Dear Marketers, You’re not alone.

Yesterday I attended the WAMA breakfast panel talking about the importance of experience. I loved their play on the introduction of a new acronym XM… being Experience Matters. A nice departure from and play on all the over used UX, CX, EX and BX and any other BS (oops) acronym you can throw around.

It was a familiar feeling being in a room with driven, passionate, hardworking marketers once again. It wasn’t that long ago I filled the Marketing Management seat for a variety of organisations so when the question arose from the audience of “How can we show the key stakeholders how important what we do (marketing) is?” I could instantly see a flash back of myself.

And here’s why. Back then when I was in my myopic marketing world, there are so many things I should have done (and probably wanted to do) but I wasn’t brave enough. So for those of you out there who are in marketing or HR or any other business function and you’re struggling to communicate the value of what you do here are some heart felt tips from me.

But first before you read said tips let me set the scene for inspiring change. Many times we hear that change needs to happen from the top. Whether it’s the board the CEO or even your direct manager. Sure, organisational wide change does need to be driven at that level but never underestimate the power of one. The power of individual methods. The power of asking why? The power of curiosity? The power of positivity?

Have you ever been in a conversation at work and then all of a sudden someone comes in like a breath of fresh air. Everyone’s posture changes. Laughter happens. The tempo of the chat picks up. Maybe it’s the fact they’ve had a win that day and they have a pep in their step, maybe it’s because they’ve seen actual sunlight rather than being trapped in 4 walls or perhaps they’re just that kind of person. The extrovert. The comedian. The one with charisma.

What many of us don’t realise is that we can be that person that lifts others. Wait, before you run off and start figuring out your juggling act to become the next office entertainer what I mean is that we can all share a little more of ourselves at work in our own individual way. We CAN do things a little differently. We CAN test things out and we CAN start a ripple of change even if it’s only amongst the few. If you want to show your value and the importance of what you do then you need to be doing something others aren’t.

OK, ok I won’t hold you hostage any longer. Here are my 3 tips:

Talk their language

So many times I’ve seen marketers talking to a board or to the executive team and without fail it involves 2 things. A spectacular power point deck and bad language. I’m not talking foul language. I’m talking bounce rates, click throughs, analytics, likes, follows. You get where I’m going? If you feel like you are constantly educating other people in your organisation about what you do, then I’m going to be harsh here. It’s you, not them.

Upper management talk acquisition rates and retention but I’m saying go even a step further. Talk about customers as people, as humans. Not as views, or downloads.

What I’m laying down here is a mindset change. It’s a mindset that leaves behind tactics and instead reveres human connection. That is the humans we go to work to serve, commonly known as customers. Embrace customer stories by doing one simple, yet mic droppable thing. Talk to some customers!!! Bring their stories into the boardroom. Bring their stories into a journey map. Ask them for their shoes and wear them around the office. Okay, maybe not that last one that was more a theoretical example of walking in their shoes…. Although in saying that I have on more than one occasion dressed as a customer. It included a blue-collar worker another time I was a farmer all to get my point across in a presentation, but I digress. Let’s just say I’m all for being able to represent the voice of the customer by whatever creative means possible.

The other great thing about telling customer stories…. People relate to what you’re saying faster. Our minds are wired for stories. We interpret and understand them faster and easier, and it also speeds up our ability to make clearer decisions. Stories tie into the emotional centre of our brain’s anatomy. It’s good to keep this in mind if you’re bucking for quick decision on that budget increase. Know what I’m saying? ;o)

Ok time for a quote from someone who might add a little more cred to my point of view. To quote Seth Godin author, businessman, marketer, and public speaker is also considered to be the ultimate entrepreneur. He is the author of 17 books and takes a futuristic view of the marketing function and where it needs to go. He clearly states the importance of story telling to influence consumer behaviour but its so relevant to influencing and persuading your internal clan too.

Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make; but about the stories you tell.

Seth Godin

Find a problem

Alright, you’re pumped. You’re inspired, you’re about to pick up the phone to a customer and then what? What are you going to ask?

Before we start with that thought lets again return to mindset. The first time you interview a customer accept this. You’ll suck. You’ll be so ready to ask your next question you won’t listen the response. You might ask the same question twice. You might even get berated about your organisations service or product that you’ll run the nearest corner to huddle up in a cold shiver. But here’s the key. Embrace it. I guarantee by your 3rd call you’ll be better. By you 7th you’ll find some themes in feedback and by 20 well you’re practically a researcher. Trust me it’s the most valuable marketing research you’ll ever do.

This can be your edge. This can be what sets you apart because this is what no-one else is doing. Uncovering what customers want is the key to shaking things up and showing your worth. The more problems you can fix the more customers you will get and the more you’ll be valued.

Champion Change

After a few customer conversations you’ve got a bread trail of what you think are some potential problems throughout your organisation that need fixing. Often these problems are well outside the marketing teams’ remit, so what to do. Hmmmm, I’ll give you a minute here.

Yep youuuu nailed it rock star! 👊

Talk to other departments!!!! Better yet get a cross-functional team together. No, no wait not a cross-fit team… this isn’t about squats. It’s about doing the heavy lifting of incremental cultural change; together. It’s about engaging other people in the organisation who have different perspectives and points of view to yours. We talked about the importance of human connection well that goes for connections internally as well. It’s about rallying around a common cause, delivering better solutions for your customers.

If you keep focusing on tactics and acquisition than I hate to say it but as a marketing team your ability to make an impact is going to be limited. You’re talking click throughs while their talking innovation and industry threats.

Here’s why the value of solving problems is so powerful. The inability of an organisation to solve customer problems is the biggest threat to that organisation. If you can highlight the problems, you are demonstrating your value to the organisation.

So to conclude my manifesto to talented marketers (and to my younger self) I would say ‘be brave’.

Olivia O’Connor

Seek out customers, talk to them, find out what keeps them up at night. There’s only one perfect customer profile and that’s the one you can talk to who lives and breathes.

The future of marketing lies in our ability to tell human stories, seek out problems but to also rally willing individuals into a room to problem solve. You’ll be working to help customers but in return you’ll connect with new people in your organisation.

You’ll challenge yourself into better dealing with uncertainty. You’ll start impacting those around you and inching towards developing a culture of working together rather than in silos. Marketing teams (I believe) have the ability to drive change but first we must embrace a new mindset.

Cheers, Liv

If you enjoyed this article then reach out and let me know. I’ll write more just for you!!!

This article was written by Olivia O’Connor, founder of Liv By Design. If you’d like to look at ways to improve your organisations focus on the human side of work and connecting with your customers reach out @ olivia.oconnor@livbydesign.com.au

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The rapid transition of new ways of working hasn’t failed put even the global innovation giants into a tailspin. Many are still working through their return to work plans and what the future holds for remote and hybrid working models.

Leading innovative organisations respect that a powerful and healthy workforce can give the business results and competitive advantage they are seeking. In what has been a human problem many organisations are embracing the fact that the solution to the problem lies with reframing our focus from tech and policies to fostering a more human side to work.

In the Forbes article How COVID-19 Transformed the employee experience Meghan Biro describes…

“Working from home can never be considered a trend again, or a privilege. For so many employees it’s become a part of their experience, a crucible moment when everything changed. From now on, it’s going to be a part of our lives. And instead of aiming to shape a better workplace experience for our employees, we’d best let our employees’ experiences do the talking.”

In a time of turmoil wouldn’t it be nice to think that we could regain our ability to reflect on the importance of human connection and collaboration? And then redesign this little thing called work…?

Let’s look at what the plans are for some of the big players when it comes to the future of work.

Hybrid Vs WFH

Dropbox have shunned the idea of Hybrid working model for staff. Instead they’ve adopted the “Virtual First” approach. Once teams are safe to then meet and collaborate face to face, they will offer on demand collaboration spaces called DropBox Studios.

“Hybrid approaches may perpetuate two different employee experiences that could result in barriers to inclusion and inequities with respect to performance or career trajectory. These big-picture problems are non-starters for us,” Dropbox explained in a blog post. 

“We also hope this Virtual First approach will give us the best of remote and in-person work, balancing flexibility with human connection, and creating a more level playing field for everyone. 

Importantly, going Virtual First is an opportunity for us to build an even stronger, more diverse workforce as we hire from increasingly different backgrounds and perspectives. And it’ll set us up to make the right investments in people to grow our business for the future.

While we think Virtual First is the right choice, it’s new for us and we know we may not get it 100% right immediately. So we’re committed to maintaining a learning mindset—to staying open to new information and feedback and iterating over time until we do.”

Earlier in the year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg voiced hybrid work to be the future and expected 50% of its staff to work from home over the five to 10 years. The company has 48,000 employees in 70 offices around the world.

More recently, tech giant Microsoft announced a shift to hybrid work for all its global employees.

Almost seven months after testing large-scale remote work experiment Microsoft has issued guidance to allow at least some staff to work from home even after the pandemic abates. The tech behemoth summed up its vision for the future of work in a blog post by Kathleen Hogan, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer, Microsoft. Here’s an excerpt.

“Moving forward, it is our goal to offer as much flexibility as possible to support individual workstyles, while balancing business needs and ensuring we live our culture. For most roles, we view working from home part of the time (less than 50%) as now standard – assuming manager and team alignment,” Hogan says

Speaking at the recently concluded Microsoft Ignite event, CEO Satya Nadella made a case for hybrid work culture and said tech intensity is key to business resilience and digital transformation. Nadella added “there is an urgent need to empower employees and foster a new culture of hybrid work. “

What are some of the other giants planning?

Google and Apple have extended remote work at least until mid-2021, and so have Salesforce and Uber.

Where does workplace culture now exist in a virtual workplace?

Global workplace health and wellbeing consulting firm The Energy Project share their thoughts on workplace culture. “Many people believe culture is intangible and cannot be intentionally altered, but in fact, policies and practices can be deliberately designed, tested, and tweaked. Today some of the most forward-looking companies are engaging employees by designing policies and practices that address four core human needs—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual—the same factors used in human-centered product design.”

For many organisations, the transition continues to evolve. In Perth we are lucky enough to be back at the office albeit on rosters or part-time but the fear of close human contact is still very real and many desks and offices remain vacant as a constant reminder that this isn’t yet over.

For leaders to begin designing their modern workplace a human centred focus or employee centric culture is your recipe for success. Here’s some elements to keep in mind.

This article, how the modern workplace is driven by 6 core human needs gives a quick summary of what core human needs exist at work.

  • Security – We desire health, safety, familiarity, and competence.
  • Status – We seek recognition of our contributions.
  • Achievement – We strive for excellence and take pride in our accomplishments.
  • Autonomy – We seek freedom in our actions and decisions.
  • Purpose – We want to make a meaningful difference.
  • Belonging – We want a meaningful connection to others.

Think about how your workplace delivers on these? Where are the opportunities for improvement? What are some simple solutions you can implement quickly?

Global firm Aon who provide risk, retirement and health solutions have taken an employee centric approach to managing the needs of their 50000 employees.

“We have found that our open, employee-centric approach attracts the kind of employees we are looking for — those who are engaged, healthy, and share our values in terms of creating a good work-life balance, and because of this, we have a very good retention rate too. The board is very engaged in how we develop these strategies, and our management team are invested in making them work.”

Starting your journey to designing new ways of working can be daunting. Even the giants are still managing their way through it. One thing they all have in common however is a human centred approach. By focusing and uncovering the needs of your employee’s new ways of working will reveal themselves.

Organisations that listen and design solutions for their employees will reap the benefit of a more stable, engaged, and productive workforce.

Need more information? If you’re thinking about how to create new ways of working for your team with a human centred approach contact Liv for a coffee and a chat.

This article was written by Olivia O’Connor founder of Liv By Design a human centred research and design thinking consultancy. If you’d like to look at ways to improve your organisations focus on the human side of work reach out today.