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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