My new routine – read | write | render

I’m trying to get in the habit of reading and writing on a daily basis. I’m also a visual thinker. I internalize the stuff I read and write better by putting it in pictures be it a powerpoint slide, flowchart, graph, illustration, or simply scribbling in a notebook. Hence a new habit or routine is starting to take hold:

read-write-render

Case is point, my most recent weekend read was The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I loved this book.  Maybe because the message was so simple. Maybe because in this day and age it’s so applicable.  Probably because it struck a personal chord and I felt compelled enough to render a visual reminder that sits on my desk at home.

The whats, hows and whys that matter most

The first quarter of 2020 has come to a close and needless to say, our world has been turned upside down.  I took the time this week to reflect on the first three months of 2020 as part of my normal routine assessing where I am so far this year relative to my three words, focus areas and goals – my whats, hows and whys.

The Whats
I’m a believer in Chris Brogan’s 3 Words – what are the guiding principles that center me for the year.  In past years, I had words like: Create,Move,Matter and Adventure, Celebrate,Remodel.  No matter what I set out to do, or what opportunities arise or spontaneous ideas I have – do they align to my whats? This year I landed on:

  • Build: Build a routine. Build opportunities. Build something new.
  • Brand: Compassion over fear. Simple over strict. Help over hype.
  • Balance: Time all the work versus work all the time. Dates matter.

The Hows
Nearly everything I set out to do in living my three words, I broke down into three focus areas.  Since starting the Full Focus Planner 3 years ago, these are probably the most fluid. Originally, I had five: family, finish, fitness, fame, finance. Five was too many, so I went to four: health, home, wonder, work.  Year 3, I consolidated down to three:

  • Heart & Home: How I am present.
  • Mynd & Body: How I am healthy.
  • Work & Wonder: How I am growing.

The Whys
The whys are my goals – the evidence, the why I am present, healthy and growing. Why do I believe that? My whys were everything from the normal end of year weight goal to miles on the bike, miles walked, books read, acts of charity, volunteer hours, etc. to the new family experiences, new connections, resurrecting connections with old friends. 2020 was the year I felt like I finally found full focus. I had built the perfect system and was establishing the ideal routine to make the most out of every day, week, month.

Then our world turned upside down.  What feels like overnight – probably because it was literally overnight, my routine broke down.  For one, like most of us, I now work from home full-time. Sure, I WFH’d every once in awhile, but not always and the clear lines between being present@work and being present@home got really blurry.  I must have read dozens of articles with all kinds of advice on WFH. Everything from carving out a dedicated space (mine is in my basement), to changing scenery (aka seeing the sun), to making sure I get up and go for a walk (stand, move, reboot the brain), but something was still missing – granted, it’s only been three weeks, I should give myself some latitude.

Upon my Q1 reflection, it hit me.  It’s all about the whys.  As Simon Sinek would say, “start with why.” So I did.  Part of the journey that was March 2020 involved a lot of reading and one piece that still resonates with me is an article written by McKinsey consulting. – “The path to the next normal” – that talks about the process nearly every business will go through over the course of the next year. They break the process down into five phases: Resolve, Resilience, Return, Re-imagination, and Reform (I probably like it because of the alliteration, and I’m a sucker for phases, pillars, frameworks, structures).

I started thinking about how these five phases relate to my own journey and my 2020 goals. Looking back, January really started with re-imagination – a new year, a fresh start, new words, focus areas, goals. Then COVID-19 and in a day, I was thrust backwards into resolve mode. What do I need to do to keep my family safe, myself, my team. What about my parents who are in there 70s?  I had to find the resolve to adjust to something that has not happened in over a hundred years.

Today, there is so much uncertainty, fear, anxiety, I find myself focused on resilience.  Resilience came in changes to my routine –  family walks, meals, together-time. Like many families, we started going through bins and boxes of stuff in the basement and in the process of “minimalizing,” we took trips down memory lane – those family experiences I talked about earlier. The girls’ artwork from kindergarten to high-school, old greeting cards from loved ones, pictures, postcards, sports memorabilia.

Then an epiphany.  “My” became “Our” – my 3 words became our 3 words. My focus areas became our focus areas.  My personal goals were shifting to our shared goals. From this experience, we started setting new goals – new Whys.  Go on a trip down memory lane every week (we have a lot of bins and boxes to go through). Finish painting the room we haven’t touched since my older daughter went to college.  Exercise everyday albeit at the same time, but different forms – my wife runs and I prefer the bike.

Like many of you, we are still figuring it out.  We are taking the time to figure out our the new normal and reimagining what McKinsey calls the “next normal” just might look like. Perhaps at the end of this shared journey, we will have been reformed in some small ways, some big ways and have become focused on the whats, hows and whys that matters most.

At least, that’s our goal.

A lot less hype and a lot more humanity-please.

 

Three principles that are just good practice when it comes to the buyer experience:
Be compassionate, be succinct, be helpful. This have never been more true, more relevant, more needed.

Compassion not Fear:

Buyers no matter the industry don’t need more fear – especially security buyers (the industry we operate in). Think about the security industry and the security buyer. Their work is rooted in risk, threat and vulnerability, so by nature, they operate in fear 24 x 7 x 365.  Today, arguably this is true for all buyers.  Security leaders often say say they are “always on”  and feel personally responsible when something goes awry. So, why in the heck would messaging rooted in fear ever work with these buyers? Until we as marketers walk in their shoes, we have no right fear mongering.  Show some damn compassion for what they are dealing with on a daily, hourly, minute by minute basis.  In the end, they really don’t have time for us which brings we to our second principle.

Succinct not Sermon:

This is nothing new, yet we in marketing are guilty of this all of the time.  We have all sent those 3 to 4 paragraph emails and pushed the 1500 word blog posts and content pieces that we are so proud of and want to believe buyers have the time to read ( guilty as charged – I promise to keep this post to less than 500 words). Cut to the chase people – please. Stop spending 2 paragraphs (or 2  minutes) selling the problem and loading buyers up with shocking stats and another 2 paragraphs (or minutes) on the pitch. Buyers are thinking “why are you calling” me and “what can you do to help me right now?” This brings me to our third point.

Help not Hype:

This one is should be a no brainer.  Stop the marketing hype and just talk about what you are doing to help your buyer.  It doesn’t even have to be rooted in the product or service you deliver.  Simple tweaks to the buying process and the customer experience are helpful.  It’s less about how great we feel about ourselves and more about how our buyers feel about themselves. Be compassionate about where they need help, be succinct in how we can help them, and then just help them.  There’s no hype in that.  It’s called humanity.

Marketing amidst mass corporate culture shifts – it’s a two way street

2019 CEO studies by PwC, Deloitte, McKinsey, Gartner, Forrester, IDC –they all say the same thing:
digital business remains the CEO’s #1 priority.

In a recent study, PwC asked CEOs to grade themselves on the company’s use of data to drive digital business initiatives. They compared how CEO’s responded based on two factors: comprehensiveness and criticality. How comprehensive is the data the organization collects and analyzes versus how important or critical is that data to digital business success, the 5 biggest gaps CEO’s believe they have:

  1. Data on customer needs: Are customers happy?
  2. Data on brand reputation: Are we trusted and respected?
  3. Data to compare against industry peers: Are we unique?
  4. Data on risk exposure: Are we safe?
  5. Data on employee needs: Are employees engaged?

To best answer these questions, we explored what CEO’s believe enables digital business success, and it came down to three: data, technology and talent. Given these are the top 3 digital business enablers, we looked to see if CEOs are putting money where their mouth is relative to these enablers – where is more of the new money going?

  • Data: 77% of the new money is to close the comprehensive vs critical gaps we discussed above.
  • Technology: 74% of the new money is going towards technology to help drive workforce productivity and efficiency – to make the workforce more performance minded.
  • Talent: 64% of the new money is going towards changing the culture to be more data centric and move faster.

The one thing about digital capabilities and information technology spend…it’s worth nothing unless your people and your culture embrace the change.

The 10,000 foot view

80% of enterprises will change their culture by 2021 as a way to accelerate their digital business strategy. 89% of CEO feel that culture directly impacts the bottom-line metrics of the organization

Baby boomers are retiring. GenXers are climbing the ranks. GenY & GenZ now make up 59% of the global workforce. Corporate cultures are shifting because they have to.  The cultures of the past are not made for such a diverse, digital, mobile and collaborative workforce. No wonder CEO’s say talent management is a top digital business enabler. At the same time, no wonder more employees in the US changed jobs in 2018 than ever before – 40 Million of them according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s safe to say that culture has a huge impact on job satisfaction. A recent Gartner study found that the number of employees regretting their job decision increased nearly 50% over the past decade

So, who owns culture?

Ultimately, the CEO owns the culture, but when it comes to making culture change happen, they look to the CHRO (People) and the CIO (Technology). Not surprising, considering talent and technology are 2 of the top 3 digital business enablers. Corporate Executive Board’s Future of Work 2019 study found when it comes to driving employee engagement and growth, technology is the number one lever to pull – more than skill development or rewards and recognition.

73% of human resources leaders believe that significantly changing the technologies employees use for work will drive better engagement & enable growth. 

This not only aligns to the CEO’s digital business enablers and investment priorities, it also aligns to what 88% of CEO’s stress the CIO’s top priority is – increasing employee productivity and organizational efficiency. In other words, being performance driven. This is evidenced by Gartner’s projection that 70% of CIO’s will have invested in some sort of employee collaboration platform by 2021. No doubt, technology is where CIO’s and CHRO’s find common ground. This is why many CEOs anoint them the agents of change and task them with building a collaborative culture.

Collaboration cultures drive results.

According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2019, nearly one-third of organizations have adopted a collaborative culture. When asked: How much work is done in teams vs. hierarchical functional lines? 31% of companies said most if not all work is done collaboratively in teams. And, thus far over half (53%) of the companies that have built collaborative cultures have seen significant results relative to bottom line metrics around innovation, recruiting and retaining talent, customer experience, strategic initiatives, growth targets, and revenue and profits.

Right now my head’s spinning from stat-overload, so let’s recap.

  • CEOs say digital business is the priority
  • CEOs recognize they have gaps in digital maturity
  • CEOs invest “new money” in digital capabilities, technology and culture
  • CEOs anoint CIOs & CHROs the drivers of culture change
  • CIOs & CHROs see technology as their primary path
  • CIOs and CHROs build a collaborative culture
  • Collaborative cultures drive results
So what does all of this mean for marketing? It’s a two-way street

I go back to the original digital business gaps: Are customers happy? Are we trusted and respected? Are we unique? Are we safe? Are employees engaged? These very questions are at the core of our market[ing] research

 

At the 10,000 foot view, our mission is to tell a company story through our go-to-market that sparks interest. In order to do this, we need to answer one simple question: are we trusted and respected? If our customer’s mission is to build a collaborative culture, then are we living up to their needs as a trusted and respected brand that enables said culture?  At the same time, are we enabling their brand to be trusted and respected.

At the 100 foot view, our mission revolves around customer success and optimizing their experience with us in order to build an army of advocates. Answering the simple question “are customers happy?” is the basis for our research.  If our customer’s culture is rooted in productivity and efficiency, is the customer experience we deliver actually productive and efficient – for them?

The 1000 foot view

Where the rubber meets the road is square in the middle of our research aperture – the 1000 foot view. Enabling digital business cannot start and stop with being a trusted and respected brand and knowing if our customers are happy.  The path from customer needs to brand and back again travels through the buyer. The product story we tell is all about enabling the buyer and giving them reasons to engage with us. Here we center our research on the levers we can pull (data, technology, talent) that not only help buyers be unique, safe and engaged, but prove that our product is unique, safe and that our employees across the organization help our buyer answer these questions. Again, it’s a two-way street. Yes, we as a vendor want to be differentiated and deliver value to our buyers, but at the same time, our buyers want to feel they are delivering differentiation and value to the employee base and customers they serve.

If we fail answering these very questions (Are customers happy | Are we trusted and respected | Are we unique | Are we safe | Are employees engaged), and fail at enabling our buyers to answer these questions inside their own organizations, then we both fail being a trusted and respected brand.  And if that happens, neither of our customers will ever be truly happy.

Market vs. Market[ing] research: striking the right balance

When it comes to market research projects, what is the optimal research mix?
Too many companies do market research for market research sake. There must be a clear focus for the research and it must support business objectives. One thing we learned as a market research and product marketing team is striking the optimal balance comes down to three words: clarity, conviction and confidence.

Clarity comes when the research we do consistently points us to the same market problem and the market opportunity to solve it.  Conviction comes when we know we have effectively identified and defined our target buyers making up the buying committee and mapped the buyers’ journey.  Confidence comes when patterns emerge in our customer data that paint a clear picture of our ideal customer profile, and our buyers’ ideal customer experience.

We break our market research projects and priorities down by what we call our research aperture:

  • Clarity – 10000 foot view:  Our vision for this stage is to define the market problem and business needs. Here we look at big macro market trends. In our world it’s stuff like digital transformation, generation shifts in the workforce, the gig economy and associated increases in employee turnover.  We look at how these macro trends impact IT and Security priorities at the C-level and thus technology budgets and spend.
  • Conviction – 1000 foot view:  Our vision for this stage is to identify our ideal target personae and their pains. We focus on identifying the target decision makers, influencers and motivators that make up our buying committee and their challenges. We then map the buyers journey and identify the role each member plays at each stage of the journey and the information they need to move from one stage to the next. What we end up with is a fully baked buyer enablement map that shapes our content strategy.
  • Confidence – 100 foot view: Our vision for this stage is define our ideal customer profile. Here we rely most on voice of customer data. This is the aperture where we map the ideal customer journey from purchase to on-board to education to adoption and usage to advisory and advocacy. We do countless customer interviews and look for data patterns identifying opportunities to optimize the customer experience at every stage of the journey. Optimize the customer journey and we optimize retention, expansion and ultimately build and army of customer advocates.

Here is a general breakdown of the approach:

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When it comes to striking the right balance, it depends on where you are in your go-to-market maturity relative to your aperture (market, buyer, customer).  We found that most of our 10000 foot view macro-level market research activities are baked.  We know our company story and direction – we have clarity.

Today, it’s more about building conviction and confidence and prioritizing the 1000 and below aperture.   The beauty of the 1000 and 100 foot views is that they are highly actionable and have the ability to drive immediate results. We have moved from market research to market[ing] research with two clear objectives and goals:

  • Buyer Insights – The 1000 foot view:  Focus our research on enhancing the product story and optimizing how we enable the buyer to move through their journey. It’s all about engagement. What messages work, what content, in what formats through what vehicles. Are we providing the information they need to continue to engage and move through their buyers journey?  We do this in close partnership and collaboration with our digital demand and field marketing teams.
  • Customer Insights – The 100 foot view:  Focus our research wholly on customer success with the goal to optimize the customer experience and their journey from purchase to advocacy. Very similar to buyer insights, customer insights focus on answering many of the same questions: what messages work, what content, in what formats through what vehicles. Are we providing the information customers need to  move through the customer journey?  We do this research in close partnership and collaboration with our customer marketing and customer experience teams.

In the end, our research mix came down to the level of clarity, confidence and conviction we have in the market problem, the target buyer personae and their pains and our ideal customer profile.  We’ve spent the last 12+ months doing the work and we’ve checked those boxes.  How do we know?  The business objectives and goals for the year tell us we are ready.   So, now it’s time to shift our mix and start focusing on research that helps the sales, marketing, customer experience and product teams deliver results.  That’s where the fun is…research that drives results – go figure.