Today I cancelled all of my job alerts for marketing, communications, public relations and digital marketing jobs. I did so not because I am discouraged and giving up on a job search but because I have been fortunate enough to have had some really important conversations with some really smart people over the past couple of months. Those conversations have helped me to understand not only where my greatest strengths lie as as communicator, but also, how I want to operate as a communicator—I want to teach and I want to learn.
There was a reason I chose to feature a personal photo of myself on this blog (Am often loathe to publish personal photos but the photo above is of my sister in law Tine and I having a conversation about marketing. She’s a marketing in Danish broadcasting and is a wealth of insight and knowledge). I want to provide readers with a clear an authentic picture of who I am as a communicator, as a teacher, and most importantly, as a life-long learner. The tool that I bring to this task is myself and my experience working for large, multi-national corporations as well as small, non-profits.
This post is inspired by the recent post from Jeff Julian about the role of marketing and marketers. Jeff accurately points out that leaders of many organizations (large and small) may not consider marketing as an important strategic function. Jeff says many times, marketers find themselves lacking “a seat at the table” meaning that marketing has not been integrated into the strategic function of the organization and as Carla Johnson aptly points out in this great piece, marketers find themselves working to “bring their companies into the modern age.”
At present, the board of directors and leader of my organization are having lots of conversation about experiences. So important is the experience to them, they have coined the term “Company Experience” to brand the customer experience that they want our customers to have. They are forgetting that an important aspect of the customer experience is online (it’s where we make our introduction to many of our new customers) and while program development is important, ensuring that the experience with our existing programs is delightful can also be a priority. That is where the cognitive dissonance lies. Talking about the importance of the experience without the strategic and tactical means by which to make that experience a reality is just that-talk. As the sole marketer within my organization, I feel I have a unique perspective on what is desired and what is (or is not) done on behalf of the customer because I study them. I also have an up close and personal communication with our customers via social media and the telephone. Yes, the telephone. I know that some of our customers use the telephone because they may not be comfortable with technology but it also signifies an issue: the company Website is a challenge to navigate. No es bueno.
The cause of the cognitive dissonance with regard to our owned assets is two-fold: our administration and leadership are not personally using the site so they do not understand the actual customer experience. The second reason is that Web development is a less-than-well understood aspect of the work for my colleagues. I liken this to the way many folks feel about going to a mechanic to have their car repaired. The customer wants the car fixed in the least expensive and most efficient manner but are not interested in knowing exactly how it will be fixed–they just know they want it to work. And that is valid. I feel the same way about the mechanic but thanks to Google, I can now speak with my auto-mechanic with a degree of knowledge.
I have spent the past few weeks conducting my own personal usability studies of our mobile UX by asking my friends and family to go to the company site and buy something. This Moz post was a helpful guide though I would love to implement Inspectlet as I work with developers on the new site. Five out of six users have simply given up on the purchase with the current site. That made setting my priorities beautifully simple: get a new Website.
My goal for the Website is to provide a valuable experience for the customer and at the outset will focus on the following:
- the purchase process
- engaging content on current and upcoming artists
- easily accessible information of our events as well as the larger local and national music scenes (specifically Jazz)
- a rich and engaging visual and audio experience as it relates to our business
- database growth through charming buttons for newsletter sign up and donations
Rather than focus on the challenges I face as a single marketer in an organization that has not yet integrated marketing into the larger strategy, I am focusing on possible solutions. Focusing on solutions requires that I look at the situation from an objective position first. Leaders who do not consider marketing an important and/or vital function of an organization do not do so out of malice. Objectivity enables me to see that there is an internal education process required before the real work can begin. But how does one educate their superiors and peers without sounding patronizing? Repeating myself and forcing projects down the throats of my colleagues will not work, it never does.
The answer: Game it.
In the coming weeks I hope to launch a Web scavenger hunt. I will send an email to my colleagues within the organization and ask them to find a specific piece of content or make a purchase on our site. I will also ask them to track the amount of time it takes to complete each task and “reply to all” with their results in terms of completion as well as time spent. I will also incentive the game with a reward.
The manner in which I communicate about the scavenger hunt is also crucial. I plan to use words that are engaging and not accusatory. I plan to focus on solutions and spur excitement about what is possible in a new Web environment and with updated CSS. I plan to show each person how the new Website will work to their personal advantage (lucky for me it is a small organization). I plan to share examples of other Websites and features that provide a superior customer experience and demonstrate how much opportunity we have as an organization to grow our existing customer base through online engagement. I also know I will need to communicate these things more than once.
Again, in my new found role as a teaching and learning communicator, I want to teach and I want to learn. Regardless of the outcome, creating a game to engage others and communicating to engage will be a learning experience. I will let you know how it goes.