Leadership doesn’t mean being out in front

Illustration of confident handsome young businessman standing with arms folded with superhero shadow concept

The Hero Leader

The image of a leader is often an individual out front.  Leaders lead.  I agree with this.  What I do not agree with is the image of the superhero leader. I believe leadership is more about soft qualities such as courage, discipline, patience, perseverance, consensus building, listening, coaching and consistency; as opposed to “hero” qualities of decisiveness, being a visionary and having an unwavering resolve.  To be clear, I think the “hero” qualities are needed to be an effective leader, but without soft qualities the leader would charge off in a direction decisively, full of vision and resolve. The leader would most likely just be going for a walk by themselves.

Soft qualities are the day to day leadership actions. To start discussions, sometimes leaders need to go first to show it’s OK. Leaders need to start on tasks that no one wants to do.  They need to lead by facilitating consensus and uniting the team in a clear direction, as opposed to telling their people the definitive detailed direction. At times they need to ask for help and admit they do not have all the answers. They need to facilitate an environment of trust so their teams feel secure enough to put themselves out of their comfort zones, where their best work will happen.

Leaders need to exhibit these qualities consistently, day after day.  For the leader, that means checking their ego at the door, really listening to their team and encouraging team members privately and publicly.  They must let others lead, giving advice only when needed so it’s supportive, instead of critical, advice. Most of all, leaders need to genuinely care about their team.

The most important leadership skills are the ones that are rarely seen but are felt the deepest by individual members.  Leadership is more about doing the little things behind the scenes day after day, not just grand gestures. There will be times when all leaders give a rousing speech and set a bold direction.  But that should be the exception, not the norm.

Leaders lead, but often from the rear.

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Can company values be more than just words?

Core-Values-with-Lightbulb-1024x673I was at a vendor meeting last week.  I was explaining to the two people in the meeting room how our advertising needs to be more than just call to action, the message needs to be 100% on brand, it has to integrate with our event boxes, running an ad one day late into next month or starting a day late is unacceptable because it reflects poorly on our organization.  What I was doing was getting them to understand our value: Make Things Better.  I told them this and one of them smiled and then commented. “You are quoting your company values and I do not even know ours, even though they are printed on our walls.”

When I walked into the building I had noticed (it is almost impossible not to notice) in the middle of a wall boldly displayed in a stylized font: Company Mission …to act with integrity…the list went on.  So I asked the two in the meeting “Even though you walk past that big loud display every day, you do not know your values?”  One of them replied “Well there is something about integrity in it”.

I love literature and the lessons about humanity it teaches.   This conversation made me think of the rogue knight Falstaff in the Shakespeare play King Henry IV Part 1 Act 5 Scene 1   “What is honour? A word. What is the word honour?…Air”

To those two I was in the meeting with and I would argue to most people at most organizations, the mission, values, fundamentals, whatever you call a bunch of words which are supposed to guide the behavior of the organization and its people; this bunch of words on the wall are just words, which is just air.  They mean nothing.

 So how can you bring values to life?  Can they be more than just words?

I believe so and I would recommend reading Fundamentally Different by David J. Friedman.  It has reinforced the principle of rituals to me. David argues that through teaching rituals you can bring your values to life.

Every week I have a ritual; I write a real story about one of Flaman Group of Companies values.  I write these stories to bring to life our company values by showcasing the behaviour we want the values to represent.  An organization’s culture is not the words on the wall it is the behaviour the organization accepts of its staff.

I also believe if you want to change the way your teams treat their customers, conduct their work, clean or do not clean their work space, it will be up to you and your leadership team to define,  to be examples and hold  your staff accountable to the standards you wish to see.  To quote Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change that you wish to see…”

 Values are a funny thing. They only endure as long as they are taught, supported and reinforced. Thus I write weekly stories as a sounding board of who we are, who we can become and what is expected of our behaviour.  I also believe that if the Flaman leadership team becomes this change we wish to see; our values will have faces for the rest of organization to aspire to and our values will be so much more than:  What is Making things better? Words. What are words?…Air.

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The Customer Journey

As I look at the retail landscape I see retail failing to meet customer expectations.  The reasons are many: the customer can now educate themselves better than most in store representatives.  The retail store is limited by the brands they offer versus the brand that a customer may want. The store in of itself is inconvenient, you have to travel to a location on your own time often off route. Layer on top of this average customer service at best it is easy to understand why customers are trying to go direct to brand or  heading to e-commerce  in ever increasing numbers.

So what is retail to do? I believe the highest value of retail must be to focus on the customer.  And that means doing what is best for the customer in every interaction.  Seems simple right?

It is simple for one person with the right mindset to understand and execute upon but most organization have multiple team members and multiple locations. With organizational diversity, doing what is the best for the customer can take on multiple definitions with multiple outcomes. Consistency becomes an issue. I believe the only way to create consistency is to map out the customer journey and define the customer outcome you want for each customer touchpoint.  Each of these touch points should be viewed as “a moment of truth”  for meeting the desired customer expectation.

So what is the customer journey?  Broad definition: all the interactions or touch points a customer has with a brand during the purchase experience. Starting with the first awareness of need for a product or service to the completion of the transaction and after service element.  While this is often portrayed as linear (and it certainly can be with transactional customers) with relationship customers this can be a continuous loop as opposed to a linear journey.  I believe focus on this journey by every member of an organizations team is the single most important thing a company can do.

When I put this in context for Flaman Group of Companies, every “touch” is a moment of truth for the customer in their journey, either making the customer experience with Flaman better or worse.  When a customer sees an ad, that is a moment of truth; when they drive by a store and look at an organized or disorganized yard, that is a moment of truth; when they walk in to a clean or dirty dealership, that is a moment truth; when they are greeted or not greeted at the door, when they call the store, when they send an email, when they talk to sales, parts, rentals, service, shipping or a driver on a forklift, that is a moment of truth; when they pick up their unit and are helped with hook up for a rental auger, trailer or are helped out to their vehicle with a part or a treadclimber, that is a moment of truth; when they review their invoice or statement, when they call for service, when they call for warranty, when they use what they purchased, when they need help staying motivated with their fitness goals, when they read one of our training tip emails, when they get their equipment serviced, when we call them to thank them for considering our business when we did not get the sale, when we call them to thank them for their business when we did get the sale, when a potential customer asks an existing customer where would they buy a treadmill, trailer, bin, auger, cleaner or part or get their equipment serviced, that is a moment of truth.  These are all moments of truth that are all parts of the customer journey.

The point is, every single member of the Flaman team is part of the customer journey.  We all make the customer experience.  I believe this focus will renew retail with purpose and give customers a reason why they want to shop with a brand.

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Are you proud of where you work? I am and here are six reasons

The original farmstead in Southey

Are you proud of where you work? It is a fair and interesting question to ask considering all the different types of workplaces in today’s world. We are all inundated with social media stories and the latest books about chasing our passion and how to do purposeful work. Expectations for the workplace environment are at an all time high and I suspect most employees are disappointed. If you are like most of us you work at an organization that is not written about, not blogged about, that has lots of work that is just mundane work.; but and this is a big but, what if it is a good company with moments of greatness. Would that be enough? I sure hope so because I believe it is realistic and that is where I work.

I believe that often work is just work, heck I do a lot of work that is just work, there really is nothing interesting about it at all. So what do I do? I own a small boutique digital agency and I am a Vice President at Flaman Group of Companies. I do not lament this fact about work, I understand boring work needs to get done as a business process; I understand that is my role at times and that I do not get to do interesting work all of the time. I accept that work is not Disneyland and sometimes muck needs to be moved. I also believe that most of us need to disenthrall ourselves from social media’s idyllic version of a workplace that I fear is becoming the expectation as opposed to the exception. In my opinion if you are expecting your workplace to be a perfect, purposeful, passionate organization all of the time you are setting yourself up to be disappointed, and thus not proud of where you work.

All this said I also believe that organizations need to continuously improve, to not accept good enough and can have moments of greatness, hopefully at an increasing frequency. I believe it is the role of leadership to create an environment for their teams to flourish and to provide their teams with direction and the vision for where they are going so whenever possible work can be tied to that vision and thus have purpose. To create this environment and a workplace that team members can be proud of in my opinion these are the six elements in a culture leaders need to facilitate:

1) Create an environment of trust
This is the first element a leader must strive to create in order for all the other elements to have a chance. There are many way to establish trust, from admitting your mistakes and sharing your weaknesses, but the most important thing you can do as a leader to establish trust is to ensure there is no culture of blame. If there is a blame culture (and perhaps it’s cousin fear), then there can be no trust.

2) Create a team orientated workplace
Teams support each other, teams help people feel they are part of something bigger, teams help people feel they belong.

3) Allow freedoms
If you trust your people, trust their hunches and ideas, allow them to explore different directions. If possible be accommodating with schedules, more often than not the freedoms given because you trust people are rewarded tenfold.

4) Have clear goals
You need to have a direction so you know where you are going and you can measure progress towards the goal. Otherwise you are stuck on a treadwheel going nowhere and that get rather soul sucking and your people just disengage. Moreover, if your people helped create the direction they will have buy in and that will equal higher engagement and ownership of results.

5) Hold people accountable
So far you have created a trusting team orientated workplace that allows freedoms and has a clear goal everyone is working towards. Sounds great right! It will all fall apart if you do not hold people accountable to get their tasks on a project complete. The first four do not matter unless people are responsible for the work they are supposed to do as part of a team. A team quickly falls apart when members are not lifting their share. As a leader you must insure all are pulling together equally.

6) Get Results
You need to win, you need to hit or beat financial projections, finish the project within scope on time under budget. You can miss from time to time but if you are always missing then you are not really holding people accountable, and being on a consistently losing team will ultimate fail the organization.

Flaman Group of Companies just chosen as a top 100 SME (Small to Medium Employer). I believe we won this award because of our culture. We have a lot of leaders and teams that try every day to use these seven elements to create our award winning culture. It is these great people that make Flaman what it is. I candidly admit we are not perfect, we fail and fall down from time to time, but we do try to improve every day.

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Today’s the Day

Today's the dayIf one were to look at the Flaman Fitness web traffic graph as if it were a line drawing of a mountain range,  you would see the traffic line spike like the face of cliff from December 25th to the 26th. Between the 26th and January 2nd the traffic line graph resembles a “high plateau” with January 2nd being the second highest traffic point of the year and marking the end of the “high plateau” that is the holiday season.  From this high point, the Flaman Fitness web traffic continually erodes until September at which point, with the colder weather around the corner, the web traffic begins its slow climb back to “high holiday plateau.”  This cycle repeats itself year after year.

With the new year comes many resolutions. I recently read that the #1 resolution for the new year is to lose weight.  I also read that only 8% of resolutions are kept. Who gathers this data and keeps score is of course a matter of debate, but let’s pretend that the blogger was citing a credible source that uses a statistically relevant population sample.  These two “facts” are a bit depressing when combined.  Apparently everyone wants to lose weight but only 8% are successful.  It has been over thirty days since all these resolutions have been made: I wonder how many have been kept?

With these thoughts in mind, one can grow disheartened by the most likely answer. So at Flaman Fitness we decided to try to change the conversation. Today’s the Day is the title of our marketing campaign for 2014/2015.  The message is simple: Today’s the day to start, not tomorrow, not the next month, not your birthday and not the new year.  Start today and, of course, keep going. Our hope is that with this positive message people will start on their fitness journey whenever they can, knowing that any day is a good day to start.

In this spirit, I have been working on a number of content creation goals through the last few months and decided to use around the new year to start some of these goals. (Full disclosure: I did not start either goal in January.) The key is I have committed to starting. So here they are:

1)      Blog twice a month

2)      Podcast twice a month

As you can tell it is February, and if you look at my blog postings and podcasts I have not blogged twice or created two podcasts in January.  The nice thing about Today’s the Day, is that I do not have to wait until next year to start on this goal again.  I can start on my goals today.

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Experiencing the joy of work through five steps

The harder the climb the greater the joy

I am sitting at a picnic table in Waterton National Park. It is a pleasant, warm day.  The view across the valley is what I have been needing to recharge my being; it transfixes my gaze.  In the right moments the sun catches the southern face of Mount Galway causing  the oxidized iron in the exposed argillite on its lower flanks to flare a brilliant red.  As I stare at the mountain, I soak up its beauty, its lines and I  imagine  the route I would take to the summit. Every mountain that catches my eye undergoes the same analysis.  For me one of the joys of climbing comes in the challenge.  The greater the challenge the greater the joy.

Why is this?  I believe in the quote by Theodore Roosevelt  “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…”

That really does sum up a mountain climb.  Additionally, (or unfortunately depending on your point of view) as my experience and skills progress what was once difficult is now easy. I find myself seeking  greater challenges in order to stay interested in climbing and continue to feel a sense of accomplishment.

I feel the same way about work.  “Work” however is the wrong word for what I do.  To me “work” has negative connotation.  “Work” is something you have to do as opposed to the professional purpose you can have in the “work” that you do. My professional purpose or my “work” is leading teams: marketing teams, sales teams, executive teams, project teams. With these teams I set goals and like mountains the greater the challenge the greater the joy. Reaching a goal with a team is an accomplishment that brings joy.  That said, to do this there is a lot of work required to get there and that is where the joy can disappear.

Compared to climbing, the joy of work is harder to obtain.  With a mountain you have a clear objective and every choice you make has an immediate impact and consequence. At work your purpose and ability to see your impact can easily get lost in the day to day administrivia of the business world. Sometimes I come home at night feeling like I have gotten nothing done. If a bunch of days like this get piled together I could see a person dreading going to work, because there is no connection to a goal, to a team, to a sense of accomplishment…no joy.

You may be reading this thinking; Steve that is my day to day at work, I am bogged down in mundane tasks getting no real joy. Fair enough  I feel this way as well from time to time. In order to shake this feeling and make every task matter and connect it to a clear objective, I have learned I need to do/identify with/create the following to experience joy at work.

  1. First and foremost, you and your team need to have a goal/purpose.  Not only do you need the common goal (Revenue goal) or purpose (customer satisfaction or quality control) that you are all working towards, you need to connect your day to day tasks to that goal.  So a mundane QC audit or spreadsheet is connected to the bigger goal/purpose. This keeps you motivated because you know your task has meaning.
  2. You need to measure your progress. In the mountains you know how things are going, you are either getting higher or you are not; it is quite clear.  Noting where you are on a mountain keeps you moving (either up or down).  In the business world it is easy to lose track of how you are doing. I believe if you cannot see progress you can get a “stuck on the fly wheel” feeling. So daily, weekly, monthly (step by step) you need to measure your progress whether it is percent complete or improvement versus the previous year.
  3. You need to communicate your progress.  Forcing communication on your progress does several things.  First it creates accountability to yourself and your team. Second by regularly reporting on your progress you are reinforcing where you are going and why you are doing it.
  4. Identify with the goal/purpose: Arguably, all of the above steps will not matter unless you have engaged in the process. So when your team is creating goals, participate in the creation. Loudly if needed, but tempered by consensus building and commitment to the purpose of the team.  In simple terms, own the goal or purpose, make it yours, if you do not you are simply just doing something because someone told you to as opposed to you wanting to make a difference.
  5. Celebrate your successes: Every summit I reach I hug my team and high five. After we get down we celebrate the climb. At work you should do the same, reflect and rejoice on a job well done. Congratulate yourself and your teammates. Doing this helps to build excitement for the next project and reinforces that the work has meaning.

Work is a big part of our lives. Try these steps to bring joy to this part of your life.  I believe it is not easy to do, but anything worth doing is never easy.

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The Tyranny of Data

Tyranny of Data?

Tyranny of Data?

I believe there is a trap many of us allow ourselves to be snared by. When a great idea is tossed out by someone on the team often we reflect on how our customers will respond and back that up by the mountains of data we can quickly obtain. This makes sense, the reason we are marketing is to resonate with our customers so they want to do business with our brand and if you can validate your thoughts with data why wouldn’t you?

That said using data to insure the marketing will resonate with our customers is also the safe choice. With the vast amount of analytics/customer focus groups/surveys available today you can rationally optimize any project to gain the expected highest results. Taken on the whole this is not a bad strategy as year over year consistent high results should grow your brand. Good but perhaps simply vanilla. And to me, vanilla (safe marketing) does not equal a great brand or marketing campaign.

I believe you need to be willing to make mistakes in order to create something different and new. In order to be creative you need to take a chance. Often with something different and new there are not mountains of data to back up your strategy, you have to make inferences, judgements and guesses. When pitching a new bold idea (without data) it is at this critical juncture where the tyranny of data comes in. Brands want proof that something is going to work. Without that data opinions weigh in, emotions flare and often the original great idea gets diluted down to a safe choice that compromises between all the competing internal stakeholders. A safe choice which can to be backed up by data. The original bold idea is a shadow of what it was and vanilla becomes the flavor after all the debate and changes.

To be clear I believe there is an art and science to optimizing your offerings, digital platforms and creative to resonate with the largest percentage of your customer demographics and thus get the largest possible return on your marketing investment.

But….and this is a big but…I wonder does defaulting to data (which provides us with clear evidence for doing what our customer will accept) create a tyranny over our thinking which can hold us back at times?

I look back at our campaigns/branding that have created the largest stir: Stuck in the Muck, Trailer Talk, Sled’n Snap, Flaman Man and all of these were campaigns outside the norm, which we did not consult data (in some cases they were so different we were not able to obtain data). We simply boldly went with what we felt was right and would help the customer or industry.

With more and more data becoming available I find we have not “simply gone with what we felt was right” in quite some time, instead we have been defaulting to what we have data to support customer opinion on for what is right. But…and this a big but…is that always the right thing to do?


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Building an Audience

How to build an audience online

How to build an audience online

When I think of an audience my immediate vision is a crowd at a rock concert or an assembly for a speech or play.  My second thought is an image of a family gathered around their television or if I get historical, their radio. As I loosen the boundaries of my thinking the idea of what an audience is starts to rapidly expand.  Today an audience can be the readers of book or blog, listeners of a podcast, people who watch a Youtube video, visitors to a website, subscribers to an email list, users of an app, people that share, like or comment in social media, the list grows and grows.

It makes me think, what is the definition of an audience in today’s multimedia, multi- channel world?   An audience can simply be any one person that consumes a piece of content be it a video, visit, infographic, tweet or blog.  Thus any person that consumes content created by a brand is the audience of that brand.

There have been plenty of pundits pontificating (say that three times fast) about how brands have become content creators and even media channels unto themselves. Absorbing all these thoughts it is clear that some big brands (Redbull, Nike) have done a great job of creating content and now have loyal audiences. That is all fine and dandy for big multinationals to do this, but what about us smaller enterprises, with limited budgets and limited human resources.  We can’t afford to spend time and treasure creating content that creates an audience…or can we? Or have we?

Over the last several years we at FGC have made a strategic effort to pare down our paid channel advertising and put more effort and dollars into owned channels.  By doing so we have started regularly producing helpful content to draw people into our sphere of influence and owned assets (website, bricks and motor locations).  Through trial and error we have discovered the pulse (frequency of distribution)  of acceptance for our various owned platforms: podcasts, email marketing, direct mail pieces, blogs, videos; by monitoring spikes in views, unsubscribe actions, opens, shares, likes.

We did all this without the specific goal in mind to create an audience (because we thought we were not a big enough brand to do this). But size does not matter, if your content is good enough and if you produce this content at the right frequency, you will create an audience.

So how did we do this?

To be honest, full admission, we did this by default not design (I suppose that is not entirely true we were strategically building reach and distribution of the content) but building a loyal audience and simply increasing distribution are big differences.   When I sit and reflect about where we were and where we are and the journey in-between, I find a several key tactics that occurred.

1.       Focus on Quality not Quantity

At first we pumped out content on mass regardless of the quality.  Unsurprisingly people did not respond. Furthermore by lack of audience response the creators of the content lost interest creating content, then for a while we had no content and of course no audience.  Having failed we re-evaluated and focused on relevant quality content.  The audience began to respond and our content team reengaged.

2.       Build a team

Often when it comes to creating content one person gets the creative spark and an authority figure encourages that one person to run with it. One person can produce a lot of work but one person can only produce one perspective.  Build a team and you will have multiple perspectives that can resonate with multiple audience segments.  Additionally it takes pressure off the one person and allows them to produce their best work.  With a large team no one feels pressured and the chance of their best work rises. As they do great work they get great feedback and this causes dopamine to trigger the reward system in their brain making them to want to do more great work. Great Cycle!

3.       Experiment, Measure, Tweak, Experiment, Measure, Tweak….repeat cycle

 We have created way more content that fell flat than we have that has resonated with our customer audience.  Keep trying, reviewing and learning about what works.  Once you start to figure out what your audience responds to keep tweaking and experimenting.

4.       Find the Pulse

Some audiences want information daily, or weekly, bi-weekly, monthly.  Find a regular frequency that works for your audience and then stick to it.  People will start expecting and looking for the content and if  it doesn’t show up they may wonder away and lose interest.  You will know when you have found the pulse by audience response.  Too much and people starting ignoring your content.  Too little you come off as a one hit wonder and you do not build an audience, just right and people start to share, like, comment on your content and your audience begins to grow. Thus figuring out the sweet spot for the pulse of your audience is well…priceless.

5.       Discipline

Once you have done the above four tactics you need to stick with it.  Otherwise everything that you have built will evaporate and all the painful time spent building an audience will have to start over again.

Great! You have an audience, now what? Isn’t building and maintaining an audience a lot of work? To what purpose? What is the attribution? How do I connect the metrics?

To be honest those questions and answers are for another post.  That said I believe building an audience provides access to the market place to share ideas about products and services that as a marketer I would not have had otherwise. Additionally, as important, if you have an audience you have a  connection with customers that goes beyond the sale and sales person relationship and builds your brand and brand loyalty.  What is the attribution and how do you attach metrics to this audience?  Well, currently the team is having a lot of fun figuring out all this new audience data.

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Market Testing with a grain of salt

Flaman Man

Flaman Man good or bad?

Recently I contracted Points West Consulting out of Regina to conduct market testing for our Flaman Man commercials.  This fiscal year the Flaman Man commercials have been a polarizing conversation within our organization, and it seems outside of it as well.  Many within the organization love the Flaman Man and embrace it with devotion; hawking Flaman Man T-shirts with joy and having their children participate in the current Flaman Man coloring contest.  To them the character has become a fitness hero; others in the organization are embarrassed by the campy style of the campaign that pays homage to the golden era of TV super heroes (think Adam West’s Batman).  When asked about the ads  they quickly mumble that they have nothing to do with them. Equally the same can be said of Flaman customers/non customers. If we look at the participation in the Flaman man programs and hard metrics of sales numbers clearly many people have embraced the campaign.  That said as the campaign marches on (now in its third year) the outside detractors have been getting louder. Through our general company contact email death threats to the Flaman Man have occurred and in general negative comments describing the commercials as annoying and insulting have increased (most notably during the busy months of December and January when the ad frequencies were the highest).

All discourse aside are the ads effective? If we were merely trying to obtain market recognition that goal was accomplished.  The TV campaign has stretched on for three years and was backed by integrated marketing throughout the company. First and foremost for recognition there are long-time, previously existing “Flaman Men” hoisted in the air via sign poles running on top of fake treadmills at our major locations. Addtionally in store life sized cutouts of the Flaman Man greet you as you walk in.  Add the social media buzz, vocal detractors and lovers of the character, print ads, radio and web – if you live in Western Canada it is hard to find someone that is unaware of the Flaman Man.

All publicity is good publicity right?  – If you are a marketing professional you clearly know this is not true.  But sometimes with traditional brands the dogma of old thinking is hard to uproot (if people are talking about it good or bad it is good!) and there is strong resistance to depart from the past (we have invested so much we cannot abandon the Flaman man now). So I needed empirical evidence besides a  few emails that the polarizing effect of the campaign is negative and that we need to act, to completely change our Fitness Marketing.   Enter marketing testing and Garry Aldridge from Points West Consulting.

After extensive consultation a cross section of our demographic was assembled to give us general insights about what customers are looking for from fitness equipment providers and the impact of our commercials on their decision making versus two other leading brands. The testing was objective and well executed. I was excited to receive the insights I expected that would put the nail in the coffin for the Flaman Man campaign.  Instead I was presented with a lot of information to the contrary that trumpeted the merits of the campaign but also warned of the negative impressions I was already aware of. Market testing confirmed what we already knew about our commercials, they are both good and bad.  Not exactly what I wanted. However the testing confirmed theory we had about the industry, and most importantly provided general findings about our competitor’s campaigns that we did not know. These findings told us what the Flaman Man campaign got right in relation to what the competitors got wrong.

 So what went right? The Flaman man campaign is consistent (it stays cheesy), and you really have to admit creative in the concept.  Perhaps most importantly, the ads are ads.  They tell the customers what we want them to do. So for overall effectiveness our campaigns outscored the comparison campaigns (one of which I honestly thought would trounce the Flaman Man) because we really nailed these three items.

Ironically I went seeking proof of what we had done wrong, instead I learned more about what our competitors had done wrong.  Yes, yes the Flaman Man campaign is still cheesy but it is effective. That said, there was still negative feedback from which to conclude it is time for a change.  Armed with these unexpected insights it was enough to convince the Fitness Division managers to move forward in a new direction. (Look what we did right and they did wrong and now what we can do better!) Additionally as a result of the testing there has been new frame work added to our thinking (some good, some bad).

So what’s new?

1)      The tendency of readers of the report to revert back to the report as gospel (Bad closed thinking; full disclosure, initially I fell into this trap)

2)      Openness in the organization for further testing so we can improve upon our campaigns prior to launch, and tweak during. (Good)

3)      Understanding that we need to be constantly testing (Great!)

Last mouthful to chew on...

The testing was conducted in Regina which skewed the participants to view our commercials as a local company and look on them with more favor. While equally skewing the comparison “non-local” ads unfavorably. This of course raises the question what would customers in other markets say?  Would the general findings be the same? Would the effectiveness of the ad be different, due to the company being considered non-local and just another national brand?  Would the negative comments be stronger?  All good questions that more comprehensive testing will help answer.

So, while I did not get what I was expecting when I ordered up the market testing, I did get what I needed. Finally, the market testing I got has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Click here to watch the Flaman Man Video


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The One Thing

Brick layer

Brick by Brick

Last week I escaped from what seemed like the beginning of the sixth ice age, to sunny Mexico.  I had one goal, relax by the pool and read.  Relax and read I did. In one week I plowed through four books and came back (to a frozen car that would not start in the airport parking lot), rejuvenated and refocused.  One of the four books I read was called The One Thing.  It is a book about focus.  Teaching you to narrow your focus so that every day you do the one thing you need to do to be successful, in whatever it is you want to be successful in.

Of course I starting thinking about the one thing I need to do every day in marketing to create success.  The first thing I thought about was what defines success for marketing?  Getting the reach you want? Conversion increases? Total sales? These are the standard goals that immediately jump to mind but are they the ultimate success metric of marketing?  The more I thought about it, the more I concluded that the ultimate success metric of marketing should be happy customers.  I chose this metric because marketing in my opinion needs to include every aspect of your business: sales, service, product selection, reception, accounting, and of course promotion. So in order to have happy customers all aspects of the business have to be living up to your promotional promise.

That is a tall order for one person to be accountable for.  How can one person do one thing every day to insure a multi-divisional conglomerate has happy customers?

Well, first everything cannot be done in one day, but everyday a little bit can be done so that day by day, brick by brick the house gets built.  The more I thought about this the more I realized that the one thing I need to do every day is preach and lead integrated marketing that is focused on the customer.

Which leads to the question what is integrated marketing? There are many, many definitions but for my one thing I have my definition which is to have an entire team no matter their role focused on the customer.

To do this I need to break down the internal company barriers and teach everyone in the organization how they affect the business and customer and that everyone needs to be on same page with what our purpose in business is – to service our customers and therefore have happy customers.

Now this is a huge task due to the independent culture with all our different stores, divisions and departments within the company.  But day by day, every day I am going teach the members of the team (one by one) to understand that we are all on the front line with our customers and that marketing and customer service is everyone’s job.

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