CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation with Tom Asacker, author and speaker

Written by on August 19, 2011 – 8:30 am -

tomasackerI truly enjoyed my CMO 2.0 Influencer conversation with Tom Asacker – who I consider a friend and also admire as an original marketing thinker. Tom is the author of multiple books, including Opportunity Screams: Unlocking Hearts and Minds in Today’s Idea Economy, and also blogs at A Clear Eye. Before becoming a successful author and speaker, Tom started his career at GE, where he participated in a management buyout of an electronics firm. After that he became the founder and CEO for a medical devices company.

The first topic we tackled is that of marketing in a world where everyone, including executives, is increasingly overwhelmed with the amount of information that is coming at them. Tom is convinced that most executives need to pause and rethink their purpose and how they will execute that purpose. While the priorities of marketing have not changed all that much  - drive top line growth and grow marketshare -, those are results that come from understanding and feeding the hungers of your audiences and the customer insights, and from better defining one’s brand and how to deliver a differentiated value proposition. Marketing executives cannot optimize their way to success by measuring everything and everyone to death. They need to care deeply about their audience and create unique value that improves their audience’s lives. You cannot expect results from spreading messages all over the place hoping that somehow you will connect with the feelings of your audience – you have to really care.

Marketers also have to rethink their content, and develop it in a way that it will travel in those circles where buying recommendations are being made. That means that we have to understand what value people will derive from using the content we develop with others. After all, most people only do what they value – and that is true for making recommendations and reusing vendor content. Marketers need to switch from their traditional inside-out perspective and start looking at everything they do through the eyes of their audiences.

People need to realize that everything in the marketplace has changed – the amount of products and services is overwhelming, and the amount of information is overwhelming, buyers’ attitudes about how they filter and process information and how they are making their decisions has changed.

Next we switched to one of Tom’s favorite topics – branding. Branding is of course something that exists in the mind of a customer – it’s an expectation of value that gets created through interactions in the marketplace. Those interactions can include advertising, pricing, social exchanges with other users, packaging, financing options or interactions with company employees. As you can see, many of these interactions are happening with touch points that are somewhat controlled by the company. So to say that the consumer owns the brand is a fallacy. Tom wishes we would have a Deming-like figure in the branding space – someone who could influence how everyone in a company feels responsible for the brand.

About engagement, Tom said: “People at successful companies love what they do, they believe in what it is they get up in the morning and go to work to do every day. Secondly they love who they do it for; the’re interested in in their audience and what they’re all about and how to improve their lives and how to make things better. And the third thing, is which I call engagement, is that they like the process of keeping what they do and what they love connected to others: others’ interest and others’ values. They love the idea of injecting energy into their idea and bringing it to life for everyone’s benefit.” How is that for a definition of engagement? Much better than most definitions being bantered around in the agency space if you ask me.

Continuing on the topic of engagement, Tom described the three steps you need to follow to engage people – three steps that are described in more detail in his latest book “Opportunity Screams: Unlocking Hearts and Minds in Today’s Idea Economy.” The first step is you want to engage people’s conscious attention. How do you get someone to stop and think about what’s being presented? You do that by charming them and by providing some cue to value. Once you feed their hungers and you’re reflective of them and their self-identities, you entice them to participate. All they want to do then is believe, and you can help them believe in what you do by conveying purpose through your actions, by stimulating interaction and sharing like you discuss all the time. But you always have to have value and unfortunately most businesses don’t believe in the distinctive value they add to people’s lives.

You cannot have a conversation with Tom without talking about culture and so we talked about this whole notion that culture trumps strategy, and what that means for older companies that may not have ideal cultures to roll out new strategies. In older companies you often have what Tom calls cultural immune systems that end up blocking new ideas and new perspectives. Leaders need to be aware of this and be willing to take off their cultural glasses and expose themselves to new ideas (Note that we will be conducting a research project on culture and strategy in partnership with the Schulich School of Business at York University, email me if interested).

“Business is about people, it’s about culture, it’s about feelings, it’s a way to help people feel prosperity and well being. It’s not about numbers,” said Tom, and I must say that I could not agree more.

We talked about a lot more things than can be captured in this blog post. I hope you will find the time to listen to the podcast.

Other things we discussed include:

  • How Drucker’s moto that business is marketing never materialized
  • The importance of the last transaction on the brand perception
  • How the expectations that we have from brands has soared
  • The role (or lack thereof) of agencies in meaning making
  • How engagement is not the same as sustained attention
  • The resistance of middle management to cultural changes
  • Ways to change corporate cultures that do not involve a near-death experience
  • The importance of finding meaning at work and being able to bring passion to work

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation | 3 Comments »

CMO 2.0 Conversation with Tom Nightingale, CMO at Con-way

Written by on August 18, 2011 – 4:07 pm -

tom-nigtingaleMy CMO 2.0 Conversation with Tom Nightingale, the CMO at Con-way, a $5B publicly traded transportation and logistics company, was very enlightening to say the least. When I spoke with Tom, he had been the CMO at Con-way for 5 years, where he overlooks public relations, web and digital marketing, product marketing, lead generation, events, direct marketing, new product development, customer satisfaction and voice of the customer – generally what you would expect the responsibilities of a CMO to be. He is also responsible for internal communications and enterprise sales management. One of the things that was intriguing, and that I think we will see more of as part of a CMO’s responsibility in the future, is that he is responsible for recruitment marketing, a major effort as they recruit over 6,000 drivers a year at Con-way (Note: we will be launching a research project on recruitment marketing in partnership with Monster.com — more on that later, email me if you have an interest in participating).

When Tom talks about being in charge of recruitment marketing, he talks about having the responsibility to fill the funnel, which then gets processed by his partners in HR. His role is to bring in quality candidates who align with the Con-way brand and their employment value proposition. Being in charge of employee communications means he communicates with employees from the day after they process through the HR funnel till the day that they leave.

Like most CMO’s, Tom has seen some big changes in marketing over the past few years, with the two most notable being the rise of social media and the decline in effectiveness of TV and print advertising. Another big change is the increase of content curration across all channels.

As in most industries, word-of-mouth is an important vehicle to reach customers, prospects, and prospective employees. At Con-way they make sure that the content they create can easily travel and be used when friends recommend them as a potential vendor or employer. A good example of that is how they share their job feed on their Facebook page for others to see and share with friends.

As said earlier, social media has made a big difference in Tom’s job over the past couple of years. While on the commercial side of their business the use of social media is still in the early stages, they see it playing an increasing role in customer service related inquiries as well as in requests for proposals and quotes. They also use social media internally, one example being the use of twitter to connect truckers with their load boards.

An interesting challenge facing Con-way marketing is that they have thousands of customers with whom they have a pretty shallow relationship, in essence moving freight for them from point A to point B, and which differ from one another on a regional basis. They also have several hundred customers with whom they have very deep relationships – those that outsource their entire supply chain to Con-way, and who have needs that are different based on industry. Tom is convinced that the latter group presents a bigger opportunity to connect customers with one another using social media or social CRM – ensuring that the collective becomes smarter than the individuals. When he thinks about a community for those customers, he also envisions hyper-local and face-to-face components – which is the right way of looking at customer communities when you have that opportunity.

We also talked about accountability and metrics – a topic that is top of mind for many marketers. At Con-way, marketing is accountable for three things – reducing the cost to acquire and retain customers, attracting and retaining the best and brightest employees, and positioning the company for growth. All metrics that are being used at Con-way support those three overarching goals.

The conversation then switched to the role of culture in a services company like Con-way. Con-way has a simple set of values that they truly live by – integrity, commitment, safety, and excellence. With a business where the brand is impacted by lot’s of employees who interact with customers, it’s critical to  the brand to have simple values that everyone can live by.  That is also why the employee brand and the customer brand have to be the same – if employees are the ones that will influence the brand promise in customers’ minds, they need to live that brand promise. The values at Con-way are so important that they are discussed every day during pre-work meetings with 8,000 drivers who interact with an average of 25 customers every day.

We closed the conversation by talking about innovation. At Con-way, they make a distinction between process innovation and product innovation. Process innovation is key when you have to constantly increase efficiency in a low margin industry to maintain profitability, while maintaining very high levels of customer service. Product innovation at Con-way is based partly  on Voice of the Customer and partly on trend spotting to see where the industry is headed. Launching new products in a service company like Con-way can be a tricky proposition. Unlike with product companies, where they can launch a product that is 80% complete and fix it later, in a services company the product has to be 100% perfect when you launch it.

It’s really interesting to see how the issues of a CMO in a more traditional business are not all that different from those in more recent industries, like for example the high tech space.

Other things that we discussed include:

  • The importance of alumni  in marketing and new employee training
  • More detailed conversation on how the overarching goals drive metrics
  • The integration between sales and marketing
  • Marketing content co-creation with sales
  • The use of social media for internal communications
  • The importance of content curration and thought leadership
  • How you need to adjust your business practices to the local culture
  • The differences in employment marketing in different cultures

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Conversation | 4 Comments »
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