April 05, 2016

Two Opposing Points Of View

Two opposing points of view, as communicated to me at the VT/NH conference last week.

POV #1:  Your ideas are great, but nobody is going to listen to me when I take your ideas back to my company. Merchants don't care. Creative doesn't care. IT will never do what we ask them to do. And our Executive Team never changes. It's fun to get away from work, it's fun to daydream about what could be. But none of it matters when I get back to the office and nobody listens to me.

POV #2:  Our business hasn't grown in ten years. When we have a good year, it is a +5% year. When we have a bad year, it is a -10% year. Our merchandise is great, our creative is "on brand". Our marketing team simply does a poor job of getting the message out. How do I inspire my marketing team to be great?

You probably already figured this out.
  • POV #1 comes from a Marketing Director.
  • POV #2 comes from an Executive.
There are two ways that we grow.
  1. Customers love our merchandise so much that they buy more of it.
  2. We find new customers to buy our merchandise.
So let's say we have the Executive in POV #2. She is 57 years old. She's been in the industry for at least thirty years. She is within ten years of retirement. She wants the big payday that all of her peers in the e-commerce world got ... she wants to head into retirement with five million dollars in the bank and a mini-documentary on "Good Morning Rhode Island" outlining her brilliant career ... "she's the Steve Jobs of Woonsocket".

What is the Marketing Director in POV #1 doing to help the Executive achieve her dreams?

I know, I know, you find it repugnant that the Executive in POV #2 wants to head to the exits with cash and TV exposure.

Is it possible that you can help the Executive achieve her dreams? Absolutely.

Is it fair that she will leave with cash and a mini-documentary while you get to keep your job? Of course not!

But you want change to happen. You want your company to be successful in five years.

You do not need permission to make change happen.

Start your own cross-functional team. Pick a Manager/Director from Merchandising, from Creative, from Operations, from Information Technology. Tell them you need their help finding new customers. Set up one hour meetings every other week ... every other Wednesday at 3:30pm (this prevents 2pm-3pm meetings from running over and crippling your meeting and prevents people from leaving early and ignoring you for 4pm meetings and provides incentive for people to go home early after your meeting ... you'll be loved for this, trust me).

At the start of each meeting, outline how many new customers you acquired in the past two weeks, vs. plan and vs. last year.

At the start of each meeting, clearly communicate to every person on your hand-picked team what happens to the business if you consistently increase new customer counts by 20% vs. plan. In other words, show the Merchant how her bonus grows when she helps you find new customers. Show the IT staffer who says your projects are 214th in priority how the Merchant will not get a bonus if the IT staffer does not perform your work. Show the Creative staffer how new customers on Pinterest share beautiful imagery.

In other words, do the hard work to demonstrate to your cross-functional co-workers how new customers cause your cross-functional co-workers to be successful.

Then pick out a dozen items that new customers love.

Share those items with the team.

Share how those items are displayed creatively.

Share how you would like to promote these items on the website, in social media, in email campaigns.

Share how many new customers the team will acquire if they work hard to help you promote these items.

Share how your competition promotes comparable items.

Ask your hand-chosen team what they think is a reasonable marketing approach for your brand?

At this point, see if your team is willing to self-mobilize to promote the items. If they are, then you are quickly learning that you are making change happen. Yes ... you!

But if the team stares at you, blankly, then it is clear that your message is not resonating with them. Change the message. Find out what it is that motivates the members of your hand-picked team, and then align customer acquisition efforts with team motivations.

If your tactics don't work, and you cannot make change happen, consider working at a different company - a company receptive to change.

If you need Executive permission to do anything, consider working at a different company - a company receptive to change.

But why not start humbly. Hand-pick your own team of merchants, creatives, information technology folks, website operations, you name it. Grow your business without permission. You may soon find that your Executive Team is paying attention to you because you are so successful. At minimum, you are likely to grow new customer counts solely because you care more than the average employee.