I was a finalist in the business awards recently… <cough> I may have mentioned that one or two times … okay I admit it I mentioned it ‘ad nauseum’ to anyone who would listen! But my ego-boost-bragging aside, I have a ‘proper’ reason for mentioning it now.
During the in-depth interviews that all finalists were put through I was challenged by the judge to say how I managed and motivated the team here and in particular what my response was when the team made mistakes. In mulling over my, hopefully pithy and pertinent, response some words popped into my mind. First one = connected. Second one = discomfort. Let me explain why and how I think this has a message for all ….
The digital marketing industry is a ‘frontier’ business territory. New applications of technology affect our delivery paradigm on an almost weekly basis and across the breadth of the industry there is no one definitive way of doing the job right. It is through the successful application of the knowledge, learning and expertise that is within each employee’s head that High Position delivers its unique selling point. The team know that this is a constant cycle of continuous improvement; that what we are doing today will be better than what we did 6 months ago, and what we will be doing in 6 months’ time will be better again. Instigating a culture of personal pride and accountability is a foundation stone to achieving this improvement ethic. Each of the team is asked to turn their brains on when they arrive at work and leave their egos at the door.
But more than this, we need every one of our clients to “get” this. The best relationships we have with clients are those that are open, truthful and frankly at times uncomfortable. “Uncomfortable?!?” I hear you gasp! Yes! You heard me – uncomfortable! Because we want to push to the root of why we’ve been employed and demand our client to be with us in this process. Uncomfortable because we’re trying to achieve something great and that means we have to question and push… We want to show up, we want to learn about your business and we want to produce inspiring results…we want to analyse the vulnerability of our client’s presence and have a deep desire to create and contribute. But we can’t do this in isolation. The very nature of digital marketing is about connection, the very nature of business is being connected, the very nature of being human is to crave connection….
The fantastic Brene Brown who has had one of the biggest viral successes on TED talks (http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html) about her research into shame and vulnerability puts it succinctly in her book “Daring Greatly”:
“Feedback thrives in cultures where the goal is not “getting comfortable with hard conversations” but where the goal is normalising discomfort. If leaders expect real learning, critical thinking and change, then discomfort should be normalised” and where the leaders regularly say “We believe growth and learning are uncomfortable so it’s going to happen here – you’re going to feel that way. We want you to know that it’s normal and it’s an expectation here. You’re not alone and we ask that you stay open and lean into it”.
She also says “If you own the story you get to write the ending” and is a big fan of Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic” – see below for the relevant paragraph.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails whilst daring greatly….”
So; may I ask what are you waiting for? Reach out through every medium you can to connect with likeminded individuals (a.k.a target market). Don’t be the critic standing on the sidelines dismissing the new channels of communication as irrelevant to business. Leap in and work at producing better content and pushing valid, truthful conversations out across the search and social media networks and work to show a clear manifesto of what you (the brand) stand for and make sure that the partners you choose to work with are similarly focussed on the need for quality, real connection and are happy with feeling uncomfortable!
And in the meantime, here’s a few bullet points to get you started:
- Figure out not just the 1-D view of what your competitors are up to but think about what other inspirational or “natural-fit” companies are doing and how they create and engage with their communities. Be open and acknowledging of what you feel is “wrong” behaviour too so that you can roadmap where you don’t want to go as much as what you do want to do.
- Spend time to analyse the data that your company has – its not just the devil in that detail, it’s enlightenment and business trends too! Go do some number crunching to see what patterns jump out at you. Google’s data (yup, we would say this!) is an extremely rich source that can enable sophisticated targeting of marketing messages on the basis of your most desired customers’ interests and behaviour. The online marketing tools that are available to switched-on marketeers are extremely powerful. Full stop.
- Take a good hard, honest look at yourself. Look at those bits that you’re most proud about – now go and find some people who you trust as being in the same “learning & discomfort is good” mind-set and ask them if they feel the same way about your achievement as you do. Are you right to feel so satisfied and smug? If not, why not?
- Always consider the “so what?” and “why does it matter?” questions. If you can’t answer these satisfactorily in the messages you’re putting out to your market then it’s unlikely that your customers will bother to fill in these gaps for you. This bit is tough and requires discipline to really challenge yourself with – but then the title of this blog does have the word “discomfort” in it. Hell, nobody said that it was going to be easy!
P.S. I didn’t win the Colchester Business Woman of the Year accolade by the way - thanks for asking - but that was not the tragedy that most people assume it to be upon first hearing! And that’s because I got to meet, chat and connect with many more likeminded people than I would have done, and frankly there’s always next year to try again.