The Get To Attitude

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A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to experience a Dean Whellams’ leadership workshop. His energy was contagious and his impact long lasting. Throughout the workshop, Dean talked to the team about how to network (he makes it seem so easy), the importance of building relationships and reframing our thoughts. All useful material for those enthusiastic about leadership and becoming the best version of yourselves.

The biggest take away from his workshop was the power of reframing our thoughts. Dean pointed out that when there is something on our to-do list, we think about it as something we “have to do”. When you stop and think, we actually “get to do” those things. We are in control of our actions and our time.

Adopting this mindset takes time and practice, but it is well worth the effort. The best way to embrace the “get to” attitude is to be aware of your words and thoughts. When you utter the words, “have to”, force yourself to reframe your words and say, “get to”.

To fully adopt the “get to” mindset, you have to believe what you are saying. In true form, Dean provided further inspiration to help you not just say “get to”, but to actually believe in it. He has a powerful acronym he wrote that forces you stop and think and shift from the “have to” mentality to the “GET TO” mentality:

Give
Everything
To
The
Opportunity

Since we “get to” do things, we should give everything to the opportunity, big or small. After all, the little things in our lives often build into bigger things, and when new opportunities present themselves, we should be open to them, dive in and give it our all. You never know how a taking a chance, making a small tweak in action, or changing your thought could alter your life. Below are some examples of how to shift your mindset to the “get to” mentality:

Have To MindsetGet To Mindset
I have to do a boring task. I get to improve my skills at this task.
I have to have a difficult conversation
with an employee.
I get to help someone develop and
improve.
I have tolearn about a new trend in
the industry.
I get to something new that will help
me become better at my job.
Ihave to go to a networking event
and talk to people I don’t know.
I get to grow my network.
I have to train a new employee. I get to train a new employee
and eventually empower them to take
ownership of projects, which will take work
off my plate.

Once you shift your mentality, you will not only see how to easy it is to train your mind to see the positive, but you will also naturally start practicing gratitude. Once you reframe a statement, you can’t help but feel grateful for the opportunity. Soon it will become second nature to see things through the “get to” lens.

As leaders, we have the opportunity to not only reframe our personal thoughts, but to help inspire those around us to adopt the “GET TO” mentality as well. We should be vested in trying to help them see things as an opportunity instead of an obligation or another task on their to-do list. Below is how leaders can help their team adopt the “get to” mentality:

  • Model the Way – your words matter, when presenting a task, frame it as something they “get to do”.
  • Flip the Script – when you hear an employee utter, “have to”, kindly flip the script for them by explaining how they “get to” do the task at hand and how it will help them learn and grow.
  • Practice the Mentality – during team meetings ask each member to share something they are excited about “getting to do”

The other benefit of adopting the “get to” mentality is that it allows you to elevate how you spend your time. If there is something that you find yourself saying “you have to do”, but struggle to identify its value, it may be time to cut it out of your life or eliminate it from the team’s workload. It’s worth repeating that you only you control your time and how you spend it, so make the most of it. Take the power of “get to” and use it to your advantage.

How do you give everything to the opportunity? Leave a comment.

If you are looking for a leadership coach to train your team, contact Dean at Team Elite Performance.

The Staying Power of Integrated Marketing Communications

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In the early 2000s, the buzz phrase in marketing was integrated marketing communications (IMC). Industry professionals were continually talking about how marketing efforts needed to be “integrated,” similar to how marketers talk about digital marketing today. As each industry evolves, new disciplines emerge within the field and all the focus goes to what is new and exciting. Constant innovation is necessary, but that doesn’t mean we should forget about the principles and tactics that lead us to the latest trend.

There are several aspects of marketing and communications. Each element provides a specific purpose and drive value in different ways. When all of the elements are linked, powerful results follow. As marketing leaders, it is critical we build teams that represent various types of marketing and communications, and that helps each team member integrate their efforts to ensure seamless execution of the marketing strategy. After all, we need to meet our customers where they are, and they are generally spread out over many different channels. Therefore, our messaging and branding needs to be consistent.

How do marcomm departments create integrated campaigns? The answer to this question may vary depending on budget and talent. However, marketers are used to wearing many hats and can likely handle juggling several elements of marcomm. Below is an outline of the various types of marcomm tactics you should consider including in your strategic marketing plan and then you can build your team around your plan.

Strategic Planning
Everything should start with a strategy. You need to have a well thought out plan to accomplish a comprehensive plan that is integrated. Strategic planning is likely done by a more senior level person that has a deep understanding of the target audiences, marketing tactics, channels, public relations, and is knowledgeable about the inner workings of the business.

Social Media
The power of social media, when done well, is undeniable. Therefore, it needs to play a significant role in your marketing strategy. Being successful at social media requires time both in the term of longevity, but also in terms of resources. Creating engaging, useful, meaningful, and consistent content takes time and should include a budget to execute it effectively. The team member that manages your social channels should be creative, analytical, and be willing to stay up on the ever changing landscape.

Email
While email has lost its buzz, it is still extremely effective channel when done well. The key is to understand your customers and what they want and be able to convey that in a concise and catchy way. Email marketing should be about quality over quantity. Just think about the numerous emails you get every day, the companies you hear from daily, likely don’t get your attention because you constantly feel like you are being sold something. Whereas, great email marketing is purposeful, keeps the subject lines short and grabs your attention. Furthermore, email marketing requires someone with a strategic mind that understands can plan well into the future, how to drive people to take action, determine when to clean up the list, know about privacy laws, how to segment customers, and dive into the analytics.

Paid Advertising
Many companies allocate funds to paid advertising, some still engage in traditional media, while others are all in on social, and then there are some that do both. Executing paid media campaigns requires a great deal of planning, budgeting, analytics, and the ability to stay up-to-date on the latest offers.

Public Relations
Utilizing public relations (PR) to help tell your story is a great way to build credibility with consumers since they are hear the news from a third party. Additionally, if you have done the other aspects listed above well, this will be another way the consumer hears the message, but likely in a different way. PR people need to be strong writers, fact finders, creative, relationship builders and tenacious as they work to come up with new angles as they pitch story ideas to various news outlets.  

Website
Likely everything you do will point back to your website. It is your storefront and it needs to run efficiently and convert. The site should be well designed, load quickly, easy to navigate, able to capture data, and much more. People that manage the website need to be in tune with emerging trends, have a good eye for design, analytical, and patient as they work through a/b testing. Further, they must be knowledgeable about SEO and proficient in technical development.

Content
All websites need content since content is king. It is critical that new content is created regularly and that it is useful to the consumer. Much like PR content specialists need to be creative storytellers that find new perspectives, but that also have an understanding about SEO and how to weave identified keywords into the copy to help with Google’s performance, but also drive conversions.

Cause
Corporate social responsibility is no longer just a nice thing to do. Customers are demanding that companies give back in meaningful, authentic ways. Selecting the right organizations to partner with requires strategic thought to ensure alignment. Additionally, it is a balancing act to do things for non-profits and work to ensure your consumers understand your efforts without it coming off as though you only did it for the recognition. Therefore, you need a savvy person that can navigate how to position your mission to help others, while sharing your efforts.  

Internal Communications
Marketers work so hard to get everything out to the public, that sometimes they inadvertently forget to tell the employees of the organization about their efforts, which is a big miss. The employees can act as ambassadors and help amplify your efforts within their network. Additionally, they will likely have a sense of pride when they know about the promotions, which increases morale.  Must like PR and content your internal communications specialist should be strong writers that have a knack for storytelling.

Once you have determined the types of marketing efforts you want to include in your plan, it becomes critical that you find a way to create synergy between each aspect. Below are some tips for creating and executing an integrated marketing plan.

  • Create an overarching strategy
  • Assign tasks based on strengths and interest
  • Create a marcomm calendar filled with tactics to help you plan, integrate efforts, and determine deadlines.
  • Weekly meetings to discuss projects
    • Discuss goals and common interests in projects
    • Identify overlap
    • Encourage sharing
    • Encourage collaboration
    • Encourage teamwork  
    • Share results
  • Have a point person to view the work product to ensure synergy, consistency and brand standards are followed.

There are additional resources you could consider adding to your team to help support your efforts, such as graphic design, videography/editing, website development and copywriting. Great design, effective storytelling through video, compelling copy, and strong website development support your desire to produce quality work that builds and maintains the brand. If you don’t have the budget, consider outsourcing these tasks.

Overall, IMC is here to stay. Your efforts are best served when they are strategic and all facets work together to reach your customers in a compelling and consistent manner.

How do you ensure you have an integrated marketing communications approach? Leave a comment below.

Wait Before You React

By dolgachov

You get a panic call, email or meeting request about a problem, as a leader, you spring to action ready to find a solution. Problem, solution, move on as quickly as possible. That is the most common path that is taken when dealing with an issue. The good news is that you are taking care of business and keeping things moving. There are times when things work out, but often, we realize that hindsight is 20/20 and if we could go back, we would do things differently.

Despite your best intentions, reacting to problems too quickly is counterproductive. Some leaders like to act quickly as they think it shows those around them that they can think on their feet and that they are the “fixer”. However, when we rush to solve an issue, we likely aren’t taking the time to figure out the root cause, think through several possible solutions, and select the best resolution. In today’s complex world, there are likely three or more sides to every story. As leaders, it is our responsibility to take the time to listen to every story in order to understand the entire picture.

The truth is, most problems aren’t life or death; we have a bit of time on our hands to figure out how to best handle the situation. Use this time to your advantage so you don’t have backtrack on a decision you rushed into. When the people you lead see you being thoughtful it will increase their trust in you as someone who is objective and concerned with the truth. They will also see you as someone who is calm and cares about finding the best solution versus the quickest or easiest solution.

Below are some tips to deploy the next time a problem lands on your desk:

Take a Deep Breath
Dealing with problems often causes our fight or flight responses to kick in. Resist the urge by taking a deep breath. Use this time to gather your thoughts, actively listen, and remind yourself to be open minded. Stress can often cause us to make bad decisions. However, when we take a deep breath or take a walk, we can clear our heads and allow for our rational mind to take the lead. 

Figure Out the Key Players
Determine who is involved in the issue and who might be able to give you useful information to understand the issue. In order to get the full story, you need to know the key players and the role they played in the issue and who might be part of the solution.

Ask Questions from Those Involved 
After you have determined who is involved, take time to meet with each individual. We’ve all heard the saying that there are two sides to every story, but in reality, there are often many sides. It will show you care about each person’s side and perspective. Additionally, you will be able to gain the complete story and therefore, be able to come up with the best solution. Be sure to ask them for their recommendations on the solution and how to make improvements for the future.

Check Your Biases and Emotions
It is easy to let our biases and emotions take over. Practice self-awareness by recognizing what might be causing you to lean a certain way and challenge yourself to see things from every perspective.

Sleep On It
Once you’ve completed your fact-finding mission, sleep on it. Taking time to process the information. Time allows us to see things clearly and to think through possible solutions. It also gives us time to think about how we want to address the issue with our stakeholders. While you may feel pressure to act immediately, your people will respect the fact that you didn’t jump to conclusions and took time to develop a smart solution to the issue.

Consider Your Options 
Now that you have a clear head after taking time to process and reflect, determine various solutions to the problem. Take the time to weigh your options to ensure you select the best path forward.

Work with Others to Find a Solution 
Once you’ve gathered the facts and have an idea about how to move forward, bring the team together (if the solution isn’t an HR issue or a sensitive personal issue) to brainstorm a solution. This will empower the team to be a part of the solution. If you have a clear idea of how you want to resolve the issue, present it to the team and allow them to enhance your idea. Be open-minded to their alternative recommendations as they may have a better idea than yours.

Follow Up with the Parties Involved 
When a problem arises, especially if it is a people problem, be sure to follow up with those involved. Discussing the issue and the solution is a great way to provide constructive feedback for development and will give those involved peace of mind that a solution has been reached. It will signal to each individual that it is time to move on from the problem. Additionally, you may receive feedback about how you could have handled the situation better or what you did well. Willingly accept this feedback and use it in the future.

Of course, there will be instances when you don’t have the luxury of time. You can condense the timeframe of the tips above. The key is to practice patience when dealing with a problem. Once you learn how to slow down, even in the most intense situations, your experience with thoughtful deliberation will assist you in coming up with a solution quickly.

Another way to avoid acting too quickly regarding a problem is to be proactive by thinking about potential issues that may come up in the future and thinking about how you will handle them. Next, in the world of outrage, your company should consider having a crisis communication plan in place in case of negative publicity. By being proactive, you are taking the time to think through the potential issue and preparing yourself for when the time comes to deal with worst-case scenarios that will require quick action.

What are other tips you use to create thoughtful decisions when presented with a problem? Leave a comment below.     

In Marketing and Leadership, It’s All About Perspective

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“At the end of the kaleidoscope the pixels are all the same, but look inside, give it a little twist, and suddenly you’ll see things differently.” – Punam Mathur

When it comes to marketing and leadership, having perspective is critical. Since both disciplines are about connecting with people and guiding behavior, it is essential that we are aware of our perspectives and what shaped our thought process. We also must be aware that the people we are leading think differently than us and we can’t lose sight of their point of view. By having this awareness, we are creating the ability to look at things from different perspectives with an open mind.

Even with awareness, it is easy to get caught up in making decisions quickly, favoring our preferences, or relying on our gut instinct. In both marketing and leadership, it is biases and heuristics that are used to solve a problem or develop the vision. A heuristic is “mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently,” and they can lead to cognitive bias. Using heuristics and biases is a human process, but one that must not be left unchecked.  

Marketing and leadership’s purpose centers on others, therefore we have to think about others first, which includes understanding their perspectives and points of view. Here are the heuristics and biases you should watch out for the next time you are working on a marketing campaign or leading a team through change.

  • Availability: As humans, we will use the information that we can easy retrieve and recall. For example, we may only recall the good work our employee has done since it helped us so much, and we will won’t recall the times they let us down or when their weaknesses overpowered their strengths.
  • Representativeness: “When people rely on representativeness to make judgments, they are likely to judge wrongly because the fact that something is more representative does not actually make it more likely,” Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. In both leadership and marketing, we may listen to the loudest voices, but in reality, it might not be representing the majority.  
  • Confirmation: According to Scott Plous, confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. If we fall into the confirmation trap, we could continue to do the same things over and over without questioning their effectiveness or to justify a certain decision because it aligns with our preferences or preconceived notions.

The other thing marketers and leaders must be aware of is cognitive dissonance. It is defined as, “Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors,” Saul McLeod. Leaders and marketers must be aware of cognitive dissonance as it could lead to integrity issues and the erosion of trust for either our customers or employees.

Each of these heuristics that lead to biases, and cognitive dissonance are dangerous for marketers and leaders. The best way to overcome them is to practice awareness by questioning your critical thinking process, doing your own research, and evaluating your behavior. Once you’ve gathered the necessary data points (without allowing bias to creep in), it is critical you think about the other person effected by your potential decision or tactic.

  • What could their biases and heuristics be?
  • How is it effecting their decision making and behavior? I
  • If they are displaying conflicting behavior, what could be causing it?

If you take the time to think about others and their perspectives, you’ll be able to find the best way to lead and market to them. Doing so requires personal accountability and doing things that don’t always come naturally, but with a self-awareness and intentional action, you’ll be able to overcome the shortcuts that hinder your effectiveness. Once you put others first, and view things through the lens of a kaleidoscope, thinking differently will become second nature.

How do you practice awareness to ensure you looking at things from different perspectives? Start the discussion in the comments section.

The Power of a Creative Brief

Image

Photo by jeshoots.com on Unsplash

Marketing and advertising seem to overlap more and more each day. Now marketers are expected to not only develop and execute marketing strategy, but they must also be copywriters, and at times provide creative direction. In other words, marketers are like utility players, which requires them to move from a creative mindset to a strategic mindset seamlessly. Those that are successful have found a way to balance the alternate thought processes by recognizing the differences, finding commonalities and utilizing standard processes to delineate between the two worlds.

What hasn’t changed is that marketers work directly with the creative team to execute marketing/advertising campaigns and one-off tactics. As one would expect most marketers think and communicate differently than creatives (and visa versa). Therefore, it is critical that the two parties find a way to effectively communicate with one another to ensure a successful outcome. One of the best ways to set the ground work is to write a creative brief that includes the items that are important to you from a marketing perspective and the elements will help the creative team translate your vision and words into a visual or audio presentation.

When writing the brief, you should be sure to include as much information as possible, but in a concise manner. The document shouldn’t exceed two pages, remember quality over quantity. Your goal should be that the brief is so complete that someone off the street could pick it up and know what to do. Below are the elements that should be included in every creative brief:

  • Assignment
  • Background/Overview
  • Goals
  • Objectives
  • Channels
  • Target Audience
  • Customer Insights
  • Key Messages
  • Considerations
  • Tone
  • Look and Feel
  • Mandatory Items
  • Call to Action
  • Links
  • File Format Requests
  • Ad Specifications
  • Tracking Codes
  • Competitors
  • Budget
  • Timeline
  • Metrics
  • Team

Depending on the size of the project, you may not to include all of the elements listed above. As you develop your relationship with the creative team, you likely will tweak the brief to fit the needs of the creative team, your client, and yourself. This blog post is here to help you get started and provide guidance.

Another benefit to the creative brief is that you can share it with your client (whether that be internal or external). By giving the client the opportunity to see the creative brief before it is given to the creative team, allows you to make sure you have accurately and comprehensively communicated the assignment and its details. By taking this step, you could possibly eliminate several rounds of revisions, the potential of going over budget and scope creep. Taking this step will add to the timeline, but is time well spent. In addition, it will give you a chance to meet with your client and further foster the business relationship.  

Once the creative brief is written and approved by the client, now it is time to share it with the creative team. If it is a pretty simple request, sending an email will likely suffice. However, if the brief is complex, high profile, or comes with a hefty budget, it is best to meet with the creative team. During this meeting you should walk them through the creative brief, answer their questions, make edits, and agree on the timeline and budget. After this step is complete, it is critical that you maintain frequent communication with the creative team to ensure all the stakeholders are on the same page throughout the development of the assets. By communicating frequently throughout the process, you will likely eliminate or at the very least significantly reduce unnecessary delays to the project.

Click here to download a free creative brief template from Hubspot.

What tips do you have for writing a comprehensive and useful creative brief? Share your tips in the comment section.

How to Nurture Up and Coming Leaders

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Some people are born to lead, and others develop the skills needed for leadership over time. Either way, young leaders need someone to nurture them along their leadership journey. The best mentors guide and support their young leaders. However, sometimes it can be tricky. As leaders, we want them to succeed, but the truth is sometimes the
most valuable leadership lessons come from failure. As mentors, we need to know when to step back to allow them to fail.  

How do leaders know when to steer the person in the right direction and when to allow the person to make decisions and live with the consequences? Each situation is different and there is no cookie cutter answer to the question. Fundamentally, we need to ensure our people are comfortable with failure. In order to get comfortable with failure, as the leader you must welcome failure. However, you should set some ground rules.

Whenever I work with a young leader, my first meeting generally goes something like this, “I want to see you reach your leadership potential and I want you to enjoy every moment of this journey. To get the most out of this experience, you are going to need to get comfortable with taking risks. The best risks are calculated risks that have been given careful thought and consideration. Sometimes your risk will result in big rewards, other times it will feel like a colossal failure. That’s part of the learning process. Here’s the thing I expect from you, if you fail, I expect that you own the mistake and to come back with solutions for what you will do differently next time.”

Having this conversation is critical as it allows the young leader the peace of mind to take risks because they know they won’t be punished for trying new things, so long as they think critically, take ownership, and come back with solutions. If they follow the ground rules, the potential for learning and growing is exponential.   

On the other side of the coin is that if we say we accept calculated failure, then we have to have integrity by being supportive of the failure. This requires us to be thoughtful in our approach during the debrief conversation. We must celebrate what the person learned, their likely bold solutions and then encourage them to try again. No one likes to see their people fail, but when it results in a learning opportunity, we must recognize the value in the process.

Unfortunately, there are times a young leader is being bull headed and won’t listen. As long as no one gets hurt, that is also a good time to step back and allow the person to fail. Your role as a leader is to guide and support them. Alternatively, the young leader gets to decide whether they take the advice or chart their own course. This scenario tends to be the most painful to watch, but again, there are valuable lessons to be learned. Once the failure happens, it is critical that you address the failure with the young leader as you can turn it into a learning opportunity. The best approach is to assume the young leader had positive intent, to ask the right questions and actively listening to the responses.

  • How do you think this turned out?
  • Where did things go wrong?
  • What will you do differently in the future?
  • How are you going to take ownership for this failure?
  • How could have I supported you differently?
  • What type of support do you need moving forward?

By going through these questions, you are essentially helping them reflect, think critically, and make an action plan to move forward. Additionally, you are modeling the way by showing your support and helping them get back on track. We are human and that means everyone will make mistakes and fail along the way. Leaders embrace failure and turn it into a positive.

How do you encourage your young leader and employees to take risks? Leave a comment below.  

Tackling Conflict, One Question at a Time

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Conflict is challenging, especially when people are involved. Emotions can overtake rationality and cloud our vision. On the other hand, we have to understand that the person on the other side is also processing emotion which could cause them to withdraw or become irrational. As leaders, we have to remember that emotions are human and ignoring the way people feel isn’t the right approach. Instead, we must find a way to acknowledge feelings while balancing rationality.

So how do you strike that delicate balance and come out of the conversation with positive outcomes that build trust in the relationship? Throughout my time as a leader, I have had countless challenging conversations. Each time I learn something new and I reflect on the conversation and make notes about what I would do differently. While each challenging conversation is different, with practice, patience, the intent to serve the other person, and the desire to understand instead of change someone’s mind, you can tackle any conversation.

More often than not, conflict comes down to miscommunication. As leaders we have to engage in active listening (remember the 80/20 rule) to get to the root of the issue and we have to be willing to take ownership for our faults in the conflict. I’ve found that just asking questions and listening to the other person is the key moving past the conflict. Chip and Dan Heath, discuss how to change things when change is hard in their bestselling book, Switch. After all, things have to change to resolve the issue. The Heath brothers outline three reasons why change is difficult:

  1. What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.
  2. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.
  3. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.

When I recognize conflict, I immediately take a step back and try to pinpoint which of the three reasons listed above could be causing the conflict. Upon taking time to think about the situation objectively, the answer will often reveal itself. As the leader, it is our role to then create a roadmap to fix the problem. In order to effectively tackle the issue, allow yourself time to reflect and prepare. When we slow down, we remove our fight or flight reaction, and instead allow rationality to prevail. Leaders that truly care about serving their people work to ensure they can lead the conversation in a productive manner that will result in a stronger relationship.

Part of preparation is reading the three points above. Next, I reflect on what I have done and I could have done differently. Then, I try to think about what the other person may be thinking or feeling. The final part of my preparation is writing down a list of questions that I’d like to ask and take a deep breathe. My intent isn’t to integrate the other person or to change their mind, my focus is on understanding their point of view and finding a way to make things better in the future. For example:

  • You seem distant, is there something I have done?
  • What can I do to improve?
  • How would you prefer to receive feedback in the future?

If the person shares that I didn’t handle the situation well, I apologize and acknowledge that I will do better next time. Showing genuine humility is a key cornerstone of leadership. I generally follow up by asking how the person would have liked the situation to have unfolded. By asking this question, it allows for a deeper dialogue and helps me understand how they like to be led and moving forward I can tailor my approach to meet their needs.

When the person responds to a question that doesn’t fully register with me, I ask another question to seek understanding. Again, the goal shouldn’t be to prove the person wrong or to “win” the argument. The goal should be to understand the other perspective. As a leader, approach the situation with an open mind and engage in actively listening, you’ll be able to provide clarity and remove the resistance.

After years of practice, I’ve come to enjoy these conversations because it often means the opportunity to improve, the chance to strengthen the relationship and build deeper trust. To get to this place, I had to shift to a growth mindset. The truth is open communication can solve almost any problem. It just takes awareness, the willingness to listen, and the ability to find common ground. Don’t wait to tackle an interpersonal conflict, dive in and work to make things better.

What tips do you have tackling challenging conversations? Leave a comment.

The School of Marketing

Why Marketers Should Never Stop Learning

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Unlike many professions, there is not a required license to practice marketing. Therefore, marketers don’t have to complete continuing education classes each year. Without the requirement to keep learning, how do marketers keep up on the latest trends, best practices, and laws that impact our ability to reach potential customers? Marketers that stay on top of their game are continually learning and then implementing what they learn.

There are numerous options for you to gain the knowledge and skills you need to help grow your career and make meaningful contributions to your company. Now more than ever, marketing is changing rapidly and therefore, you must put in the time to ensure you don’t get stuck doing the same old things that are now ineffective. The exciting thing about learning new things is that you get to keep growing and it could ignite your creativity or inspire you to take strategic risks.  

It is undeniable that your days are packed with meetings and deadlines, but making time to expand your knowledge is time well spent. Below are several educational resources that marketers can access throughout the year to keep learning about the profession:

Attend a Conference
There are numerous conferences that train marketers on a variety of marketing/communications related topics. Social Media Marketing World is a three-day conference dedicated to teaching attendees about the digital marketing trends and the latest analytical tools. Click here to see a list of marketing conferences that offer a variety of topics from content, to branding, to public relations.

Take Classes
Many educational opportunities exist, whether that be at a college (online or in person) or taking online marketing classes from niche educational businesses that offer a variety of marketing classes. Check out Skillshare and Udemy. The benefit of taking classes in person is the ability to network with your peers.

Subscribe to Publications that Discuss Marketing Trends
Due to the rapidly evolving field, there is a plethora of content about marketing from numerous different sources. Many of the online publications provide daily content and send out free newsletters, offering the latest tips and trends.

Become Google Certified
Did you know that Google offers free certification classes for its various products? All you have to do is go through the online modules and then take a test to affirm you learned what was taught. By going through the classes, you will learn about the nuances of Google’s products, which will help anyone working with Google Ad words, Google Analytics, etc. In addition to being free, you can also work at your own pace and you can select the classes that interest you most.

Take Facebook Blueprint Classes
Similar to Google, Facebook offers a variety of courses. You are able to select the class that aligns with your educational goals. The classes will help you understand Facebook’s policies and also how to best execute an ad campaign for its products such as Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, etc.

Network with Your Peers
Find a group of local marketers and setup time to discuss what each of you are doing and about the challenges you face. Your peers will be a great resource to help you grow your career as you can lean on them for advice, and learn from their failures and successes.

Join a Professional Organization
By joining a professional marketing organization you’ll expose yourself to experts at educational luncheons and your local peers. Often times professional organizations also provide exclusive content online as a perk to your membership.

Hire a Consultant/Agency to Manage Marketing Specific Tasks
If you do not have the resources or the expertise to execute a part of your marketing plan, consider hiring a consultant or agency. If resources allow, include budget for training. By taking time to learn from the experts you will be more effective at managing the agency and explaining the results to your manager.  

Join Online Marketing Communities
LinkedIn and Facebook offer several marketing communities. Ask to join a marketing community. Many people are actively participating in these private groups. You can read their tips and best practices and also provide your own insights. By engaging in the online community, you will pickup interesting tidbits about marketing and it could also be a great place to ask questions and get answers from people in your field.

Observe What the Best Brands Are Doing  
As marketers we are always interested in what drives human behavior. When you are interacting with a brand in a positive way, stop and think about how the brand makes you feel and then explore why you might feel this way. Take what you learn from your observations and see how you might be able to authentically integrate what is working well for the brands you admire into your company. Now, that doesn’t mean you should steal other’s ideas, or imitate their brand, but find inspiration in quality work, and strive to create your own.

After you have learned new things about marketing, it is time to put what you learned to the test. Learning should be an ongoing effort and has the potential to fuel your intellectual curiosity. As you pursue your informal continual education, you’ll be empowered to make positive change in your marketing department or agency. Once you ingrain learning into to your routine, you will see the shift from being stale to being at the pioneer leading the way.

How do you keep learning about marketing? Leave a comment below.

Leaders Don’t Have All the Answers, That’s Okay

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People look to their leaders for answers. But the truth is, leaders don’t know everything and that is actually a good thing. The best leaders are those that have the humility to recognize and acknowledge what they don’t know. You see, great leaders build teams filled with people that complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, making the team highly productive.

While leaders don’t have all the answers, many weak leaders will do one of three things below or a combination of them. Great leaders handle these scenarios differently and that is what makes them great.

  1. What Often Happens: You fake it until you make it. The people you lead are generally very perspective and can recognize when you are inauthentic.
    How You Should Handle It: Admit you don’t know and instead ask someone that does know to teach you. Use this as a learning moment and a chance to bond with your teammate.
  2. What Often Happens: You wait too long to give a response because you are busy searching for the answer independently and trying to save face. You lose credibility when you are MIA. How You Should Handle It: Inform the who asked the question that you do not know the answer, but that you are looking into it. While you are looking for the answer in a transparent way, be sure to keep the team informed along the way. Also look for ways to collaborate with the team and other co-workers to find the answer.
  3. What Often Happens: You say you know the answer and spout out nonsense. When you bloviate about knowing something you actually know nothing about or you say one thing, but act in another way, the team instantly loses trust and faith in you as their leader. How You Should Handle It: Tell the truth. Don’t make things up to appear more knowledgeable than you are in the subject matter.

The key take away is to admit when you don’t have the answer and then work with the team to find the answer. By letting down your guard, you are not only showing humility, but vulnerability as well. When leaders embrace humility and vulnerability, it makes them more relatable, demonstrates to the team members that they don’t have to know everything, minimizes egos, and leads to better problem solving.

The next time you are asked a question you don’t know the answer to, respond by saying, “I don’t know the answer to that, but let me look into it and I’ll back to you.” You might use your resources to find the answer. If you take this path, include the team member in the correspondence and make introductions, thus allowing them to learn alongside you.  Another option is to call a team meeting to brainstorm the solution. Take it one step further by allowing the person who asked the question to lead the meeting. Creating collaboration moments allows the team to work through solutions together, empowers others to lead, and together you likely will come up with a far better solution than if you just figured it out on your own.

Another benefit to showing humility is that you are modeling the way for your team members. Once they hear you say that you don’t know everything, it is likely they will come to you with more questions. Further, they will likely admit to their peers that they don’t have all the answers either. In the end, your team members will come together to help each other and learn along the way. As the leader, it is your responsibility to create a supportive and open environment for your team to learn and grow.

The key to leadership isn’t knowing everything. Leadership is about humility, vulnerability, the courage to be truthful, relationships, and open communication. When you let your ego down and actually lead the team to the answer versus just tell them, you’ll experience far better results and your effort will compound.

As a leader, how do you tackle questions or problems you don’t have the answer to? Share your tips in the comments section.  

Tips for Developing an Effective Website Content Strategy

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The best websites keep consumers/customers on the site long enough to influence their behavior. The best websites and content are planned, reviewed, and continuously updated to remain relevant and effective. As marketers, it is our job to figure out what should go on the website and provide a creative brief and copy for the design team. The next time you need to update copy or want to refresh the site, don’t just use your instincts. Even the smallest companies have access to useful data. It is more important than ever to use that information to make strategic content and placement decisions throughout your website. When you are strategic, you’ll see results. Here are some tips to help you plan your next website refresh, content placement, and copy updates.

Be on Brand
As with all things in marketing, everything you do must align with your brand. The look, the voice, the messaging, everything must be consistent and never deviate from your brand. If you aren’t sure how to make things consistent, start by creating a brand guideline to help you develop a plan for how you want to represent your brand. Then task a team member to check for brand compliance throughout all of your marketing materials. When you customers land on your website, they should know instantly that they are on your website and if done well, will immediately feel a connection.

Conduct a Website Audit
After your site has been up long enough to collect a decent data set, you should conduct an audit of your site. The audit will reveal your sites conversion results, identify content that isn’t performing, customer’s navigation path around your site, ease of finding what they are looking for, assess the site design and user experience, a full briefing of analytics (SEO, bounce rates, time spent on the site, etc.), and much more. The auditor will then provide recommendations for how to improve optimization for the site. Companies that are serious about their website’s performance, do not just settle for one audit; instead they commit to weekly check-ins on the tweaks and then a monthly assessment. By having this knowledge, you have a vast amount of power to make strategic marketing decisions that if executed properly will lead to success.

Use the Data to Make Strategic Content Decisions
If you conduct audits, use the information to make strategic marketing decisions, versus relying on your instincts. The results from the audit should be reflected in your marketing and content plan.  

On the other hand, if your company does not have the skill set on the team to conduct an audit or the funds to pay for an audit, that is okay. You can still use tools to help you make strategic decisions. For example, software such as Hotjar provides you with visual insights into where your customers are spending the most time on your site. Once you see where the users spend their time you determine where to place your most important messages. In addition, if the users are spending time in a particular area, that could be an indication that the copy and graphics are effective.

The other aspect to look at is the top visited pages on your site. Make sure you continue to put effort into the pages that are performing well. If the page that focuses on one of your top priorities isn’t performing well, assess your strategy, messaging, and design to improve future results.

Overall, you want to make sure your site is converting and that your content is resonating with the user.   

Hire a Skilled Designer and Developer to Create the Website
There are a lot of people out there that think they can design a website. If you are responsible for the marketing strategy and content, odds are you aren’t a website designer (if you are, you are a unicorn). Don’t try to take everything on. Marketers attention should be focused on the strategy, ensuring a positive customer journey, engaging content, brand management, and results. Leave the technical aspect and creativity to the experts.  

Focus on the User Experience
The user experience is everything when it comes to a website. Users should be able to find what they are looking for quickly, make the transaction easily, and leave your site knowing that you helped make their day better. Stop and think about sites you love visiting, here’s looking at you, Amazon. Why do you go to those sites? The reason is they are designed well, have engaging content, make it convenient for you to find what you want, and buy it quickly. The same is true for service-based sites. Regardless of your business, you must create a user experience that is free of obstacles. As a marketer, lean on your website developers to lead the way, but you should be thinking about the customer journey too. When testing the site, make sure it loads quickly (if you are responsible for video content, work with the web team to determine the best placement for videos), check to make sure the links work and follow their paths (remember the fewer the clicks the better), make sure it works well on all devices and web browsers. The more perspectives and eyes on the site, the better.

Implement Tracking and Continue to Monitor the Analytics Almost all of your marketing tactics will link back to your website. Therefore, it is critical that your site is set up to capture the data. One way is to use tracking codes on all of your marketing efforts. Click here to read how to set up tracking codes.

After you complete a marketing tactic, you should review the results within a week (if not sooner) to determine the effectiveness. If it was effective, stay the course, but remember to keep the visuals and copy fresh. If something didn’t perform, determine why and make adjustments.

Get in the habit of reporting your results as it will help keep you accountable and help you focus on raising the bar.

Create Landing Pages for Your Audience Segments
Master marketers know the value in creating personas and then segmenting the data to align with the personas. These marketers know everything about each persona and can use that knowledge to create custom messaging for a specific audience. There are times it makes sense to create landing pages that deliver personalized content to personas. When you take the time to develop curated landing pages for your segments, you are likely to see higher conversion rates.  

Constantly Tweak, Refresh, and Enhance
You have to work hard to keep people interested in your product or service. Your users do not want to see or read the same copy over and over. To keep people interested, be sure to update the copy and the visual content periodically. Just remember to keep the analytical and audit insights in mind when creating new content.

Use Social Listening to Gain Insights
In today’s world, people love sharing their opinions, and there is always those that love to point out even the smallest grammatical error (the beauty of a website is that you can fix inexpensively and quickly). Listen to the feedback. If your copy isn’t translating, if people are confused, or something is triggering them, consider making updates to your site and your messaging. There are powerful social listening tools that look for trends and determine user perspectives.  

Today’s marketers aren’t just responsible for writing engaging copy, they are accountable for the website’s performance. To hit your targets and help the company excel, you need to take into account all of the factors listed above to experience success. Take your website to the next level by becoming familiar with the analytics to ensure you are delivering content that will help your users find the information or inspire they are seeking.

What content tips do you follow when creating your website and content strategy? Leave a comment below.