The Next Step

Old Ways Can Still Work – sometimes even better than new ways

Posted: Jul 26, 2011 9:00am ET

Woodworkers had no option 50 years ago - they made everything using hand tools.  Today there are electric sanders, shapers, table saws, planers and jointers (they give boards a flat edge so they can be joined).  With all of this power and capability one would think why ever use a hand tool to work with wood - well in a recent competition a woodworker using hand tools was able to smooth his boards faster and with less effort than a woodworker using power tools.  It seems that when it comes to smoothing boards hand planes are far more efficient than electric sanders.

In how many other areas are the old ways, when used by experts, are still best?  Training for instance - is typical classroom training where participants learn how to use tools to drive increased marketing performance passé?  No way.  When taught by an expert, one who has been there, done that, even seasoned marketing veterans can learn either how to use new tools, or how to use the tools they have better.

Learning new skills is certainly possible on the job, via the internet or elearning programs, but there is no substitute for being in a classroom with your peers trying out new tools in a real life situation (working to solve the challenges of your own brand).  This type of hands-on experience helps to hone your current skills or give you new "old" ones that will help you lead the charge.

Just because it's new doesn't make it better.  In the case of training I would suggest you look for classes taught by people you admire and learn from the past.  It will make you new.




Put Time On Your Side

Posted: Jul 22, 2011 9:30am ET

Bread is made of only four ingredients: yeast, salt, water and flour.  So what is the variable that turns good bread into great bread? TIME.  Invest a bit of time and you will have a great tasting loaf.  By adding more yeast you can shorted the rising/proofing phase to two hours. You'll have bread but not great tasting bread.  Cut back on the yeast and let the bread sit for 16 hours, and that same loaf will taste so much better.

Too often we say, "I have no time."  So we often sacrifice great for good or acceptable just because we won't invest the time it takes to let learn, explore, research, investigate. 

Investing in training is in that category.  Too often we put off learning something new just because we are willing to invest the time.  Maybe it's TIME to change.

Learning is too important.  It does take time, but once you learn a new skill, how to use a new tool, gain the ability to see a problem in a different way, we give ourselves the ability to grow personally and professionally.  Your career growth is dependent on being able to have multiple abilities. Don't cut your growth opportunities short. Find the time to learn something new.

Be a utility player

Posted: Jun 23, 2011 12:00am ET

In baseball there are those players who are called utility players because they are able to play more than one position.  They may not be the best player on the team, but they stay on the team because of their versatility.  They can be used in a variety of situations, fill in for others who are hurt, keep the team from having to have so many position players.

Are you a utility player?  Does management look at you as one who can be put into a variety of situations based on need?  If so, you are likely to be kept on the roster, be given lots of opportunity to step in when an important project needs doing, and be valued (read keep your job).

What's it take to be a utility player - extra practice.  These guys have to stay out on the field longer because they need practice at several positions, not just one.  How can you gain the skills needed to be a utility player - training courses might be one way - they give you the practical experience you need to learn and hone the skills all utility players need.  




Make your competition irrelevant

Posted: Jun 21, 2011 12:00am ET

How often have we seen a politician box his or her opponent into a corner?  Happens all the time.  We say they framed what the voters would think about that opponent before the opponent had the opportunity to establish their position.

Can this learning help those of us in marketing?  I think so.  Isn't the job of marketing to make your competition irrelevant?  What can you do to reframe the question consumers are asking when they seek a brand that will satisfy their need? 

The reframing question we face is one of making our brand stand out from the crowd, or stepping up to make our brand the leader in a new category.  The Mini has reframed the concept of driving experience - but for only a few.  Their great car is small, has a quirky design, makes you feel young, and gives you a sense of performance without breaking your gas budget.  But it's not appropriate for a few, those who think small is great.

On the other had look at the number of brands that have truly changed the way customers think about the way they go about their lives.  Apple Ipod is a great example of reframing the game.  They put 10,000 songs in your pocket.  There was no other option.  They slammed the door on the competition and make the brand choice easy.

Don't just reframe the way your brand interacts with competitors, reframe the category space your brand competes within and make your competitors irrelevant.



Why Don't We Have Time for Training?

Posted: Jun 9, 2011 12:00am ET

If you read the blogs and articles on the internet about training the reasons most often cited for training people are that it makes employees feel good about themselves and the company they work for.  Trained people need less supervision, and are more capable of handling a variety of tasks.  All good, and you'll get to that when things slow down a bit - RIGHT!.

There is a more compelling reason to train - especially marketing training.  And that is to inject process into your system.  Marketing has held process at arm's length feeling that adopting it would stem the creativity necessary for great marketing programs.   Phooey.   Process is probably the most important and valuable tool marketing could every embrace.  And training people to understand and use process will make people feel more empowered and important (because they will get more done, faster), but more importantly it will make your organization incredibly more effective and efficient.

The most important aspect of process is that is sets standards and provides benchmarks, all necessary if people are going to improve their performance.  Today in many companies the marketing team has come from a number of other companies, or disciplines.  They are smart people but each has been taught to do the same job differently.  As a result you end up with a varied level of job performance and a lot of stop and start as people figure out "how the job is done here". 

Teach (or train if you like) every one of your team to do the same job the same way, using the same standard as your guide and you will be able to take a huge amount of costs (less rework, fewer missed deadlines and mistakes) out of your system.

So teach your team new skills to make them feel good about themselves.  But help them do their job consistently better and watch the savings mount - Mark Addicks, CMO General Mills found that he reduced his non-working budget by $2 million by simply adopting and teaching standard practices for marketing activities. 

What could you do with another $2 million to invest in real consumption driving marketing programs?


Push The Envelope

Posted: Jun 7, 2011 12:00am ET

While Tom Wolfe didn't originate the term, he seems to have made it famous with the publication of his book about the space program - The Right Stuff, in 1979.  Tom used the term in its technical and engineering context, given the phrase was first used in the field of mathematics.

In aviation and aeronautics the term 'flight envelope' has been in use since WWII; that envelope is the description of the upper and lower limits of the various factors that it is safe to fly at, i.e. speed, engine power, maneuverability, wind speed, altitude etc.  By 'pushing the envelope', i.e. testing those limits, test pilots were able to determine just how far it was safe to go.

How often do we as test pilot marketers push the envelope?  Do we know the limits for our brands, how far we can safely push them?

Brands like airplanes have different capabilities - some are very agile, able to maneuver like a fighter plane.  Others like bombers are unable to change speed or course quickly; but then bombers were built for a different mission than a fighter.

How flexible and agile is your brand?  Have you pushed its envelope, do you know who far it can go past it current limits;  maybe it's time you start pushing like a test pilot does with a new plane to see how capable your brand or brands are before they get into a dog fight.













Attitude is Infectious

Posted: Jun 2, 2011 12:00am ET

A positive feeling about the day, work, your boss, the company can spread faster than a virus living in today's germ invested world.  When a thought enters the brain it has to be processed.  For that to happen it must travel to the front of the brain - to the neocortex (the home of logical processing).  However before the thought arrives in the neocortex, it must pass through the amygdala area - the home of emotions and feelings.  This is why an event or activity hijacks us.  When we see a picture of a puppy our amygdala brain area grabs this image and keeps it from going to the logical part of our brain, so we have warm fuzzy feelings; rather thinking this puppy will become a dog that I will have to feed, clean up after, walk twice a day and pay large vet bills for, we say I want that puppy, its soooo cute.

Those same warm thoughts can affect us a work.  If you are in constant contact with a person who has a great attitude, that feeling enters our amygdala brain and helps us adopt that feeling.  In an experiment branch managers were asked to keep their office doors close and stay in their offices for an entire day as if they were in confidential meetings.  Given this office was otherwise an "open-door" culture, this closed door behavior was unusual.  The result, sales were down in that office for the day by 25%.  The sales team stopped calling on their clients and worried about what was happening in the office - they spent more time talking to each other, wondering if their jobs were safe.

Studies have shown that emotional energy is four times more powerful than rational energy.  Leaders who understand the power of emotion and are able to harness it can help their teams achieve incredible goals.  

Be positive and others will emulate you.  Show the way and others will gladly follow.














Embrace Failure

Posted: May 31, 2011 12:00am ET

In the April 2011edition of Harvard Business Review (HBR) Amy Edmondson authored an article on "Strategies for Learning from Failure."   In her article Amy points out that the wisdom of learning from failure is incontrovertible yet organizations that do this well are rare.  And the reason is that people are programmed at an early age to thing that failure is bad.  This "misguided" view of failure in Amy's mind leads to a lack of real learning. 

Her opinion is that failure is not always bad, in fact it is often good.  Second learning from failures requires the right attitude and activities.  Specifically organizations need new and better ways to go beyond superficial learning (our processes were not followed).  In fact, failure Amy points out occur on a spectrum of blameworthy to praiseworthy.

What then can leaders do to build a safe environment for failure:

1.       Foster openness and collaboration versus blame and I win you lose attitude

2.       Celebrate the value and willingness of having someone come forward, then figure out how to fix the failure.

3.       Recognize that we all have limits and we need to work in tandem.

4.       Invite people to reflect on their recent experiences, to talk openly about their experiences, what they would do differently next time

5.       Set boundaries, be clear about what acts are blameworthy and the consequences for those acts.

Often the biggest issue is that pilots are conducted under ideal conditions, rather than representative ones.  As a result they can't show what won't work.

In the end, managers should recognize the inevitability of failure.  Those that catch, correct and learn from failure will succeed, those that play the blame game will not.











Three Easy Ways to Motivate Your Team

Posted: May 26, 2011 12:00am ET

We think that being a leader means energizing and motivating our team, yet more managers get it wrong than right.  No doubt that a motivated and energized workforce translates directly into a better bottom line. As a result most managers want to keep their people motivated. The problem is that most managers don't know where to begin.

In a new book TOO MANY BOSSES, TWO FEW LEADERS by Rajeev Pershawaria, he describes how managers can motivate people by appealing to the three things that really matter to them.  In this book we learn that as managers we are poor at motivating people because it is complex and there is way too much information on this topic.

Another factor is that today's managers generally tend to be player-coaches, meaning that they have individual production responsibilities in addition to their managerial roles. Who has the time for all the "people issues"? If only there were a simple way of thinking about it.

Surprisingly most people are motivated by the same three things - the nature of their Role, their work Environment, and their professional Development.

In our experience the development phase gets too little attention - ANA has set out to make this an easy fix - as an ANA member company your organization has a half-day workshop credit that you can use towards an onsite no-cost workshop or as a credit towards a day or two-day program.  Every Wednesday at 1pm Eastern time, ANA broadcasts a marketing webinar - this too is a no-cost benefit for members.

Motivation doesn't need to be as complex as it seems to be - let us be of service as you begin to develop your developmental strategy.










It is not the strongest that survive

Posted: May 24, 2011 12:00am ET

Charles Darwin is quoted as saying "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."

How true - even more so today than when Mr. Darwin shared this insight with us.  Today we all, especially we marketers must adapt or die.   The role and value of marketing is still questioned.  The likelihood that we will have to go through a marketing reorganization every 24 to 30 months is still real.

How do you respond to change? 

Are you a chameleon - they are famous for their ability to change color, which they use as a form of communication, a response to temperature, light, and mood, as well as a defense against predators; 

Or a dinosaur - they roamed the earth for 160 million years dinosaurs, were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates yet they never managed to evolve bigger brain and bigger hands.  They remained idiots while their hands were practically useless (they couldn't even clap).  In the end they became extinct and mammals exploited their extinction.

Find ways to be responsive to change, look for learning and teaching moments that will give you a personal or competitive edge.

If you want suggestions on what paths to take to find those teaching moments - email us at ANA School of Marketing (mpalmer@ana.net) we can offer many, and a number won't cost you.












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About This Blog

This blog focuses on fresh and innovative ideas on how to bring your career to the next level. The blog which also details the various training opportunities for marketing professionals is penned by, Michael Palmer, executive vice president of training & careers.