Today I was doing an interview with someone about being a female leader in marketing and in the staffing industry and was asked an interesting question….what advice today would you give your 24-year old self?
Oh my. Lot’s of advice, much of which is not mentionable on a blog titled “Marketing Meets Motherhood.” As I reflected for a moment on this, I thought a lot about Joe Haynes. Joe was my first boss at Procter & Gamble. He was a Finance Manager when I was a Cost Analyst. Joe taught me a lot, and in reflection was a very influential person in my own journey as a leader.
So, what was the advice I would give 24-year old self? It was one of the lessons that Joe taught me – to be authentic and inquisitive. Joe lived a life of authenticity. From the day that I met him, he was who he was with no apologies. He told me early on to be comfortable in what I know, ask questions about what I don’t, and always be good with either. I wish at many points in my early career that I would have listened to him more. When I finally learned that I should and I could do this, I became more comfortable in my own skin.
It is a lesson that I wish that learned earlier, and often one that I need to remind myself of today. Each time I either succeed or fail at being an authentic leader, and trust me there are both, I think of Joe. We are rarely in touch today, but I imagine Joe, retired from P&G, living a life of authenticity. He may not ever know how influential this was for me, or even that he said it. Joe, I hope that our paths cross again.
One of the things that has been bothering me a lot lately is the perception that our job as a marketer is to “make things look good” or to “come up with a name for catchy name or slogan for something.” Not to say that we don’t and can’t do that, but I hate the fact that often times this is the perception people have of what we do. Counter to this, my view of marketing is as simple as the definition:
the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.
Our job at its core is to sell things. It has a lot more to do with making money through driving profitable revenue than it does with making things look pretty (unless of course making it pretty is what makes it sell). To be good at what we do, you have to think and research what makes people buy something – considering the process, or decision journey, that our consumers use when considering our goods or services within the industry in which we operate. From here, a marketer works hard to come up with marketing tactics to help get our brands, products or services at the top of the consideration set for the buyer and ultimately get them to buy.
So why does the perception exist that we make things look pretty? Why isn’t it common understanding that our goal is to drive sales? We do it to ourselves. I believe that most times this perception exists because we don’t do a good job articulating the goals of our work and being accountable link the ideas we execute to revenue (or admit that they didn’t work if the link doesn’t exist). We as marketers get caught up in the craft, the pure idea, the way it looks, without staying focused on the business impact of these ideas we execute.
Don’t hear me say that the idea and the craft isn’t important. It is the most important thing that we do – produce ideas that drive sales. The best marketing I have seen has been built from a great idea. It has been executed in a way that is compelling visually and in words. It has been executed in a way that drives action from the consumer in a way that drives revenue for the business both in the short-term and the long-term. This intersection of the idea and the result is the craft.
We must commit as marketers to get better at linking what we do to driving sales for our companies. We must talk the language of business growth and link our decisions as much as possible to driving that growth. We must be transparent when things aren’t measurable – and there are many that aren’t. And where they are measurable, we must connect the dots for the teams around us. If we do this well, we will enable creativity within our marketing teams and allow ourselves the time, money and thinking space to come up with the next idea that will build our businesses. And, we will have a lot of fun doing so.
Yesterday, after a long day at work, as I was playing with my kids at the park, this quotation that I found a few months ago came to mind. I found it on a particularly rough day….one where I had been dealing with crazy political issues at work which caused me to stay late and miss most of the evening with my kids. It seemed like I was realizing in real-time that I just couldn’t do it all. That night, I felt ready to fold, ready to give in. I got them to bed and spent a bit of time reading and trying to get my head around what to do next to stop feeling this way. And, I happened upon this quote. One of my personal principles had always been to “reach for the stars”. I have always believed that in doing so, I stretch myself to make the best things happen no matter what hand of cards I have been dealt.
Reading this quote, this was the first time that I had thought about the impact my “reach for the stars” philosophy had on my kids. It helped me to realize that the act of me stretching myself was helping them learn that they could too. Often with our kids Jon and I use the saying “never give up, never give up” to cheer them on when they think that they can’t accomplish something. It is a line straight from “Dora the Explorer”, the most quality television programming we seem to watch these days. Ironic that we say this to our kids, but sometimes feel like we can’t live it ourselves.
This quotation was helpful to remind me during the dark night that I found it, and again yesterday, to keep trying, to keep reaching – to prove to myself and my kids that it is possible to be a good mom, a good leader, a good marketer and a good wife. It doesn’t mean that I am always perfect at any of them, but I promise to always keep “reaching.”