Years ago, I discovered a technique for converting every meeting, conversation or interaction into a success-building opportunity. I followed a maxim, taught to me as a child: Everywhere you go, always bring a gift. It had long been a part of my social style, but when I applied this to my business life, success quickly followed.
Whether you are a leader, manager, sales professional or entrepreneur … gifting drives success.
You see, success is not a place you arrive at, but instead, a direction you traverse over your career. That direction is forward, where everyday brings new opportunities and produces incremental progress. During each day, most of us have several interactions with other people: Associates, customers, prospects, partners, suppliers and people we meet in transit or at events. Too often, we treat these transactionally, as opposed to looking at them as opportunities to give to others. If we instead inject a gift into each conversation, we deepen relationships, build our brand and create momentum.
There are two key gifts you can bring to every conversation, and both are intangible (and scalable):
- Knowledge – Look for insert points to share tips, useful reads or helpful perspectives. Be proactive in sharing a new hack you’ve found to solve a common problem. If you’ve read a book that can shift your conversational partner’s thinking for the better, highlight the point, and if he’s interested, unpack the core idea from the book. Whether it’s a small share or a mentor moment, he’ll be enthused about the learning. I’ve found that if I am patient, listen intently and do a little prep work prior to every interaction, there’s always a knowledge sharing opportunity.
- Encouragement – Validation is one of the most powerful psychological gifts we can give to another person. It starts with listening to your conversational partner talk about her most important project, and prodding her to share details about her strategy, efforts and goals. Listen like the person who’s on the receiving end of her efforts, which will turn up your noticing knob. Point out the effective or creative things she’s doing, and then expand on why that’s either important to the project or inspires you. By being sincere, you’ll find that your gift of encouragement provides a real shot in the arm, which only fuels the energy level of the entire encounter.
If you always bring a gift to conversations, you’ll deliver high Return on Attention to others. You’ll find that they value time with you, they want to introduce you to their connections as well. After all, you’ve differentiated yourself from the rest of the pack, which often brings needs, complaints or give-and-takism to their conversations. Besides standing out, you’ll find that in most cases, your gift is reciprocated with helpful advice and encouragement, just when you yourself needed it the most.
Video Clip: Everywhere You Go, Bring a Gift (from his BBST 2015 keynote)
The Power of Teamwork
An Interview with Robyn Benincasa by Speaking.com
With a trio of Guinness World Records to her name, a CNN Hero designation and a world champion Eco-challenge Adventure Racer, few people are better placed than full-time firefighter Robyn Benincasa to talk about Human Synergy, the force which allows ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things. She brings her experience of leadership, teamwork and overcoming adversity to her inspiring presentations.
Since 1995, Robyn has been working with racing teams around the world to take on the most extreme challenges imaginable—from the jungles of Borneo to the Himalayas, from the rain forests of Ecuador to the deserts of Namibia. Racing against time to complete seemingly impossible challenges, Robyn has developed a unique knowledge of what it takes to develop a world-class team and to lead them through challenges and changes to success.
SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the main challenges and opportunities faced today in organizational team building and leadership?
BENINCASA: “We thinking” is probably the most overlooked aspect of team building. Most people think of a team as a group of individuals, moving forward together towards a common goal. But a “we thinking” leader inspires their team to not just walk side by side together, but to literally and figuratively carry one another when they need to. All problems are “ours,” and responsibility for success and failure is shared as one.
For example, when we race, every team at the front of the pack is utilizing tow lines that stretch from the back of a stronger team member’s pack to the chest strap of a team member who is slower at the moment, so that the slower person can be pulled along at a faster pace with less effort, and we can move faster as a team than the four individuals can move alone. We will all be that strong team member and we will all be that weaker team member at some point in the long run, so all egos must be focused on team success versus individual glory.
In our day-to-day life, “we thinking” is manifested in how we choose to lead our lives. Who is on your team? Is it just you? Is it just your family? Is it your clients? Everyone in your company? We all decide every day who is on our team and who is not.
For the most part, if we’re honest, we’re all pretty competitive and we tend to operate as soloists. But “we thinkers” make the conscious and important effort to leave their house every day and see a world full of potential teammates versus a world full of potential competitors. They capitalize on their strengths and barter their weaknesses to their “team”. And in doing so, they get a lot further, faster.
SPEAKING.COM: How do you suggest people embrace team building principles?
BENINCASA: You have to be a part of the right team. If you don’t feel motivated or productive in your team, you may not be in the right team, or in the right role. On a great team, all of the members bring something unique and valuable to the table that they share with the team; on this team, you are absolutely recognized and applauded for your contributions. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be there for very long!
It’s a common misconception that team building is a completely selfless endeavor. But while it is true that a great team member must wrap their ego around the team’s success instead of their own individual glory (egos must be left at the start line–but not confidence!), the whole point of “strategic team building” is to seek out people who have strengths that you don’t possess, and to share your core talents with them. All of this is for mutual gain.
For example, over a few years of ups and downs with teams, I formulated a recipe for success in my sport. The four team members who would travel together, day and night, non-stop for six to ten days had to be great teammates first. I needed two of the team members to be world-class navigators, two to be solid mountain bikers, two to be very strong paddlers, and one had to be a great strategic thinker who was great at interpreting the road rules we were given.
As you can imagine, everyone on the team got to be the hero when it came to their unique strength, and they were recognized and applauded by everyone on the team for their efforts. Then it would be another team member’s time to shine as we switched sports, took care of one another, navigated successfully through the dark of night, etc. We genuinely needed one another and openly appreciated and applauded individual effort, and we were on the podium race after race as a team.
SPEAKING.COM: Can you give us five tips for building human synergy and peak performance?
1. Your ego is the heaviest thing in your backpack, so leave it at the start line.
2. Acting like a team is more important than feeling like a team.
3. We don’t inspire others by showing them how amazing we are; we inspire them by showing them how talented, smart and capable they are.
4. We work for people, not for companies. The best leaders always remember that
5. Great leaders change their leadership style like a golfer changes his clubs. Use the right style for the job: coach, visionary, friend, pacesetter, consensus builder, etc.
SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the key leadership principles leaders should cultivate?
BENINCASA: Be ruled by the hope of success versus the fear of failure!
Are you consistently doing what it takes to win versus simply not losing? It’s a completely different mindset, leading to vastly different outcomes. Fortune favors the bold. Great leaders are shattering the norm, changing the game, and doing things that have never been done in an effort to propel their team to the next level. They are courageous–not only in terms of innovation, but in terms of perseverance: taking step after step, day after day, relentlessly pursuing excellence.
We’ve won many a race not only by slowing down less than the other teams, but also by coming up with some game changing solutions. Once, in a 100-mile whitewater canoeing leg to the finish, my teammate taught me the “be ruled by the hope of success” lesson through some tough love.
We were paddling our whitewater raft near the front of the race on day 6 and every couple of minutes, I looked behind us to see where our closest competitors were. That is, until the teammate sitting behind me grabbed the top of my head, spun it back around to face forward, pointed down the river and said, “Winning is THAT way!”. My other teammate overheard the admonishment and realized my teammate was right. We had to focus on winning versus not losing.
So in the next leg, when race organizers gave each team two separate inflatable canoes, my innovative teammates decided to tie our two canoes together with our climbing rope, end to end, creating one very long, rigid and FAST new boat, powered by every member of the team. We also switched out our canoe paddles (single blades) for kayak paddles (double blades), which was far outside the norm for canoe travel. With those visionary changes, we caught the team that was an hour ahead of us and went on to win the race by 2 hours on that final leg.
In another race, the Borneo Eco-Challenge, we took the lead halfway through the race by turning a proposed ‘hiking leg’ of the race into a swimming leg by jumping into the rising whitewater rapids, generated by a recent flash flood, and swimming for several hours downriver (just yards from the hiking trail). Much of this was in the dark. It was extremely risky, but also cutting-edge cunning. We never looked back, and lead the race all the way from there to the finish line.
We did what it took to win, and not to “not lose”. Leaders need to be working with their teams to build what is needed in innovation and teamwork to beat the competition continuously rather than being satisfied with being ahead of the competition only because the competition isn’t doing anything. Don’t be satisfied with being less than you can be because you’re afraid of failing. Let the need to win because you are the best rule your actions instead.
SPEAKING.COM: What is “kinetic leadership” and how does it help advance teamwork?
BENINCASA: As an example, someone on your team may not be exceptional at face-to-face client meetings, but you discover they have a talent for writing great copy for graphic design, or they’re fantastic with strategy. Keep digging until you find the gold that that person can offer the team. Let them lead based on their strength versus their title.
If at the end of the day this person isn’t cutting it on any level, you have to do the rest of the team justice and move that person off of your team before overall team morale is diminished. That’s another important leadership skill: when to inspire, when to instill tough love, when to coach, when to lay down the law, when to get out front and show your team the way, or when to let them lead… and when to cut bait.
SPEAKING.COM: What are your main professional passions?
BENINCASA: My professional passion is speaking! And I enjoy inspiring others to find the powerful team-builder, teammate, and leader in themselves. I genuinely love connecting with corporate audiences and adventurers on our Project Athena events. I love sharing the incredible winning synergy that we learned while inspiring semi-exhausted people to a nearly impossible finish line for days on end in the sport of adventure racing.
My other professional passion is firefighting! I would love to say that becoming a firefighter was a mission I had as a child, but I was pretty sure I was going to be a garbage person. I really dug the way they hung off the back of the truck.
When I graduated from college with a B.S in Marketing, I worked as a hospital supply and pharmaceutical sales rep for about seven years, but I was still equally drawn to my athletic life. So in 1996 I ditched the panty hose and heels and picked up an application for the San Diego Fire Department. I passed all the tests, but there was an unfortunate three-year hiring freeze.
So I had some fun as a substitute teacher and semi-professional athlete (the nice way to say “lived with roommates or on friend’s couches”), until I got my shot at the fire academy. Being a firefighter allows me to be all of the things I love the most–an athlete, a rescuer, an emergency medical first responder, a teammate, and an adventurer. It’s never the same day twice!
SPEAKING.COM: What other projects are you working on currently?
BENINCASA:I founded Project Athena back in 2009, after my own personal experience battling my body. My mission behind Project Athena started when I was in the middle of the 2007 World Adventure Racing Championship in Scotland. I came to a point where I could no longer move forward on the course without literally picking up my leg and moving it forward. My teammates had to tow me to the finish line.
When I arrived home, I went to an orthopedic surgeon and discovered I had stage 4 osteoarthritis in both hips. I was in complete shock and didn’t want to believe it. That marked the beginning of what is now a total of four hip replacements in four years. (My first two failed). But it didn’t mark an end to my adventurous life. It just sparked a change of sports and a new beginning.
After my first hip replacement, I knew I would get my spirit back by planning new adventures and embracing new sports. Then it occurred to me that other women who have survived setbacks far worse than mine might really benefit from getting outside and inspiring and amazing themselves through adventurous and athletic goals. So for the last 4 years, my team of Athenas (all survivors helping survivors) and I have taken cancer survivors and survivors of other medical or traumatic setbacks and trained them for some incredible endurance adventures, surrounded by a cohesive and supportive team.
Our new Athenas have crossed the Grand Canyon twice on foot, ran a marathon on the Great Wall of China, completed their first triathlons, etc. It’s the best adventure of my life to combine a love of teamwork and inspiration, with elevating the people around us who need it the most.
Vanessa Yurkevich sits down with Robin Crow, owner of renowned Dark Horse Recording Studio, to talk about some of the big names that have passed through his doors. Country, Rock, and Pop singers from all around come to the studio not knowing it may be the start of something big, including rising star Olivia Lane.
Three Ways to Become an Optimist
by Ty Bennett
Last week I spoke at The Million Dollar Round Table in New Orleans, Louisiana. I had a chance to sit in on a few of the other sessions and in one of them I listened to Shawn Achor.
Shawn Achor is a New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Advantage. He is the winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University where he delivered lectures on positive psychology in the most popular class at Harvard. Shawn’s work on happiness and positivity became mainstream when his Ted Talk went viral.
Shawn shared three habits that have been scientifically proven to make you an optimist. These simple habits are powerful enough to counteract your genes, your environment and your habitual pessimistic thinking.
Three Ways To Become An Optimist:
- Take 1 minute every day and vocalize three things that you are grateful for in your life. Make sure each day you come up with a new list. This process will change your focus and your thinking.
- Everyday write an email, text or note to someone where you praise them or thank them for who they are, what they do, or how they have helped you.
- Work out for 20 minutes every day. Studies show that 20 minutes working out is the equivalent to taking and anti-depressant.
These three habits may seem simple but they are scientifically proven to turn you into an optimist.
Your new positivity will affect your life in every area for good
Ty after his standing ovation at one of the MDRT Annual Meeting Sessions
So-called OTT players will struggle along with telecoms operators to sustain success in the long term unless they can think bigger about the full impact of digital disruption.
That was the warning shot fired by ‘futurist’ Michael Walsh (pictured) during his keynote at Amdocs’ APAC summit in Singapore last week.
But the common denominator for both, insisted Walsh, will be finding a new level of customer engagement as the next wave of OTT companies puts pressure on the “incumbents”.
As companies consider embarking on a digital transformation, the least important part of the journey is digital, he argued. “Because what digital transformation really begins and ends with is a deep understanding of the human, who tomorrow’s customer is, what motivates them, what it takes to engage them, and what it takes to keep them.”
Walsh outlined three questions that operators need to address for success in the 21st century. The first is, how to innovate around customer experience? “We’re heard a lot about it, but I think we are still at very early days when it comes to re-imagining what a telco could be for customers.”
The second is, how to enable enterprises to reinvent themselves using tools and communications? And the third is, how to build a truly distributed computing infrastructure platform?
The problem, he pointed out, is that it is very difficult to be good at all three of these things. “But there are companies that are going to be very good at engaging customers, very good at helping enterprises and very good at building infrastructure. But they won’t just be doing it in one market, they will be doing it globally.”
Next move for OTT guys
The traditional OTT app players also are starting to think about the future in a different way. Based on what upstarts like Uber — which just hired the entire robotics team from Carnegie Mellon University — are doing, the first wave of OTT players are falling behind, he claimed.
“In some ways early success in the consumer market is just table stakes; it buys into the game. But the smart applications are playing for a much deeper strategy, as they know to stick around they actually have to go deeper into the core infrastructure that is going to power the future web. And they have got to do that because they are in a race against time.”
For example, market leader Netflix is on target to spend $4.4 billion by 2017 buying content, and 70 per cent of every dollar Spotify earns is paid out to the music labels.
The OTT guys will struggle for the long-term sustainability of their model unless they can think bigger, he said. “The long gain is not about the rise of the OTT apps and whether they are taking away from your voice and messaging revenues. The real gain is whether they can leverage their initial success to dominate the web’s future infrastructure.”
Beyond voice & SMS
A few weeks ago Facebook launched Hello, which he said is an attempt to marry a user’s social graph with their traditional voice system. “It’s caller ID, so when someone calls and you know them on Facebook, it shows all the details from Facebook. But it goes beyond that and allows the user to create special block lists. It adds a layer of intelligence to traditional voice services by leveraging the social graph.”
But Facebook is not doing this because they want to be in voice services, he explained. “It doesn’t see voice as a revenue item, it sees it as an engagement strategy. So it’s important to remember that these new competitors entering your space have a very different motivation and a very different agenda.”
Google’s MVNO in the US is another case. Project Fi is said to be easy to use since its advanced switching technology can dynamically move between T-Mobile and Sprint or WiFi depending on which signal is better.
Walsh asked, is Google doing this because it wants to be in the mobile business or is it for something completely different? “My theory is that what is really driving Google Fi is that Google wants to do for mobile operations what it did with hardware for Android. It wants to build a platform that developers can build on top of to unbundle voice from telephony and messaging from the hardware platform.”
In another example, he said Twilio provides the in-app messaging for services like Airbnb and Uber and has about half a million developers building on top of its platform to bring communication services into apps.
“This is an early glimpse of a world where potentially operators can build networks that can have programmatic access to voice, SMS and instant messaging. The scary thing is that the people doing it have never worked in the telco space previously,” he said.
The Power of Storytelling
In financial services you describe some very complex concepts and you use terminology that most people don’t understand – so metaphors are a way to make your information understandable and transferable.
I started as an entrepreneur when I was 21 years old. And one of the challenges that I faced in getting my business going was establishing credibility with people because of my age—or, more accurately, my lack of age. I tried several different ways to overcome the perception that I was too young to be taken seriously. What ultimately worked best was a metaphor-based story I developed. When I sat down with people who clearly had a bias against me because of my youth, I’d start off by saying, “You know, it’s interesting as I’m talking to you because I know some people look at me and they think what does this guy know about business? He’s young, He’s 21. He really doesn’t have a ton of experience. But you know, I kind of feel like a young Bill Gates.” And when I put it that way, most of the time they would smile and then I’d say, “What I mean is, you know, Bill Gates was 19 years old when he started Microsoft. He dropped out of college and he had this vision, he told everyone that he was going to take computers, which were the size of refrigerators, and he was going to put one in every house in the world. People probably thought he was nuts. Who was this young, naïve entrepreneur?”
Then I’d continue: “Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to change the world, and I’m not saying that I’m going to make as much money as Bill Gates. What I am saying is that I have something here and I know where I’m going with this, and I want you to really sit down and take a look at it. Are you willing to do that?”
That metaphor-based story worked like magic to establish credibility. I compared myself, an unknown entrepreneur, to a known entrepreneur, Bill Gates, and that little story caused people to forget about my age and concentrate on our product. Eventually we ended up building an incredibly successful business.
Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins
Tapping Into Your Team’s Brilliance To Solve the Hardest Sales
By Tim Sanders – Former Yahoo Chief Solutions Officer Tim Sanders has sold over a half a billion dollars of products and services during his career. He’s worked for hard-charging luminaries such as Mark Cuban and weathered multiple acquisitions and mergers along the way.
The bestselling author of Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends unveils a methodology that sales managers and account executives can use to get high-potential deals un-stuck by combining the wisdom and creativity of everyone who has a stake in the sale. There is not a single big idea that saves the account or closes the deal. It’s a matter of organizing the right team for the challenge, then giving them the tools and motivation to create solutions faster than the competition. He’ll reveal the dealstorming methodology that includes creating the Deal Brief, running the meeting and executing on the best of the ideas to move to the next level of the sale.
Selling is getting more complicated: technology is increasingly a part of services, competition from the cloud and the crowd emerges daily, and account penetration won’t always land you the deal. Too many companies are leaving huge, game-changing deals for dead, stuck in their pipeline, the kind of multimillion dollar strategic deals define the success of your sales team and your company.
At the root of the problem, Tim Sanders says, is that too often, strategizing a sale takes place between a sales person and a sales manager in an age old deal-review process, where they return to the same old scripts and frameworks that have let them down in the past. When a deal gets stuck, the standard procedure is to make one more attempt to close, offer better terms, or move on. There’s a better way to close high-potential, high-difficulty deals: through dealstorming.
Dealstorming is the scalable, repeatable process that any B2B sales team can use to find a breakthrough on a high potential sale that has gotten bogged down at some point along the way. By including every person who has a stake in the sale in this highly-structured process, questioning existing assumptions, and channeling the collective experience of the group, sales teams will uncover creative solutions to move along the deal that would be impossible otherwise. In Sanders experience as a sales executive and consultant, this process has led to a stunning 70% close ratio.
Sanders explains how dealstorming works to break a deal deadlock, how to organize a successful dealstorming session and who to include, and how to use your results to push a stuck deal to the next stage of the sales cycle.
Moe Abdou and Lior Arussy discuss how to rise up to the exceptional performance within organizations and as individuals.
Exceptionalizing Your Customer Experience
Have you tried to call your mobile phone provider lately? How about your cable or satellite service? If you have, chances are, you experienced a mechanical operator, long hold times, and a less than satisfactory result. As consumers, we expect those from which we buy to deliver extraordinary service, but because such experiences are so rare, we’ll often settle for anything above average. The puzzling thing, however, is that those same individuals who are delivering such subpar service are themselves consumers; and I’ve often wondered how they’d react if the roles were reversed? I posed that question to a highly respected customer experienced connoisseur and Founder of the customer service consultancy, Strativity Group.
Having dedicated his entire professional career to the study of service excellence, Arussy just revised his customer experience manifesto, to help you transform each of your customer touch points.
Here’s what guides our conversation:
- The first thing your customer will notice about your company
- Why bad customer service is contagious, while exceptional experiences are rarely imitated
- The missing ingredient that’s likely prevent you from exceptionalizing your service
- The ethos at the heart of exceptional service
- The correlation between workplace culture and customer experience
- The price of loyalty
- What distinguishes top-tier content providers
If You Aren’t Using Your Data, It’s Just Taking Up Space | Mike Walsh
The government collects a lot of data.
Tax records, financial transactions, census information, demographic intelligence and a myriad of other data sets on millions of American citizens make the federal government the largest data collector on the planet.
Yet that data does little more than take up space in agencies if it’s not being analyzed to change leadership decision-making or to improve the experience of users and customers. That’s according to Mike Walsh, CEO of Tomorrow, a consultancy and research firm.
The big question is: “How will the rise of the Internet of Things and growth of data change the way we approach decision-making and leadership?” Walsh said, speaking at the Management of Change conference May 18. “In the era where we not only have data but also have it in real time, how will we change our applications, how will that data empower leaders in organizations to make better decisions?”
The use of real-time data to rapidly alter decision-making is poised to help agencies reinvent themselves, Walsh said. That’s already happening in arenas like emergency response, where a single tweet can spring the Federal Emergency Management Agency into action as it responds to disasters.
At the federal level, though, those examples are more the exception than the rule. Still, Walsh cited several examples across other levels of government that highlight the success of real-time data solving real-world problems.
San Francisco, for example, posts the food-inspection scores of restaurants on Yelp to give customers — in this case, tax-paying citizens — additional information when reviewing where to wine and dine. One of the criticisms of Yelp is that restaurants can use a variety of tactics to bolster their review scores. The city of San Francisco, though, realized it’s impossible to fudge a health score.
The city of Arlington, Massachusetts, produces an immersive “visual budget” to its citizens that allows it to “communicate more effectively with stakeholders, users and citizens.” Tax-paying citizens use the budget to catch a glimpse of where their tax dollars are being spent at any given time.
Louisville, Kentucky, collects GPS data to determine where local pollution triggers asthma attacks. This can act both as a warning for those susceptible to asthma to stay away from certain areas but also can help city officials determine a measured response to mitigating pollution spots.
Still, it might be difficult for the federal government to take a clue from local innovators, Walsh said. Culture can be resistant to change, and the larger an organization is, the more likely it is to experience the effects of a negative culture, he said.
Walsh issued an important decree to an audience comprised mostly of federal employees and federally-focused industry personnel.
“Data is only valuable if you can redesign the way government works or redesign the actions of decision-makers,” Walsh said. “If we as leaders don’t use data effectively in what we do, in improving our user experience and our own decision-making powers, we’ll be in trouble.”
The problem with today’s advertising industry is not what they do, but the way they sell what they do. Rather than solving your problems, they pitch fragmented solutions based on their own internal structures.
You know the drill. Creative agencies want you to make expensive TV spots. Graphic design firms recommend that you update your corporate identity and packaging. PR firms suggest a big launch party while digital agencies put together a plan involving micro-sites and a flashy media buyout of high traffic websites. Basically, when faced with your brief, agencies tend to solve for their own channels.
Unfortunately, while agencies might think in channels, customers do not. Today’s consumers are both sophisticated and demanding. They interpret brand signals from a wide variety of sources, and expect consistent treatment regardless of the platform they are using. Winning their attention is an exercise in problem solving, not ticking the boxes.
I met Johnny Vulkan a number of years ago, when we were both speaking at a conference in Oslo together. His agency, Anomaly, has attracted some of the biggest clients in the world including P&G and Google based on their unique approach. Although they don’t call themselves an ad agency, they conceived and produced the most popular Super Bowl ad two years in a row. They are not a design company, and yet they designed the number one lip balm in the U.S. They are also not a broadcast media company, but they have won awards for the cooking show they produce.
In Vulkan’s view, what makes Anomaly successful is not what they do, but how they approach their work. When they start working with a client, their first goal is to clearly identify and articulate their problem. Carl Johnson, one of Anomaly’s other founders cites Charles Kettering as inspiration, the famed inventor and head of research for GM, who said, “A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.” Once the real marketing issue has been identified, the Anomaly team is able to select the right set of tools, people and platforms most relevant to fixing it. If the right answer is better packaging, then that is what the team does – even if making a TV commercial might have meant more fees.
As CMOs become more sophisticated in the way they buy marketing services, it is not just individual agencies that will need to adapt their approach, but also entire marketing networks.
I recently joined the board of The North Alliance (NOA), a collection of marketing companies that originated in Scandinavia but has since established a global footprint. NOA was founded by Thomas Hogebol, a former head of McCann Worldgroup in the Nordics. Backed by private equity, the management group acquired the best creative and digital agencies from Stockholm to Copenhagen, Oslo to Warsaw – combined with an engagement model that allowed clients to tailor-make a dream team of problem solvers from a diverse talent pool, whilst retaining regional scale.
One of NOA’s first regional clients was Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), the leading airline in the Nordics. SAS were facing growing competition in its market from low cost carriers. Like many brands, much of its communication was traditional – not just in choice of channel, but also in the style of messaging. When it spoke to customers, it picked concepts it believed were important to travellers—price, reliability and the speed of its fast-track service. Interestingly, once the NOA team started analyzing the issue, it became clear that people were willing to pay a premium for their travel tickets –not because the service was efficient, but because they wanted to be part of a community, to feel the joy of travelling and share those experiences with other people. Acting on this insight presented its own challenges. Clever creative was not enough. To enhance SAS’s community platform would require fundamental changes to commercial strategy, the loyalty program and the underlying technology infrastructure. Hence, a very different type of agency engagement model.
CMOs face the paradox of actionability daily.
They have the clearest visibility of the customer’s unmet needs. However, acting on those insights requires big changes, both in the design of their own teams, as well as the way they work with external agencies.
As Hogebol puts it, “CMOs may have larger IT budgets than the CIOs in the future, but they will also need fewer partners that understand more. The best place for CMOs to start is by clearly defining what their real problems are, agnostic of media and channels. From that perspective, they can direct their energy and investments on exactly the ideas most likely to transform their business.”
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