How to think and act like a marketing leader

84875202No long walks on the beach for leaders

Recently, a client asked what other companies are doing to differentiate their leadership and experience messaging beyond the usual “we’ve been in business for xx years, are an industry leader …”, etc. It’s a good question, as it’s easy to get trapped in your existing company rhetoric and hard to look at your own brand with a fresh eye. Yet it’s ever more important.

Take for example Josh Klein’s article, Features of a blog worth caring about, where he describes the importance of the About Us page. Who would’ve thought that this page, a mere footnote on most websites, would command so much attention? Yet today, as everyone is trying to encourage everyone else to read their blog and join their social network (just call it today’s CRM, if that helps), you have to give people a reason to care and tell them why you’re worth listening to.

That means, if you’re a leader, you need to show it, not just say it. This may seem like common sense but it’s easily forgotten in the long list of to-do’s on most people’s plates. (Don’t feel bad. Look at how many politicians and executives seem to forget it.)

So here are a couple of quick case studies showing how I helped clients differentiate their leadership messaging.

I recently worked with a major health care brand to conceptualize, develop and launch a campaign, a social networking site for people in their late 50s/early 60s who are about to be or are newly retired. The approach is to offer this audience a place to share common interests, connect, ask questions of experts, and generally socialize with peers who are facing the same time-of-life issues they are–namely retirement planning in these heady times. This is not a get-rich quick scheme. It’s taking the long view. They know that if they make the investment in time and resources to give potential customers a place to be heard and “pay it forward” with support and concrete advice, those people are likely to think of them as leaders in the industry, and eventually put their dollars where their socializing is.

To that end, I crafted their message and philosophy for their About Us page to align with the spirit of the network. Interestingly, if you look at the page, there are way more references to “you” than “us” because ultimately, that’s what the site is about: you the user and how we can help you, not us the brand and how long we’ve been around. Here, the brand is a supporting player. (Of course, it helps that they are a big-name brand with easy recognition but take this for what it’s worth, no matter your size.)

Likewise, last year, when Blue Shield of California was creating a direct marketing effort to the senior community, I recommended they explore bringing their foundation to the forefront, as there was a component of it that focused on initiatives in aging. This came from two things directly out of their creative brief. First, that consumers were confused about what Blue Shield’s non-profit status meant. And second, that Blue Shield needed to differentiate itself in California to seniors–a market where it’s facing increased competition. So I did what any good writer does. A little research. Lo and behold, one of the Blue Shield Foundation’s initiatives was best use of technology by seniors as a way to increase their ability to live independently. It was an excellent way to highlight Blue Shield’s non-profit status by showing where the money goes and make it a benefit, and leadership differentiator, to seniors.

As I said, it’s not easy to look at your brand history anew. But as I told my cousin, who just posted his first online dating ad, the goal is to paint a picture of yourself that’s different than the other guys, but that is still you. Then you’ll have better luck getting a response from someone who you’d find interesting also, or in the case of a brand, is likely to be or become a customer.

Take a look at your company, its history, passions, philosophy, initiatives, team, charitable contributions, what have you. I’m sure you’ve got more in your arsenal than just “likes long walks on the beach”.