are being listened to.  If you have yet to read Ben Horowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”, get it and read the chapter ‘A Good Place to Work’ – it will change your life.

Trust

In my last article ‘The Single Most Poisonous Factor in the Workplace Today’, scores of people (rightly) commented that a lack of trust in the workplace is slowly destroying the work environment.  Though I disagreed that this was the most divisive factor, a lack of trust is one of the top ways to demotivate employees.  If you needed any more incentive to invest in “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”, then here is an excerpt;

Without trust, communication breaks. More specifically: In any human interaction, the required amount of communication is inversely proportional to the level of trust. Consider the following: If I trust you completely, then I require no explanation or communication of your actions whatsoever because I know that whatever you are doing is in my best interests. On the other hand, if I don’t trust you at all, then no amount of talking, explaining, or reasoning will have any effect on me because I do not trust that you are telling me the truth.

Lack of trust breeds suspicion, skepticism and the breakdown of communications, all of which will totally demotivate a workforce.  Conversely, by trusting that the employee wants what is best for themselves and the company, and giving them enough space to prove it, the results will be a motivated workforce keen to prove they are worthy of more trust in the future.

This is definitely a difficult pill for many managers to swallow, but in an article in the Harvard Business Review Patty McCord (Ex-Chief Talent Officer at Netflix) she explains, “If you’re careful to hire people who will put the company’s interests first, who understand and support the desire for a high-performance workplace, 97% of your employees will do the right thing. Most companies spend endless time and money writing and enforcing HR policies to deal with problems the other 3% might cause. Instead, we tried really hard to not hire those people, and we let them go if it turned out we’d made a hiring mistake.”  This is the exact sentiment to create a fluid, well-motivated and focused workforce.

The final point, highlighted by Patty, is that if there is bad feeling for whatever reason, managers should not let it fester – attempt to address the root cause of whatever the issue is head on.  That being said, if there is no way of overcoming the negativity, the tough decision must be taken and   the individual removed from the rest of the organisation, as the bitterness, laziness or animosity will spread to other corners of the organisation, and when this happens, removing it can be very painful for all involved.

Motivation is a constructive, cost-effective and long-term strategy for growth, but must be worked upon and weaved into the very fabric of an organization from the top down.   Without this, key talent will leave, and long-term objectives will be sacrificed for short term wins.