Join the Marketing Leadership Masterclass (April 30)

My online Marketing Leadership Masterclass in association with Marketing Week starts on April 30! This is your last chance to join at the special reader discount (you’ll save GBP 250).

The Marketing Leadership Masterclass isn’t about marketing. It’s about becoming a leader who inspires change, builds influence inside the firm, mobilizes colleagues, and leads teams.

Choose your own pace in this 12-week, 100-percent online class. Build your personal leadership plan with a workbook, readings, reflection papers, live Q&A sessions with me and a signed 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader book.

We’ll kick off the class on April 30. You can access all modules until July 31. That’s almost 100 days of learning, readings and live discussions for less than the cost of an ordinary marketing conference. UK participants can earn 33 CPD credits.

As a TryThis.Blog reader, you’ll get a special discount: GBP 1,000 /~ USD 1,350 /~ EUR 1,160. That’s GBP 250 off the full price.

Click here to book now. Use discount code “friendsoftom” but please, keep it to yourself.

I hope you can join me.

Try This >> Thrive in a matrix organisation

Do you thrive in a matrix organisation?

Here’s the essential matrix-fact: everybody is in charge. But nobody has all the power. The person who can tell sales what to do, hasn’t yet joined. The person who can tell product development to make amazing things, isn’t on that list. The person who can tell IT to be world class, hasn’t arrived.

The matrix is terrifying for people who produce ideas and then hope their boss will tell everybody to use them. What they are really saying is, I can’t be bothered to take charge.

But the matrix is great for people who have the skills to know what the firm needs, to know what colleagues need, and who bring ideas that really add value.

This skill is called: marketing.

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See your company as a market. Your bosses are your customers. Your colleagues are your customers.

Walk the halls. Find out how you could help people around you make better decisions. But don’t just ask. To earn your seat at the table, bring an idea, bring an insight. Add value first.

Then, start the marketing machine. Talk more about your idea. Bring your idea to more people. Win market share.

But here is an important rule. Don’t try to look smarter than your customers. Nobody wants to work with a smart ass. People want to work with people who make them look good. And if your idea helps them, they may be back for more.

Great marketers never complain that customers don’t buy their product. Instead, they try and do better marketing. In a matrix, the same rule applies.

(From my Marketing Week column)

Try This >> To make change happen, ditch your ego

Trust in politicians has evaporated. Consumer trust in brands is at an all-time low. And too many executives don’t trust their bosses.

What’s the problem?

Perhaps it’s professionalism? Brexit, for example, is a tough (and stupid) challenge – but the politicians in charge are mostly tenured and experienced. Most branded products have a rather high standard. And most bosses, at least on paper, are professionally qualified. So it’s probably not that.

Could intimacy be at play? It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know. That said, many politicians are well known. So are many brands. And many people spend more time with their bosses than with their spouses. It’s probably not that either.

Trust equals professionalism times intimacy, divided by ego. The trust problem of our times is ego. Politicians talk patriotism but, in reality, pursue career goals (watch any recent UK House of Commons debate and you’ll see it).

Brands warble on about purpose, then Nutella secretly adds sugar to save costly cocoa, Toblerone reduces it’s bar-size to raise the price, and Lufthansa sues passengers who don’t use all parts of their tickets (no kidding).

And bosses? Some take the corner office, show off in meetings, but hide when it’s their turn.

People can smell your ego from afar – and ego kills trust in seconds. And without trust, we stall.

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If you are an egoistic narcissist, and your main interest is your own success, ditch this column – it won’t make a difference to you.

But if you are in the business of change. If you desire trust and respect to make things better for your brand, for your company, for your community: ditch your ego. Make the corner office a team room. Let others present. Have lunch with those who lead your office – and those who clean it.

And if you find taming your ego difficult: talk about it. Everybody knows Toblerone must turn in a profit. Everybody knows you have personal goals too. Talking about your ego is the first step to taming it.

Beware the ‘binfluencer’

The internet is great. If you know something and you want to write a blog that 100,000 people read, you can. If you want to do a podcast that 100,000 people hear, you can.

The internet is also great for people who don’t know much, but are good in front of a camera and wear a funny cap. Because it’s easy and free. I call these people ‘bin-fluencers’. They’re entertaining. But a little fact-checking will show that their content should go straight into the bin. Have a look at some of their claims.

“Success is all about great customer experiences” Well, United Airlines (the one that drags passengers out of planes and kills their dogs) has just announced a record year, flying the most revenue passengers ever. London and New York hotels have among the world’s lowest standards, yet they are packed. And every day, thousands of people queue up for the privilege of being humiliated by Spirit and Ryanair, just to save some cash.

Here’s a brutal truth: customers want more at a lower price. Companies want the same. People love a great experience but depending on the deal, they do without it. It’s not simple.

“Brand engagement is the new currency.” Well, guess who ranks among the fastest-growing food retailers? Discounters Aldi and Lidl. Customers don’t want to engage with the Aldi brand. To make people read an Aldi lifestyle blog, you’d have to pay them a lot. Many would rather hide the logo on the shopping bag. Yet they know that Aldi has good stuff at a good price – every time.

“In modern marketing your goal has to be to get people to spend time with your brand.” Really? Just look at one of the biggest consumer goods successes in recent times: Dollar Shave Club. It made a simple promise: spend less time with our brand.

Ever heard about the ‘elaboration likelihood model’? I might read your brand’s blog when I care; when your perfume, your cream, your gadget makes me look cool; or when the purchase is risky. But if you sell kitchen towels (like I have) don’t fool yourself: people want to spend as little time as possible with your brand. We don’t spend time with brands – we spend time with things we care about. Commercial offers don’t usually top that list, no matter what your content guru claims.

“Bricks-and-mortar retail is doomed.” Fun facts: Amazon is opening stores everywhere. Electronics chain Best Buy just reported a record year. And Tesla, mere days after announcing it would go ‘online-only’, made a sharp U-turn and declared that stores will stay. What we are seeing is the convergence of online and offline. You check out stuff in store, buy online, return it in store, pick up something else while you’re there, or vice versa.

Yes, customers have fallen out of love with House of Fraser, Gap and Sears. But retail is detail. In Europe, for example, over 80% of all retail is still bricks-and-mortar. And over the next couple of years, there’s still a lot of revenue (and profit) to be had on the high street. That is, if marketers get it right.

Here is the binfluencer’s dilemma. Most have a product to sell. They own agencies or consultancies. Selling is the only reason why they go online in the first place. What they say has to fit the product. That’s why, success is now supposedly all about ‘millennial engagement’ or ‘digital something’. To get the clicks, an influencer must churn out one, two or three messages every single week. And to cut through the clutter, every message must be big, new and dramatic.

But here’s the challenge: best-selling author Malcom Gladwell takes a day or longer to write just one page of a book. A great London Business School researcher takes a year or longer to find just one new marketing insight worth talking about. Binfluencers don’t have that time. So, they dress stuff up or, even worse, simply make stuff up.

If you take at face value a binfluencer with a funny cap, who sits in the back of a New York cab, and chats into a camera about millennials – if you pass this chatter on, what you become is a chatbot. Programmed by that guy (or girl) whose only goal is for you to keep following. And if you become a chatbot, one day someone will replace you with a better chatbot. Because chatbots can’t think. They are just tools.

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Real influencers don’t just have ideas. They have insights. To make a real dent in the market, understand the fundamental truths. The truths about customers, the industry, your client’s industry. Start at home.

What are the customer truths? The reasons why they are buying, how much they are buying, why are they coming back?

What are the brand truths? Do people care about brands in your space? How well is your brand doing? What perception change would really propel the business forward?

What are the advertising truths? Take media: Why are credibility-battling Google and Facebook doing massive print campaigns? Because people trust traditional TV or print ads much more than online ads – and consistently so since Nielsen started measuring in 2013. What’s the return of different campaign types for your firm? What’s the right balance of promotional advertising versus long-term brand preference building?

What are the industry truths? Are new players, new products and new offers coming in? What will the next shifts be? You’ll never know exactly. Start with the basic facts every stock market analyst has.

My list isn’t complete. My list isn’t right for you. As an influencer, you find your own truths. You make your own list. Once you have it, spread the word to people above you, to your clients, to yourself.

But watch out. In a noisy binfluencer world, people like you – influencers with substance – might get the label ‘boring’. If being a real influencer will make you less sexy, so be it. You could still wear a funny cap.

(From my Marketing Week column)

Try This: Three ways to be a bolder leader

Brave leaders change the world. Air traffic controller Anthonius Gunawan saved the 160 souls on board Batik Air 6231, by staying in the tower, so the plane could escape minutes before the earthquake struck. Berta Cáceres led the protests that stopped the Honduras Agua Zarca Dam being built, which would have destroyed her people’s livelihoods. And Xulhaz Mannan gave hope to the LGBT community of Bangladesh by publishing the country’s first LGBT magazine.

Companies need brave people too. People who climb the masts and fix the cables. Women who push for a seat in the boardroom. Marketers who push the door open to new markets.

But being brave is risky. Gunawan died in the earthquake. Cáceres and Mannan were murdered. And while firms claim they want brave leaders, each day unnamed executives get fired or sidelined for taking brave action.

Bravery equals purpose minus fear. This gives you two things to play with. Building more purpose and managing fear. Neither is easy. Both are powerful.

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To make change happen, build your brave. First, pick your battles. In companies, changing things is notoriously difficult. It’s hard to be brave on all fronts so select the cause that’s truly worth fighting for.

Second, build your change-purpose. Imagine if someone was trying to take your child, your partner, or your friend away. Would you be braver than normal? I guess so. We are braver when things matter to us. So, for your change project, raise your emotional involvement. Why does the issue really matter to you? Paint the picture, write the story. Building purpose is the fastest route to bravery.

Third, manage your fear. What could happen? Play out the worst-case scenarios: getting shouted at, getting sidelined, getting fired, etc. What would happen next? What would you do? Is there a life after these occurrences? If you’ve taken out a big loan for a Porsche, you may have to suck it up and be brave later (high burn rates produce corporate wimps). But most likely, your worst-case scenario won’t kill you.
More purpose or less fear? What would make you braver?

P.s. To find your brave, take The Marketing Society’s Braveometer test and get your free report. It closes on 31 March.

(From my Marketing Week column)

Try This >> Walk the halls to drive change

You are in the business of change. In fact, we are all in the business of change. We try to get customers to accept our offer. We try to get colleagues to support our cause. We try to get friends to join our Saturday dinner. Making change happen is what most of us do, most of the time.

But change doesn’t come easy. Change takes people from the familiar to the unknown. And perhaps the familiar isn’t that bad. So why take the risk?

Getting people to change takes effort. You can’t make important change happen by email. Instead, you have to pack your bags, walk the halls, talk to people, gather feedback and build support.

In Japan, there is a term called nemawashi, which means “going around the roots”. The original meaning stems from agriculture. To move a tree, you take some dirt from the new land and sprinkle it onto the tree’s roots, so the tree gets used to the new land. In Japanese firms, people call the informal process of building consensus nemawashi. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fast. But a bit of nemawashi goes a long way.

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For your change project, go around the roots a bit. Meet the key people one-on-one. Share the idea (if you can, use a story of hope). Get feedback. Don’t promise things you can’t keep; you can always promise to take note of their ideas. Build the feedback into your final plan. After all, 70% of your idea is accepted, is much better than 100% not accepted. Once you’ve made your decision, go back and explain it.

Walking the halls won’t make you run faster – but further.

(From my Marketing Week column)