Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: An interview with Nancie McDonnell Ruder

Nancie McDonnell Ruder, Founding Partner of Noetic Consultants, sat down with Noetic colleague Lauren Stradley for an interview about her new book, Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science. Here’s the full story:

LS: What sparked the idea for jack and jill?

NMR: I have interacted with many, many amazing senior marketers over my career, both through Noetic and in my earlier years at Leo Burnett. I’ve seen so many things that I admire. I was struck by how some people in these roles were advancing and doing impressive things, even though the business climate seems to only have become more challenging. I loved the idea of doing research to really delve into that. And it was a way to give back to a community who has given me so much.

LS: Any other reasons?

NMR: I will also say that when I was little, I would write stories, title them and bind them with Elmer’s glue. It was something I wanted to do when I grew up.

LS: What do you think the seven-year-old Nancie would think about this book?

Noetic Assessment Art iconNMR: She would be very excited to see one of her dreams come to fruition. I was into everything creative as a kid—drawing, painting, writing creative stories—so the little girl I used to be would love to know there’s a big creative element in it. What she wouldn’t know, as I do now, is that there’s also another side.

LS: What do you mean by “another side”?

Noetic Assessment Science iconNMR: The premise of Jack and Jill is that there’s a balance of art and science that one needs to achieve in marketing today. Most people feel stronger on one side or the other. I felt strong on the creativity side (or “art”) and had to work more overtly on my science side to build those skills. The important thing to know—and Jack and Jill unpacks this—is that there are things you can do to strengthen your weaker side.

LS: Do people always demonstrate an “art side” or a “science side” as children?

Noetic Assessment Leaning towards Science iconNMR: It usually has to do with where you lean early in life. Let’s say, for example, you had some aptitude in math and also had a really great math teacher. Or, your mom was an engineer and brought out your analytical side. Then, you might build those science muscles more. I would say that most people don’t know how to build up their complementary side. Successful senior marketers sense that they need to round out their skill set and work toward that. Marketing is so fluid and vast that you need both.

LS: So, is that what jack and jill is about?

NMR: Yes! Jack and Jill is for people who have an interest in marketing, whether they are already leaders in their field or aspire to be one, with formal or informal interest. It helps folks understand core components of what is needed to be successful—as I put it, “the art and science of the discipline.” We offer an assessment so readers can discern where they fall on the art/science continuum, as well as a toolkit of activities, resources and tools they can use to strengthen the side where they may be weaker.

LS: I really like the title. Tell me about Jack and Jill. Are they the ones of nursery rhyme fame?

NMR: I did a whole body of research of senior marketers to take from their vantage point how they excel, and I refer to them as “Jack” and “Jill” in the book. It does bring to mind that nursery rhyme, in which they go up the hill then disastrously fall back down. But it also turns it on its ear. In our story, when Jacks and Jills fall down—which they all inevitably do because failure is a key component of the senior marketer journey—they get back up and continue striving and climbing again. There’s also the expression Jack or Jill-of-all-trades, which most people finish with “master of none.” I see “all-tradesness” as a positive. Jacks and Jills are generalists, who are resilient and keep a learning mentality, so their business and career can keep evolving and growing.

LS: The people you interviewed – most of whom allowed you to use their names – are pretty high profile, busy people. How did you choose them?

NMR: I worried about getting people who excel the most because, naturally, they are so busy. I first went out to those I had a significant relationship with, like a client or colleague, because I knew they would take the hour to talk to me. And then to get to over 50—a good qualitative sample number—I asked everyone I interviewed whether they knew someone who fit the profile and would appreciate the process. Most did and most enjoyed the hour we spent. It seemed to be a cool thing for them to put words around something they instinctively understood about themselves.

LS: I would have liked to be a fly on the wall for some of these! Tell us a funny or illuminating anecdote from your interviews.

NMR: As far as funny…one of my first interviewees was with someone I knew well. They said, “Some of these are horrible questions.” It made me pause. I had only interviewed a couple of people at that point, so I took the criticism and honed the questions further. And, of course, it was much better after that. What I found most illuminating was the role of resilience and grit. Marketing is hard. You are going to have to lean into innovation and change. It’s not like I didn’t know these folks were resilient. But it was striking how many mentioned it as a key to their success. They connected the dots—you have to take risks, you have to be willing to fail.

LS: Can people become more resilient?

NMR: It’s not like these rock star Jacks and Jills feel super-courageous every moment of every day. It’s about choosing a mentality of leading with learning and not worrying about being correct or putting yourself on the line. It’s about trying, and if it doesn’t go well figuring out how to right the ship. If someone feels they don’t have resilience—or as much of it as they’d like—these marketers and I would say that all you need is to want to have it. Failure isn’t a word they relate to.

Nancie McDonnell Ruder AuthorLS: What did you learn about yourself and your own work through this process?

NMR: It was harder in certain ways than I thought it would be. After talking to several authors, I knew it would be challenging, but it was more challenging than I expected. Having an editor early on was a really critical factor in getting it done. I also learned my Noetic team is as passionate about Jack and Jill as I am. I see the book as a vessel/platform for my co-senior marketers.

LS: I loved that you were able to bring our work at Noetic into JACK AND JILL, how did you achieve that?

NMR: The people involved with the book are either clients, could-be clients or are like clients. It is for and by the people we serve. So, it became a place to showcase what makes them so great and unpack that for people who don’t know. I also chose to include something I call “Noetic Notes” throughout the book, because I am so proud of and grateful for our team. Through the Noetic Notes, I bring in client stories and anecdotes that showcase how we practice what we preach. I draw from work and also even from my personal life—families are organizations, after all—and these principles apply pretty globally.

LS: What was the hardest part of writing JACK AND JILL, and the easiest?

NMR: The easiest was research. I loved doing it, and it was fascinating meeting and reconnecting with people. I could have kept going forever. The hardest was finding time to focus on writing. Creativity is interesting, and we discuss the nature of it in the book and how folks can develop theirs. Sometimes it’s counterintuitive. You have to make space for the muse to visit you. Because I was balancing writing with running Noetic, one of the places I was able to be most focused was on airplanes. And I wrote nights and weekends.

LS: What did you hope to gain from writing JACK AND JILL, and do you think achieved that?

NMR: I wanted to expand my community of marketing geniuses and give back to them, as well as create thought leadership for Noetic. I have achieved that. And I’ve helped that seven-year-old girl get her book done!

LS: When is it coming out and where can we all get it?

NMR: Jack and Jill is available on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

Featured image photo credit: Coyle Studios

Pass the Secret Sauce: Winning Strategies for Senior Marketers Coming this Fall

By: Lauren Stradley

Climbing to the top of the marketing hill isn’t easy. And staying there can be even more precarious. We know, because a big part of what we do is to help clients navigate the complex, ever-changing marketing landscape.

Confronted with a dizzying array of new platforms and constant content consumption, how do we, as successful senior marketers, cut through the din?

Noetic is built upon a research-based approach that uncovers insights clients need to overcome challenges and achieve goals. It’s the heart of what we do—with every client success strengthening our heartbeat. This past year, we set out to do more.

Introducing Jack and Jill 

Noetic Book Jack and Jill

We launched an effort to augment our focus on  company, branding and marketing objectives to include guiding marketing leaders to overcome professional challenges. We applied our IDEA methodology to help senior marketers elevate their careers. That project became a book. And, we couldn’t be more excited to announce the upcoming launch of Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science, authored by our fearless leader, Nancie.

To write Jack and Jill, Nancie drew upon her own 25-year career and insights from Noetic’s work with big brands like Nike, Wells Fargo, and Discovery Channel. She reached deep into our team’s networks to get firsthand best practices and lessons, and conducted in-depth interviews with more than 50 of the world’s best marketers, learning exactly what makes them tick, what drives them, and what helps them stay relevant.

The Secret Sauce of Marketing Leaders

Nancie found many commonalities among these marketing rock stars, including an elusive “secret sauce”—the uncanny ability to combine what she calls the “art” and “science” of their discipline. Every tidbit—often straight from the marketers’ mouths—is “news you can use,” including activation-ready insights and tools, like The Fierce Four, The Noetic 3c, and The Noetic 4p. Jack and Jill also offers a toolkit, featuring a powerful assessment to determine where readers are on the marketing art/science continuum and help them ascend from there.

Coming soon!

The book is just several months from release, and we can’t wait to share it with you. In the meantime, visit our Jack and Jill page and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get inspired and start exploring the key themes and career-altering advice of Jack and Jill!

Resilience

Want to Succeed in Work and Life? You’re Gonna Have to get Gritty.

by Nancie McDonnell Ruder, Founding Partner, Noetic Consultants

JILL IS RESILIENT. BE LIKE JILL.

This year I have been exceptionally focused on the importance, and underpinnings, of resilience. Life is long and challenges come up for all of us. How do I best navigate these challenges, and help those I care deeply about—my children, family, friends, and, of course, clients and colleagues—cope?

Resilience, grit, courage, strength. These terms are close cousins and we employ them frequently to admire those who overcome much in chasing accomplishment. “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” the inventor Thomas Edison famously said. Dale Carnegie also valued “grit.” “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all,” he said.

Grit and resilience in life are hard to come by, certainly, but in marketing a special breed has it in spades. These exceptional folks are the focus of a book I have been writing that will be published in the fall, “Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights through Art and Science—and You Can, Too!” I interviewed more than 50 successful senior marketers for this project, and saw that resilience is a key attribute all share.

By virtue of the field, they know standing still means stagnation. Instead, they move, try, fail, and then try again. Each time when they–or their ideas–get knocked down, they simply get back up. Through my investigation of this topic with these remarkable individuals, I have identified four critical factors that enable “Jacks” and “Jills” to keep on keepin’ on, no matter the conditions. (The Noetic team and I look forward to sharing more about these “Fierce Four” factors, and other insights from the upcoming book, with you in future posts!)

Savor the Climb. No matter what’s on the other side.

I recently had the privilege of traveling to Miami for a two-day event where I was honored among women business owners. During this time I had the opportunity to meet so many successful women, and was struck again and again by their amazing stories of resilience. One of these formidable women shared her story of emigrating from Somalia as a child and building her business from scratch after putting herself through school. Now that she is established and successful, she is pouring her efforts and resources into helping young girls in Somalia have the resources to do the same.

Another woman with a $100m business sat uncomfortably next to me at the pinnacle awards dinner. She was embarrassed to be called to the stage so late in the meal, because the awards were being given by company size–hers being among the largest. I turned to her and asked, what was most difficult as you built it? She shared that she has five children, and her husband died in a plane crash at 42, when her kids were two to 13 years old.

“What did you do?” I asked. “Well,” she said, “I didn’t want to get out of bed. But then I thought, am I going to let the kids stay in bed? No. So I got up. And I just kept getting up. And now I am here. It was a mountain that I climbed one step at a time. I am still climbing, slow and steady. And I enjoy it.”

Pace yourself. identify your stress release valves and use them to recharge.

The most resilient among us also understand that a continual 24/7 grind is not the way to sustain for the long haul. They find ways to recharge so they can show up and shine again. One senior marketer, whom I interviewed for the book, put it this way: “The pressure is particularly intense in the world today. I think some people get personally burnt out on the process. I am a huge believer in a mental AND physical competence, building your own stamina and your own stress release valves. Everyone does this a bit differently. For me it is getting up early and doing yoga and meditation, taking walks outside when traveling….ways of getting the physical energy. I also think you have to build a level of confidence.”

Be continuously passionate in areas that authentically interest you.

Angela Duckworth who authored Grit, offers that the grittiest among us are thoughtful about what they pursue. “Each was chasing something of unparalleled interest and importance…even if some of the things they had to do were boring, frustrating, or even painful, they wouldn’t dream of giving up. Their passion was enduring.”

Don’t hold on to failure, or even label it as such.

Innovative marketers understand that lack of success means valuable learning toward the next effort. Another talented marketer I interviewed explains it like this: “I believe what you do tomorrow is more important than what you did yesterday…just go forward and do something better. No one really knows the answers so iterate and go forward. I don’t hold onto the failures at all.”

Stepping forward when others might stand back and raising a hand when others might sit on theirs, are both important parts of resilience. This means seeing opportunities where others may not see them, or at least won’t have the courage to seek them out. Successful marketers see these avenues and determine that they can be a change maker by taking them on. They persevere with passion. I am grateful that my observation of them feeds my own passion and perseverance to accomplish more. I look forward to sharing again with you soon!

Nancie

qualitative research

Research: The Foundation of a Sound Strategy

We are already a month into 2018. This means most of us are beginning to execute our 2018 strategy. But, first, consider the role of research in your strategy. Research is often thought of as a tool to validate a new product or to understand your evolving customer landscape. While these are great reasons to initiate a research project, research is an imperative step for any project or strategic planning effort. It is powerful for: validating an investment, achieving internal buy-in on a project you feel strongly about, or exploring a big new question in your industry.

Spending the time and resources up front for research ensures you are headed in the right direction strategically. You might think this will cost you momentum, but quite the opposite is true. Getting halfway through an initiative and realizing it is not strategically sound will cost you much more. Strategic marketers and business planners are wise to conduct this due diligence at the beginning of any project.

What is the Big Research Question?

Research should always be designed to lead to a decision, and not simply to reduce ignorance. While eliminating ignorance is never useless, it is not the most powerful and strategic investment of your dollars and time. Start with the decision you are trying to make, or the question you are trying to answer. Then, determine the data you need to make an informed choice. For example, you could be in the alcohol industry and need to know how the legalization of cannabis will alter your customer messaging now that consumers have new choices. This is an example of researching to answer a big question.

Research is a powerful first step to take to approach your projects in the most strategic manner. It is easy to overlook among those projects that don’t seem to demand it. However, it is a very powerful lever to pull to strengthen your strategy and give you an edge against your competitors. But, research is an umbrella word that covers many different methods. Which is the right type for the decisions you are trying to make?

Beyond Just the Facts. 

What Kind of Research Do I Need?

Broadly speaking, there are two buckets of research: quantitative and qualitative. Each encompasses a variety of methods that are useful for different decisions. Quantitative research tells you the what and the how of your audience. These are important questions to answer to make informed messaging and channel decisions. Quantitative research distills who your customer segments are, the key attributes that describe them, and validates qualitative research conclusions. Quantitative research requires a large sample size and includes methods like conjoint analysis and surveying.

Alternatively, qualitative research uses smaller sample sizes and uncovers the why. Qualitative research goes more in-depth and provides rich consumer learnings that lead to insightful actions. It allows you to explore and diverge with your customers, to truly understand why they make the choices they make. Qualitative research often uncovers a primal need state that your organization can leverage to be customer-centric. Because qualitative research operates with a smaller sample size, it is often less expensive and faster than quantitative research.

As an example, Noetic worked with a Senior Living Community on a brand positioning project. We began with a series of 1:1 interviews with current residents to understand how they felt in their new home. Through the research, we uncovered that there was a lot of initial fear about the uncertainty of moving to a new home. Residents felt like it was a closure of their life, with possibilities now limited. As a result, our findings directed this organization to position their messaging around new and expansive opportunities, to address and soothe this fear.

Setting an Informed Research Formulation

Qualitative research is something Noetic specifically champions because of its ability to uncover those key consumer insights. A strong insight is the basis for all strategy, especially marketing strategy. It is our experience that most people associate qualitative research solely with focus groups. Focus groups are one great tool. However, they are not the only qualitative research method. There are many ways to conduct qualitative research.

  • 1:1, Dyads and Triads: In depth interviews are typically 1-2 hours in length and involve 1 interviewer with 1-3 interviewees. This method is time intensive. Yet, it is one of the most powerful methods to truly understand the motivations of your customers. Noetic worked on a B2B marketing strategy for a higher education nonprofit. We conducted in-depth interviews across 3 different audience segments: states, businesses, and other nonprofits. We uncovered that each segment had differing motivations for degree attainment among their respective constituents. Our client was then able to tailor their messaging to best communicate with each audience. Organizations that resonate the most, will achieve the most.

 

  • Social Listening: Social listening is a method of qualitative research that analyzes various social media channels to determine the sentiment of your brand across customers, as well as compare the sentiment for your competitors. It is a bird’s eye view, and should not focus on one-off mentions. Look for consistent themes that lead to actionable insights. Social listening allows your organization to rapidly respond to shifting dynamics and remain relevant. The ability to create actionable strategies differentiates social listening from social media monitoring. For example, Tesla realized that many customers were complaining that drivers would leave their cars parked for hours at charging stations. This inhibited other drivers from charging their cars. Because this was a consistent theme, Tesla was able to address customers with a communication from Elon Musk that this would be taken care of.

 

  • Ethnography: Ethnography is a qualitative research technique borrowed from anthropology. It involves observing consumers in their natural environments to uncover hidden pain points. Observation can often uncover subconscious habits or need states better than consumers self-reporting. As marketers, we are most curious about what consumers do vs. what they say they do. If this method sounds time consuming and expensive, that is because it is. However, it often produces some of the best insights for research & development, as you observe subconscious pain points consumers are not even aware of themselves. Boston Consulting Group employed ethnography techniques in their book Rocket. They studied brand advocates of the most successful brands in their natural environments and homes.

Getting Started.

There are many ways of approaching research. What is most important, is that you do in fact embed research as an upfront step to any initiative. A well-informed strategy that is founded on actionable consumer data is powerful. Customers will resonate with your brand or messaging because they will feel known and understood by you. In today’s world, customers expect this, and will reward the brands that put in the effort to do so. Let us help you create the strongest strategies based on key consumer research this year!

Marketing Objectives

Starter Guide: Get Started on Your 2018 Marketing Planning with Objectives, Goals and KPIs

With 2018 right around the corner, you have likely started setting marketing objectives for the new year. This is always an exciting exercise. I feel invigorated by the possibilities a new year holds, and I imagine you do, too. But, how do you know the right marketing goals to set that will meet your objectives? And how will you measure for success? Setting clear marketing objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) are how you do just that.

SETTING MARKETING OBJECTIVES

A marketing objective could be considered your marketing strategy for a particular area, and it will likely include your goal. It should tie back to a specific business situation, and ultimately, support your company’s enterprise wide goals. Think of a business situation as a potential challenge or opportunity, that if addressed, will help achieve those broader enterprise wide goals.

3 Steps to Setting the Right Marketing Objective

Step 1: understand your business situation and write a few draft marketing objectives that could address it. This will be a brainstormed list that you will refine later.

Step 2: research the key factors that influence your company holistically: customer, business, brand and landscape. Analyze these aspects to inform which draft marketing objective is strongest, or possibly evolve an existing objective.

Step 3: identify your best, refined marketing objective, and create specific goals that further define what success would look like. Aim for 1 to 3 specific goals.

Let’s consider an example where your competitors have significantly larger social media audiences than you do. If this is the case, your marketing objective could be to increase your social media follower base. Your goal would go a click deeper and could be: To increase your brand’s social media follower base on Facebook by 5% in Q1 of 2018 among your A-list customers. You want to ensure your goal is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound.

Lastly, ensure your goal coincides with where your target customers are in their journey with you as a brand. These journey phases are: initial consideration, active evaluation, closure, and post-purchase. For example, the social media goal we described above is specific to A-list customers, who would be in the post-purchase phase, and already aware of and loyal to your brand.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT KPIs

KPIs are a measurable value that demonstrate how effectively you achieve your marketing goal. With your defined goal as a guide, list the 1–3 specific KPIs that track your progress toward achieving that goal.

3 Types of KPIs

There are 3 types of KPIs: operational, performance, and diagnostic. Operational KPIs are the degree to which customers successfully accessed or interacted with your product or service. A Performance KPI measures the success of a specific effort, such as the number of Call to Action responses. Lastly, a Diagnostic KPI is an internal measure that helps you determine your progress, like how many new accounts you followed on social media to grow engagement.

To identify the right KPIs to track, take your marketing goal and cascade it across these three types of KPIs. Take a moment to brainstorm what KPIs in each category you could track. I like to call this the diverge stage. Next, look at this list and converge on which KPIs would be the most hardworking to capture that truly measure the success of your goal. Looking back to our social media marketing objective and goal, you would likely want to track KPI’s such as the number of Facebook followers and posts with highest engagement (shares, likes, and comments).

New Year, New Goals

So, with the new year right around the corner, I hope you feel empowered and inspired in your planning. By choosing few, clear objectives – you will be set up for great success. I know I speak for the whole Noetic team when I say, we can’t wait to see what you accomplish in the New Year!

Brainstorm for quarterly tasks

Strong Communication Builds Strong Teams

At Noetic, our clients often hire us to help them understand their “WHO”—their customers and clients who make up their target audience. As a marketer, I always stress the importance of knowing the needs and desires of your target customer. This allows you to best communicate with them. It is paramount to understand this external audience. But, I want to share how it is just as important to know your internal WHO: your own team members.

Teams that communicate effectively enable each person to feel motivated, valued and understood. With this base, the sky is the limit on what you can achieve. Yet, communication styles vary greatly. So, it is many times easier to be misunderstood, or at least not understood fully. Noetic uses a tool to help teams know and understand each other better by simply understanding each other’s different communication styles. At the end of the day, communicating clearly and effectively internally, enables you to also communicate well with those outside of your company. And that is always the goal!

Communication Styles

As individuals, we all have different and unique ways of giving and receiving information—of communicating. We should celebrate and embrace our differences! They enable us to be nimble and versatile as a team, if channeled correctly and intentionally. Noetic uses a proven approach, first developed by Kirk Bridgman (2010), to help unlock communication differences for teams. Bridgman’s approach distills these differences into 4 styles: demonstrators, contemplators, narrators, and assertors. Let me show you a few examples.

A demonstrator is fast-paced, people-oriented and prefers an informal atmosphere. Demonstrators are our friends who are results oriented and run full steam ahead. They can be easy to spot, too – literally! They usually wear bright colors and sit in an open posture. If you have a demonstrator on your team, focus on relationship building and put everything down in writing. This ensures they can remember the important takeaways later.

Like all differences, communication differences can bring tension to our relationships if we are unwilling to try to understand the other person. Each style is predisposed to tension with certain other styles. Using the example above, a demonstrator is particularly susceptible to tension with a contemplator. Contemplators are task oriented, and are more indirect and slower-paced than their demonstrator team members. They are analytical, detail oriented and pride themselves in orderliness and accuracy. These are some significant differences from their demonstrator counterparts—so it makes sense how misunderstandings could arise.

Thoughtful Communication Avoids Misunderstandings

The best way to show you care about your team member is to communicate with them in the way they best receive information. So, perhaps try using less small talk with the contemplators on your team, and be well prepared with precise data. As you can see, knowing the various styles on your team minimizes relational misunderstandings that spring up because of different, and likely subconscious, communication preferences. Without knowing and understanding the differing styles on your team, it is easy to peg someone as lazy or disorganized. These types of misunderstandings can really damage your team synergies and efficiencies—and sometimes, can just be plain frustrating. We can’t help you with all the frustrations you might face on the job. But, we can bring clarity to your team’s communication. Let me share an example with you.

Real Story of Communication Breakthrough

We recently had the opportunity to help a company work through their internal communication roadblocks. This company was a global media content provider about to embark on their annual planning. They hoped to bring the team together more cohesively as they planned and prioritized initiatives for the coming year. Through an exercise on communication styles, each was surprised and enlightened to learn their own style. They were also surprised to see how many demonstrators were on the team. The sole contemplator came to understand why he often felt frustrated or misunderstood. Similarly, the other team members gained new insight in how best to communicate with him. Bear in mind, there are no wrong communication styles. But, there is a wrong way to handle these differences. By leading this communication style identification session, Noetic illuminated a path forward for the team to better understand each other and be more cohesive.

Unlock Communication for your Team

Do you know how your colleagues like to communicate? Do you know your own communication style? To be honest, when I first used this tool on myself, I was really surprised by the level of self-awareness I found! I learned so much about my own communication, but even more so about that of my colleagues. I realized the many ways I was susceptible to misreading others. From now on, I am able to better assess the style of any person I am interacting with. This awareness allows me to proactively adjust my communication, so we can better understand each other. I see a tremendous difference with this on a nearly daily basis.

Noetic is passionate about helping teams really communicate. We would love the opportunity to unlock communication for you and your company. We want you to be the best team you can be… ready to best serve and communicate with your customers.

The Power of Divergent Thinking in Marketing

As marketing consultants, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we advocate taking the time to flesh out a marketing strategy. We often see our clients rush into execution – we can all be guilty of this! One area we see this most often is in messaging. The temptation is to narrow in on one message right away in order to quickly execute on a marketing campaign. But, we recommend strategically thinking through the various options first.  I want to share the power of diverging before converging on one message. When you skip the diverge stage, you risk leaving value on the table by overlooking a message that resonates more deeply with your consumer. I want to help you have the most valuable conversations with your customers!

DIVERGE: THE MESSAGING MATRIX

We recently worked with a global energy company to help them craft the right messaging strategy. We began with purposeful divergent thinking. The first step in divergent thinking is to take a key insight for one of your target audiences. Then, list messages that connect this insight to a benefit your product or service has. Benefits could be primary, emotional, or functional – you want to list as many benefits as possible. For our client, their customer was dealing with anxiety due to instability in the energy industry. So, we connected this insight to benefits that directly addressed it. Lastly, we developed a list of testable reasons to believe that our client could fulfill this product benefit. You should repeat this process for each of your audiences.

CONVERGE: THE STRONG TEST

After going through the diverge process of forming various messages for each audience, it’s time to choose the single, right message to share with each. The average consumer sees nearly 250 marketing messages a day, so being targeted and clear is essential! This is the art of smart messaging, or picking the one thing you should be, and letting go of all the other things you could be. This is the second step of messaging: converging on the right one. To test the messages we constructed during the first step, we use the acronym STRONG:

  1. S: Single minded
  2. T: Targeted and relevant
  3. R: Real reasons to believe
  4. O: On brand
  5. N: New take
  6. G: Goals

Evaluate each message against this STRONG test, to see which messages pass. Just like the Survival of the Fittest, only the strongest messages should be used to engage your customer.

DIVERGENT THINKING: MARKETING’S SECRET WEAPON

Bringing us back to our example, we provided our client with 4 powerful messages – 1 for each of their main audiences. Using this 2 step process of diverging and then converging, we knew our messaging was powerful and would build trust and value with their audiences.

I hope you have been convinced of the power a marketer can leverage through divergent thinking! When we engage in this process, we are able to ensure our messaging is as strong as possible. Without this first step of divergent thinking, we risk picking the most obvious message to share. By diverging to see all the possibilities, we are sure to secure the BEST message that connects with our audience in a deeper way. And isn’t that the main purpose of marketing, anyways?

 

Noetic Blog Metaphor Insight header

How Marketers Can Use Metaphors to Fuel Insights

In our last blog post, I shared top competencies where marketers need training. We talked about the Who-What-How marketing framework and the importance of deeply understanding your customer in order to convey the right messaging in the right way. Knowing your WHO allows you to dig for high value insights. In this post, I’ll share how metaphors are a powerful tool to unlock these pivotal insights for your brand

The Importance of High Value Insights

In the marketing field, I am sure you hear how important it is to stay focused on your customer. Well, strong insights are the most critical factor in being able to stay customer centric! Often we push our products onto our customers. However, we should start with the customer’s unmet want or need and let this inform our product positioning. As marketers, our task is to dig deep into the minds of our customers to decipher these needs and wants. But, we all know this is easier said than done. Consumers do not always know what they need or want. What they truly wish for could be something undeveloped. Or, their true desires are so sub-conscious that they are unable to adequately articulate them.

Using Metaphors to Dig for High Value Insights

Metaphors are a powerful tool in unlocking these high-value insights that consumers have a hard time conveying. Metaphors help us think about things differently, and tap into those hard to reach insights. The first step is to take your WHO and create a sub-conscious metaphor for them regarding their product experience.

As an example, we recently worked with a higher education institution. We conducted interviews with students and faculty and connected their comments with metaphors to uncover insights. Students at this institution felt like they were expected to forge their own path versus carrying out a scripted experience. Thus, the metaphor we might connect is that students feel like they are the captain of their own ship. This reveals that students want the autonomy and opportunities to create the tailored collegiate experience they desire. It should be noted, your metaphor and subsequent insights are not to be shared overtly. These insights simply inform your messaging to make it more targeted and powerful. This in turn helps you to reach your goals and KPIs.

The Power of Metaphors in Marketing

We are not the only ones who advocate on behalf of metaphors. Gerald Zaltman and Lindsay Zaltman, authors of Marketing Metaphoria, share the power of metaphors in this Harvard Business School article. They state: “because deep metaphors are shared by consumers who may vary considerably on the surface, they become very powerful tools for developing new product concepts, communicating about them, restructuring market segmentation strategies, and simplifying product design processes.” Clearly, metaphors are a very useful tool to add to your marketing arsenal!

Tying this back to our example, we recommended to our higher education client that they create messaging for prospective students highlighting the unique experience they can create for themselves. From the research and using metaphors to unlock high-value insights, we knew this message would resonate deeply with the kind of student this institution was hoping to capture.

Noetic

At Noetic, we deeply believe in the imperative role high value insights play. In fact, our firm’s name was derived from this belief. Philosopher William James defined noetic as “insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority.”

Once you have uncovered key customer insights, let’s talk through how to develop strategies that leverage these insights. It would be my pleasure to help you create a strategy that is truly noetic.

 

Noetic Consultants Training Marketing Competencies

Top Competencies Where Marketers Need Training

“What are the top competencies where marketers need training?”

The leader of a large marketing organization recently asked me this. It’s a great question. Not only did she seek to prioritize effort and dollars, she also asked the right question. Rather than focusing on the most important competencies to master, she wanted to know the right competencies to train for.

If you’re unsure about where your marketers need training, use this simple WHO-WHAT-HOW construct to help you comprehensively assess their needs:

WHO:

Do your marketers know how to mine data and insights in order to understand your audiences and how best to connect with them? To think through this, ask yourself:

  • Do they know how and where to access the data?
  • Do they regularly make a point to do so?
  • Do they know how to cut through data density to extract the important takeaways?

Although your organization may have an analytics team who provides data and insights, your marketers must accurately connect with their findings to uncover how relevant they are to your target audience.

WHAT:

Do your marketers know how to create a tight, strategic brief to meet the specific need of a given campaign? Ask yourself:

  • Do the briefs I see (or author) inspire me?
  • Does our team write focused briefs?
  • If applicable: Does our agency think our briefs are clear and inspiring?
  • Do we often suffer rounds of creative review that lead to revisiting the focus of (or lack of) the brief?

In order to unleash the creativity needed to shape the most effective message for your target audience, your team must start with a great brief to achieve campaign goals.

HOW:

Do your marketers give effective creative feedback and direction? To think about this, ask yourself:

  • Is our creative as powerful as it can be?
  • Are our marketers primarily making executional comments about the work they review?
  • Do we use the brief as a critical tool to determine if the creative is delivering on the strategy?

In addition to creating a more effective campaign, knowing how to give feedback also helps build trust and collaboration on the team.

For the most part, core competencies can—and should—be learned on the job. Due to the fast pace of change in our industry, even the most process-oriented organizations are hard pressed to have their marketers excel in certain areas. For this reason, they require overt training efforts to kick start the competency.

Once you’ve considered the WHO-WHAT-HOW issues above, let’s talk through how to develop a comprehensive training program to address them. It would be my pleasure to help.


Nancie Head Shot-Edit 200x300Noetic teaches engaging and effective live and live webinar-based courses on marketing topics such as:

  • Customer-centric marketing
  • Writing effective Marketing Briefs
  • How to Review Creative effectively
  • Creative problem solving for Marketers
  • And more

Our courses help marketing departments provide a strong marketing foundation for younger employees while providing new skills or refresher courses to more seasoned employees.

We would be delighted to discuss one or more of our marketing trainings with you.

goal without plan is just wish

Goals that achieve a greater sense of accomplishment in 2017

Now that you are recharged after the holiday break, consider thinking about (or re-thinking) your organization’s 2017 goals and how you will achieve them. Do you have a good plan in place for the year? Do you feel stuck or vague on what you are striving to achieve? If you feel that YOU are clear, are you sure that those who report to you feel the same way?

Goal setting is all about knowing where you want to go, and charting the steps to get there. Whether you manage a large organization or a small one, you undoubtedly have goals that you want to achieve. Here are six steps to help you set goals and create the steps needed to achieve them.

1. Create a hearty list of struggles you would like to address.
If you have a team, consider creating the list with them. Doing so will help everyone be invested from the start. Once the struggles are noted, narrow the list to 7 or 8 by having each team member vote for their top three. This narrowed list will become the basis for the goals you will set for the year.

2. Create S.M.A.R.T yearly goals to address the 7–8 struggles.

Craft goals using the S.M.A.R.T. format

Craft goals using the S.M.A.R.T. format

Each goal should be a direct response to a struggle, and written using the “S.M.A.R.T.” format (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely). For example, an “un-smart” goal might read, “Create a new training program.” A S.M.A.R.T. version of this might be, “Create a social media training program that will launch by Q3 this year.” The S.M.A.R.T. format lets the team know what “done” means when the goal has been achieved.

3. Brainstorm “bite-sized” quarterly goals.

Brainstorm with team members

Brainstorm with team members

List the actions that are necessary to achieve the yearly goal in chronological order. Then determine which of those actions will be realistic to implement within the three-month periods leading up to when the yearly goal should be achieved. Apply the S.M.A.R.T. format to the actions to create quarterly “bite-sized” goals. Using our same example, the training program’s quarterly goal might be, “Complete an assessment of social media skills and needs of the team by the end of March.” Like the struggles list, consider creating the list of actions across all four quarters of the year with your team members.

4. Assign quarterly goals to your team members.
When doing this, you may want to first ask each member which goal(s) they feel best suited to lead, and let their opinion help drive the decision. Consider that it may be best to have different people lead different yearly goals each quarter. This enables you to take advantage of the breadth and depth of your team’s skill sets, and could help generate a collective sense of success across the team.

5. Hold weekly check-ins.
Spend 10–15 minutes with each team member weekly to check in on their progress against their quarterly goals. This is important to ensure accountability and to give them the opportunity to ask for help if they aren’t progressing. The entire team could—and should—be leveraged to brainstorm how to move forward. But the person leading the quarterly goal is responsible for ensuring that action happens week to week.

6. Conduct quarterly meetings.

Conduct quarterly reviews to track progress

Conduct quarterly reviews to track progress

Meet with each team member toward the end of the quarter to assess quarterly progress toward achieving the yearly goal. This is also a good time to review (or recalibrate) the next quarter’s goals. If you have crafted the yearly and quarterly goals using S.M.A.R.T., determining if the goals are “done” or “not done” should be easy. Although achieving every yearly or quarterly goal may not be completely within a team member’s control, significant progress should be visible after each three-month period.

Good planning is all about knowing where you want to go and charting out the steps to get there. It’s not too late for your organization to create and follow a plan that will guide you to greater success in 2017!


Nancie Ruder Noetic Consultants

Nancie Ruder


Noetic Consultants knows that your ability to articulate your strategic vision then translate it into action—defines your path forward and, ultimately, your success. We provide the experience, guidance and know-how to focus your team and engage them in a collaborative, forward-thinking manner. We can work with you to facilitate structuring your annual strategic plans, setting your organization’s yearly, and much more.