Marketing Insider Group founder Michael Brenner knows about marketing. He's a long-time consultant and the best-selling author of The Content Formula, and he often facilitates MarketingProfs' own "Content Rules" workshop. He also knows about leadership, having held 50+ jobs over the course of his storied career.
I invited Michael to Marketing Smarts to talk about employee marketing. Not just employee advocacy, but hiring and managing differently in order to cultivate innovation in your marketing organization.
Along the way, we'll also discuss his approach to content marketing and how companies can tap into their employees' creativity and passion for topics that might or might not relate to the brand's core products and services. (You can also hear Michael speak at the MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum 2017!)
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
Create a culture that respects employees' ideas (09:06): "I had this theory that innovation comes from happy employees—that happy, engaged employees are the ones that drive the kinds of innovation that separates successful companies. You can't create innovation.... [Innovation happens] only when you have a culture that supports the ideas of individuals.
"If you think about what companies do, we interview and we look for employees that came from the greatest schools with the highest GPAs. We're looking for the smartest, brightest people and then we bring them on board and just tell them what to do instead of actually harnessing the creativity and intelligence that we screened for in the first place....
"The theory that I had was that cultures that champion the ideas of their employees have higher rates of engagement and satisfaction from the employee base and that leads to greater amounts of innovation, creativity, and business success—hard, quantifiable metrics. So I did some research, and sure enough the correlation was 100%.
"Where there's an organization where the employees feel their ideas are supported, those employees are happier and those companies are seen as more innovative. Those innovative companies have greater success to the tune of 300-400% higher valuations in the stock market. So the correlation is clear."
Stop micromanaging. Seriously! (11:15): "The natural instinct of the business is to want to promote itself. The natural instinct of the employee is to want to do what he or she is told by the boss. So if the boss is told to promote the company and the marketing organization gets the directive 'go figure out ways to promote the organization.' So what do we do in marketing? We promote.
"Marketing has a marketing problem. If you ask most people what marketing is, they'll tell you it's ads. Marketing is so much more than just advertising, but we consider marketing just advertising because that's what our bosses tell us to do, and as consumers that's the experience we have with brands, [it's] in the form of advertising.
The natural instinct of the business is to want to promote itself. The natural instinct of a manager is to tell people what to do. And the natural instinct of an employee is to do what they're told. The 'champion leader' concept is an attempt to break that chain of natural instincts for the reason that happy employees means happier customers and happier stockholders."
To achieve marketing and business success, cultivate 'champion leaders' within your organization (13:35): "A champion leader is someone who bridges the gap between the thing that we get asked to do inside our teams (and that's...to promote if we're in marketing), and the things that actually work. The things that actually work are generally the innovative ideas coming from the employees who are closest to the customer.
"I call this the 'bullseye organization.' A 'bullseye organization' is—in everything they do— asking...'what's in it for the customer?' 'Should I throw our logo onto the side of a stadium? What's in it for the customer?' Really not too much.... When I go to Wells Fargo Stadium, there's not a lot of value that I'm getting from Wells Fargo because their name is on the side of the stadium.
"Now if Wells Fargo created an article for me on how I can save for my child's college tuition, that's some value and I have a better impression of Wells Fargo as a brand when they do that. We need to create these kinds of 'bullseye organizations' that ask what's in it for the customer."
Michael and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
This episode brought to you by FullContact:
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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.