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Personalizing Content to Empower Your Sales Team

7 Nov

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Marketing and sales must work as a team in order for your revenues to keep pace with your competition. Just as your sales team has the responsibility of finishing the job on the front lines, your marketing team has the responsibility of making the initial lead acquisition and journey through the sales funnel as easy as possible. If your sales team goes into battle with personalized content, they will be greatly empowered to bring home the bacon.

The modern customer demands personal attention. However, they do not want to be pushed into a sale. The goal of personalizing content is to create a relationship between the salesperson and the customer that will eventually translate into action. Here are just a few of the ways that your marketing team can help your sales team succeed by personalizing content.

Buyer Personas

Your salespeople are dealing with individuals, but those individuals definitely fit a certain psychology. Make sure that your salespeople understand the buyer persona of each customer. Forward them the email threads that go to different personas. Make them understand the differences in marketing to those different personas as well. If your front-line salesmen understand how you have introduced the company to certain people, they will be able to follow up with a much more personalized message.

CRM

Is there any reason that the marketing team knows that the big client’s CFO has recently retired and the sales team doesn’t? Is the sales team privy to the latest information about a prospect’s ability to make a purchase? It is very important to let the sales team in on all the real-time information that your customer relationship management CRM program gets from your prospects. This is yet another building block that your salesmen can use to create a personalized pitch when doing business.

Synergy

The best companies are now opening the doors of their marketing staff meetings to salesmen. No longer is a position on the marketing team seen as a promotion over sales – the two positions are treated equally in terms of determining marketing campaigns, advertisements, and social media rollouts. When the sales team has a say in the way that ads are rolled out, they will be more likely to understand the message that marketing is putting in front of prospects.

Regardless of your industry, your sales and marketing team must work together to create the personalized content that will empower your sales team to succeed. Otherwise, you are basically throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. Follow the tips above to ensure a close connection between your sales and marketing teams and the personalized content that will work well in the field.

 

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Speaking Creative: 6 Tips for Efficient Revisions

2 Nov

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Guest Contributor: Matt Hillman, Creative Director

If you’ve been a building products marketer for long, chances are you’ve worked with “creatives,” those writers and designers—and even developers and programmers—who make the marketing materials that help sell your products. And if you’ve worked with them, that means you’ve likely had to review work and provide feedback.

It’s a safe bet that at some point you’ve needed to look over a document or a layout and given feedback and experienced one or more of the following:

  • resistance
  • arguments
  • eye rolls
  • temper flares
  • passive-aggressive remarks
  • confused looks
  • crying
  • something different than what you asked for
  • the complete opposite of what you asked for

For many of you, this is confusing. The creative process is supposed to be collaborative and part of that collaboration is making the materials as accurate and impactful as possible. So why are the people who need the feedback and revisions so resistant to making them?

Presuming you have the right people in the right roles, and everyone is a mature professional—and if that’s not the case, you have bigger fish to fry—it basically comes down to providing the right inputs. Armed with clear, concise information, it’s amazing how quickly your creative team can solve problems and get your materials where they need to be.

Here are six ways to improve your feedback for more efficient revisions:

  1. Consume it before you critique it.

If the review process finds you immediately grabbing a pen and marking “what’s wrong,” you’re missing an opportunity to understand the work like the audience will. You’re also creating a mindset where you’re presuming something is already broken. Reading or looking it over twice is key—once as the audience, once as the reviewer. This gives you the context you need to better understand the intent of the work rather than jumping immediately into the mechanics of it.

  1. Consolidate inputs.

A common process for most creative work is an initial draft followed by 2–3 rounds of revisions. Unfortunately, many changes come to creatives in bits & pieces, resulting in significantly more rounds and increased inefficiency. And as revisions can often come from multiple sources, it’s also normal for one person’s revisions to counter those of another. To avoid this, for each round of changes, consolidate and prioritize feedback from the team into a single list.

  1. Avoid one-person focus groups.

Sometimes large-scale projects, like campaigns, warrant getting reactions from the target audience—and for good reason. Actual feedback from those we’re trying to reach can be invaluable. Unfortunately, what happens more often is “I shared the logo options with my wife and she didn’t like any of them” or “The barista at Starbucks didn’t care for your cattle vaccine tagline.” Outside inputs can provide needed perspective, but unless it’s the actual target, it usually just sows confusion.

  1. Something is better than nothing.

A phrase every creative has heard at some point (sending a shiver down our collective spine) is “I’ll know it when I see it.” This is essentially creative skeet shooting, simply tossing one idea after another and waiting to see what doesn’t get blown away. Not only is it demoralizing, it’s a serious waste of resources, costing you time and money as your team essentially tries to read your mind. At minimum, tell your creatives two things: “Make it less ____ and more ____.” With those two simple blanks filled in, they’ll arrive at what you want faster—even if you’re not sure what it is yet.

  1. Set the goal, not the solution.

All too often, well-intentioned marketers will “help out” by providing painstaking how-to instructions or actually doing the work themselves (e.g., “I’m not a writer, but I wrote two pages that you can use”). Few things will disengage your creatives faster, because your underlying message is “You’re another pair of hands to me, not a mind.” If you want their best work, point out the problem you’re trying to solve and let their unique skillsets provide the appropriate way to get there.

  1. SCORE it.

News flash: “I don’t like it” isn’t valuable feedback. Step into the paint department of any big-box building retailer and there are hundreds of paint chip colors offered. That’s because taste is completely subjective—even among professional marketers and skilled creatives. One person’s “love it” is another person’s “disgusting.” Instead of providing feedback in terms of what you like or don’t, use the SCORE method to more objectively review creative work:

Strategy – How well does it deliver to the objective/intent?
Creativity – How unique and distinctive is it (vs. others in marketplace)?
Ownability – How easily will you be able to claim it as your own?
Relatability – How well will the audience connect with it?
Extendibility – How well will it work with variations?

By utilizing the SCORE method, you’ll not only be able to judge the value of the creative work more objectively, but the answers will assist your creatives by providing them with actionable feedback.

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The Learning Continues

27 Jun

3 Suggestions for New Grads

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Guest Contributor:

Matt Hillman, Creative Director

As I approach a quarter century working in the marketing & advertising field, I’ve begun exercising my hard-earned right to be a curmudgeon. And a recent article in AdWeek offered some interesting reflections on the latest batch of graduates headed out to “conquer” the advertising world, and that helped me get in some quality scowling.

The article’s subhead “Traditional job titles can be shackles for multitalented grads” really grabbed my attention. It got me to thinking about not only new grads coming to advertising, but to the workforce in general.

The article opens:

Meet Jason. He’s an art director/filmmaker/editor/web designer. Or say hello to Sarah. She’s a writer/art director/journalist/photographer. Over there’s Ayusha. She’s a planner/art director.

From the rest of the article, it would seem like these new grads, nurtured by advances in technology and social media-fueled collaboration, are a force of multidisciplinary wunderkind poised to change work as we know it.

But the first problem as I see it isn’t in their state-of-the-art training or access to vast information, it’s their lack of experience—or rather, their confusing of ability with expertise. The notion that graduates arrive at agencies or offices or warehouses or any full-time job with a fully functional collection of self-defined skill sets is absurd at best and dangerous at worst.

The tricky thing about experience is that it takes experience to gather it, and time to realize that knowing is not the same as understanding. One of my favorite parts of the film Good Will Hunting is where Robin Williams’ character explains life to the young, troubled genius played by Matt Damon:

“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling, seen that.”

The desire for those entering the job market to somehow bypass the vitally important experience-phase seems to have grown more pronounced in recent years, perhaps fueled by the interactivity and immersion available from the internet. But there is no substitute for actually working in a real-world environment, removed from the safety and surety of the classroom.

The second problem is the idea that job titles are “shackles.” Job titles are intended to define a function or role, but not a person. And this is not a new idea. People coming from the exact same educational program with the exact same degree would still offer very different skill sets because their backgrounds, personalities, and experiences are different.

If job titles were what defined a person’s abilities, then based on my own skills and education, I could have easily started my career 24 years ago as a “writer/editor/illustrator” or even a “designer/coordinator/announcer” or any number of combinations that would have tried—futilely—to capture what I could contribute.

But instead, I selected one job title and worked to master it. I made a decision and commitment to be the best I could in that one area before setting out to tackle any others. And in the process, I not only made valuable mistakes, but I was able to surround myself with incredibly talented people in the fields that touched mine. In other words, I continued to learn well past graduation.

And that’s where I found the idea for 3 simple suggestions for new grads—let me know if you don’t agree:

Your 20s: Find Your Strengths.

Brimming with information, ideas, theories, and youthful exuberance (do not discount the value of that!) this is the time to figure out what you’re truly good at. Choices will need to be made routinely that will impact the course of your career and life; spend this period honing your skills in the real world, daring to be bold, taking risks, and asking questions. And in that process, learn from mistakes and build on successes.

Your 30s: Know Others’ Strengths.

Once you’ve sorted out what your core strengths are, surround yourself with talented people who are different—and even better!—than you are and learn how you can benefit from their strengths. Continue to polish your craft, but figure out how it relates to those of others. Whether it’s through helping directly, anticipating needs or simply having everything accounted for on your end, focus your energies on being the person everyone else can count on—that person who “gets it.”

Your 40s and Beyond: Understand the Balance.

By this time, you’ll have had some struggles—between life and work, between the job you have and the one you want, between your role and those of coworkers, between being someone who does the work and someone who leads it. This is the stretch where applying what you’ve learned comes into play. Understanding what’s really important and what really isn’t can only come from experience, and now is when you apply what you’ve learned over the years. This is the period where those hybrid job titles aren’t so farcical because they’ve been developed over time and are backed up by tangible experience.

While having multiple talents and being versatile can definitely be an asset, there’s an inescapable truth to the term “jack of all trades, but master of none.” With the ability to move laterally in different roles, the generalist will always have a place in an organization, but being a true master of your craft is the surest way to move up instead of just around.

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Book Review 3: The Fred Factor (Part 2/2)

12 May

4 Steps to Find and Develop “Freds” in Your Organization

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I recently wrote a blog post on Mark Sanborn’s book, The Fred Factor. While that post focused on explaining what a Fred is (long story short: a passionate employee who delivers an extraordinary customer/client experience) and how to identify one, this blog post will dig into how you can find and develop Freds within your own organization.
But first, why go to the effort? Quite simply, Freds—the most passionate people in your organization—are different. They do ordinary things extraordinarily well. Not surprisingly, Freds are also generally happier because people doing good work feel good, and people doing exceptional work feel, well, exceptional.

Sanborn uses the acronym FRED to explain how to develop “Freds”:

  • Find: There are three main avenues for finding Freds within and for your organization:
    1. Let Freds find you. If you really want your company to be world-class, it must become the kind of place that attracts Freds. To accomplish that, you must empower the Freds you have so their impact will be felt not only in the work your company does externally, but also in your internal culture.
    2. Discover “Dormant Freds.” There are many employees, also known as Dormant Freds, whose inner Fred has yet to blossom. To find them, watch for people that do things with flair (not to be confused with showing off or trying to attract attention)—an exceptionally well-done project, an elegant client meeting, or a clever suggestion are all possible tip-offs that a Dormant Fred is hiding in plain sight. Here are some questions to ask yourself about a potential Dormant Fred:
      • What do I remember about this person?
      • What’s the most extraordinary thing he or she has ever done?
      • How badly would this person be missed if he or she left his or her current position?
    3. Recruit and hire Freds. When you have exhausted your internal Fred pool, you may have to look externally to find them. Here are some great interview questions to find those prospective Freds:
      • Who are your heroes? Why?
      • Why would anyone do more than necessary?
      • Tell me three things that you think would delight most customers/clients/consumers.
      • What’s the coolest thing that has happened to you as a customer?
      • What is service?
  • Reward – Implement a rewards program to make sure Freds are recognized and appreciated, even if you are only recognizing good intentions and not a good final result. While nobody likes to fail, it is important to encourage employees to take chances. When people feel like their contributions are unappreciated, they will stop trying. And when that happens, innovation dies. My company, ER Marketing, recently implemented an award system in which employees nominate each other for exceptional work and attitude. This is meant to encourage employees who live up to the ER Marketing values of Curiosity, Respect, Accountability, and Performance (yes, we know what that acronym spells) with peer and management-level recognition.
  • Educate – Find examples of “Freds,” (both inside and outside of your organization), analyze those examples for commonalities that others can learn from, teach others to act extraordinary everyday—not just when there is a crisis—and set an example (invite others to act similarly).
  • Demonstrate – Set an example by inspiring, involving, initiating, and improvising. Here are some ways you can set an example and inspire employees to better serve your customers, vendors, and fellow employees better:
    • Inspire, but don’t intimidate.
    • Involve by creating a “Team Fred” of leaders in your organization.
    • Don’t wait for the “right” moment. It will never come—you have to make it.

One final, important thought from the book: Pull, Don’t Push. You can’t command someone to be a Fred. You can’t require someone to practice the Fred Factor. Command-and-control short-circuits the spirit of the Fred Factor, which is about opportunity, not obligation.

Invite people to join you. The most powerful tool you have to spread the Fred Factor throughout your organization is your own behavior—the example of your life and the effect it has on others. The best “Freducators” are themselves Freds. As John Maxwell says, “You teach what you know, you reproduce who you are.”

 

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Book Review 3: The Fred Factor (Part 1/2)

7 Apr

4 Lessons Anyone Can Learn from Fred’s Example in Customer Service

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I was at an event recently and had a chance to visit with different people with varied backgrounds and professional pursuits. Someone asked the group, “are you a Fred?” and maybe more importantly, “do you have any Freds in your organization?”

That intrigued me enough to pick up a book written by Mark Sanborn titled The Fred Factor. What a simple, yet compelling book for anyone to read and think about to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

The book starts out with a story about how Sanborn’s mailman and his mail delivery created an extraordinary experience. According to the author:

“This postal carrier stopped by my house right after I moved in to introduce himself and welcome me to the neighborhood. When he learned I traveled almost 200 days a year, he suggested I give him a schedule and he would hold my mail, bundle it up and only deliver it on the days I was home. I suggested he just leave the mail in the box on the side of the house and I would pick it up when back in town. Fred, the mail carrier, suggested that was a bad idea because burglars watch for mail building up in the box. He suggested putting what he could in the box and the balance between the screen door and front door.

I started to wonder if this guy was for real and really worked for the U.S. Postal Service.

Two weeks later, after coming home I noticed my front door mat was on the side of my porch. Under it was a note from Fred. While I was gone, another mail carrier had delivered a package to the wrong address. He went and got it, left it on my porch and covered it with the doormat so it was safe with a hand written note so I knew what was going on.”

Over the next 10 years, the author received exceptional service from Fred the Postman. He could always tell when a substitute was on the job, as mail was jammed in the box as opposed to neatly bundled. These encounters inspired the author to figure out what the “Fred Factor” is and what it takes to become one.

So, how can we get more Freds in the world? That’s easy to answer: Be a Fred! Only if you make the ordinary extraordinary will others see the possibilities for themselves. One thing seems common to all human beings: a passion for significance.

So, what does it take to be a Fred? There are lots of nuggets and good points in this book but a great place to start is with the 4 main principles the book outlines: 

Principle #1: Everyone makes a difference.

Only employees can choose to do their job in an extraordinary way. Yes, the right management, structure, procedures, and culture of a company all matter, but in the end, only employees can CHOOSE to do their job in an extraordinary way. Nobody can prevent you from choosing to be exceptional. The question to ask yourself everyday is what kind of difference you made on that day. A good reminder is to know more and notice more.

What we haven’t been told nearly enough is that people give work dignity. There are no unimportant jobs, just people who feel unimportant in their jobs. B.C. Forbes, the founder of Forbes magazine, said, “There is more credit and satisfaction in being a first-rate truck driver than a tenth-rate executive.” Think about that for a minute!

The Fred Factor emphasizes that the more value you create for others, the more value will eventually flow towards you.

Principle #2: Everything is built on relationships.

Fred is proof that, in any job or business, relationship building is the most important objective, because the quality of the relationship is what differentiates the quality of the product or service. Most mail carriers can get the mail in the mailbox, but Fred got to know the person so he could deliver exceptional service custom tailored to them.

Principle #3: You must continually create value for others, and it doesn’t have to cost a penny.

Don’t have enough money? The necessary training? The right opportunities? In other words, do you ever complain that you lack resources?

Then consider Fred. What resources did he have at his disposal? A blue uniform and a mail bag. That’s it! He walked up and down the streets with that bag of mail and his heart and head full of imagination. By the end of the day, Fred had beaten a silent competitor that threatened his potential. That competitor is mediocrity—a willingness to do just enough and nothing more than necessary to get by.

Principle #4: You can reinvent yourself regularly.

The only difference between a rut and a grave, as the old saying goes, is the depth.

Become a sponge for ideas. Learn how to distinguish between activity and accomplishment. If you want to reinvent yourself, answer these questions:

  • What are the most important lessons you have learned?
  • What did you once deeply desire to accomplish that you never attempted?
  • Whom do you most admire?
  • Which of their skills and characteristics would you like to develop in your life?

Work on your IQ (implementation quotient). How many good ideas die for lack of action and follow through on your part? Knowing you could have made someone’s day and actually doing it are two different things.

You might want to practice the one-a-day plan. If you do one extraordinary thing a day, whether at home or work, your work will be a record book of the extraordinary.

These four lessons can apply to anyone in any industry, but it is especially true in the building products industry. Building is unique in that, despite all sorts of modern and technological advances, it is still almost entirely built around relationships. Likewise, it doesn’t matter how smart or creative we are with marketing if the people making, maintaining, and nurturing the relationships aren’t acting like Freds.

So, how about giving it a go? It’s time for those in the building products industry to learn from Fred—and help create more of them.

Stay tuned for part two of this book review, which will cover how to find and develop Freds as employees.

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