One of my readers asked me to help educate people on how employees in an organization whose title does not include “Marketing” could indeed help with the marketing efforts of their organization. I think the challenge is many employees have a hard time engaging in their company’s marketing efforts because they don’t see how their particular job affects the entire organization, much less how it can have an impact on Marketing products and services for their company.
Every few years I get an itch to put together a jigsaw puzzle. I get so hooked that I will stay up into the wee hours of the morning seeking out the one green and brown with-a-hint-of-blue looking piece which connects a mossy bank to the stream of some European countryside. The picture which starts to emerge out of the 2,500 strewn pieces is most intriguing when it starts resembling the picture on the cover of the box. I seek out puzzles which seem to have some challenges and then I spend hours allowing my brain to lead my fingers to the appropriate assembly. In the past I have even worked on a puzzle without the box or image present – just for an added challenge. One day a friend brought me a present – a puzzle with no box – which meant, you guessed it – no picture! It was one of the best gifts ever! I had no idea what the outcome was, so I just started sorting and my brain kept working on what it was this image could actually be.
Crazy? Silly? Inefficient? Yes, yes, and yes. And this is how most people run their businesses – asking their teams to work on a puzzle without ever showing them the image of what it’s supposed to look like. From small businesses to big companies, leaders expect employees to show up ready to give 100% every day without giving them any idea of what the end-result should look like. Team members are just supposed to sort of figure it out and put the pieces together.
Unless you happen to be clairvoyant, you’re never going to be able to look at a bunch of puzzle pieces and instantly know what the image is going to be. Likewise, team members who have not had the privilege to see the marketing plan only see a myriad of pieces – upside down, backward, and even the plain brown side of pieces, or initiatives, as it were. They know they’re asked to work smarter, they’re asked to put in overtime, they’re asked to be nicer to customers, yet rarely does the business owner or CEO’s vision become a shared vision. This is critical if all the employees outside of Marketing are going to effectively and sustainably support the company’s marketing efforts.
It took me several hours of grouping similar pieces until I had assembled enough like pieces to reveal the railing of my front porch – it was a puzzle of my own house! I laughed out loud with glee when I realized this and thoroughly enjoyed finishing the project. It was not an easy one because of course this particular photo had lots of grass, trees and sky and shockingly enough – vinyl siding pieces are just as difficult to match as blue sky pieces – who knew? Now, there are a few of us who thrive on the challenge of piecing things together at a whim, and when it is for fun, like putting together a puzzle without the lid – a fantastic exercise in patience, but when it comes to business – this is disastrous.
Business growth is rarely an easy process even when you have clearly defined objectives and envision the outcome. Just search the statistics around the number of business who fail within the first few years – a staggering 80% will fail within the first 5 years. So, if pulling together the challenging pieces of your business has been difficult for you, just think about how hard it is without knowing those objectives – without the box with the picture. Just because you, yourself have seen this picture and work on your respective piece of your business can you honestly tell me the rest of your team has had access to the same information? Did you show it to them? Or, could it be you’ve “gifted” your team with the extra challenge of a bunch of puzzle pieces without the box with the picture, expecting them to piece them together into a coherent result?
The best thing you can do for your company’s success is to share the vision with your entire organization. You need to share the overall picture, the puzzle box lid. When teams know what they’re reaching for, they’ll be much more likely to obtain the desired result. When employees understand the overall objective, they become increasingly creative in identifying ways they or their departments can contribute at a higher level.
This doesn’t entirely cover what employees can do to support the marketing efforts of a company so I’ll cover that next time – stay tuned! I thought it was necessary to start with this step because the leadership of an organization must be willing to share the vision if he or she expects to be followed.
You really can’t afford to put this particular puzzle together without looking at the lid. Your marketing efforts need to be planned, and no not just in your head or on a piece of scrap paper. You need a strategic marketing plan just as much as you need a Business Plan. Then, you need to share that big picture with the folks who are working with the individual pieces every day.