Dodge Ball Lessons – Teach Every Employee to Play Offensively in Marketing
I’ve written about why a Marketing Plan is necessary and also how important it is to share that plan with your organization. This week I’m addressing how every employee can contribute to the overall marketing success for your company. But before you simply share this blog and say “DO this!” let me point out that leadership is not doling out directives. That would be the equivalent of my grade-school gym teacher barking out the rules for Dodge Ball, blowing her whistle, and then watching bedlam ensue.
If you were one of those kids who was more aggressive than I was at the time, you probably loved this game and were one of the last kids standing. I, on the other hand, hated this more than any other activity, except climbing that stupid rope. These weren’t soft Nerf balls, no, no, no. These were those red inflated rubber balls which might have well-been boulders because when flung through the air by the boys in the 3rd-grade class, their velocity was frightening to my delicate little second-grade limbs.
I was a ballet dancer for crying out loud – hurling objects at others and getting pummeled was not part of my normal existence. I wasn’t very good at throwing (remember, ballet dancer) and because I wanted to avoid the stinging hits, all I did was dart back and forth and dodge the balls. From a purely legalistic view, I played by the rules and did so fairly well. From a strategy-winning position, not so much.
How often do we just enforce the rules of the game with our employees without explaining to them winning strategies? It isn’t enough to simply give employees a bunch of tools, explain what they can’t do and let them have at our business. Why not? Well, first of all – people hear what they want to hear. Secondly, when they don’t know what to do they will go into survival mode and simply react, put out fires, or in keeping with the theme at hand, dodge the balls hurled at them. If an employee doesn’t know how to properly answer phones, or launch a product, or build rapport with clients, they’ll just follow the crowd, take the easiest course of action, or follow horrible advice which is always being passed around like a tasteless joke. If it is your intent to rise above the ordinary, to not merely survive, but to thrive – then you need to provide team members how to be proactive in your marketing efforts.
So what are those winning strategies to help your team members engage in the game more effectively? For starters, let’s look at possibly the most over-looked qualities you can prescribe to your organization – kindness, and respect. And, I’m talking about going beyond being cordial. For years, you’ve heard, “It’s not personal, it’s business” – that’s a bunch of baloney. It’s just the way jerks justify being jerks. Business is very much personal – on all levels – everywhere. So, employees who treat everyone they meet with kindness and dignity will spill over onto the prospect who you haven’t even identified yet. Every employee who has interaction with anyone who is not an employee needs to be trained in Customer Service. This means every phone call, every person who walks through the door is treated just as well as your top revenue-generating client. No exceptions, not ever. If every single one of your team members were to adopt this basic human quality, which is no longer commonplace, you will see positive outcomes in your organization – and I’m willing to bet that will include your revenue number.
Not believing me yet? We recently went to Red Lobster and after we were seated, we were ignored for a really long period of time. We started walking out and instead of getting a muttered “sorry”, we had the manager go out of her way to make things right. Angie personally took care of us for the rest of the night. We didn’t expect it, and we’re a bit taken aback by it. Twenty years ago, or at a family owned restaurant one might expect this kind of service – but certainly not at a chain restaurant. We were so impressed we went back just a couple of nights later – and will continue to return. What could’ve been a bad experience was turned so positively that the human nature of reciprocity means I most definitely will continue to return – to Angie’s restaurant. It’s no longer Red Lobster – its Angie’s Red Lobster – why? Because Angie took ownership, Angie went above beyond and made it hers by actively deciding to treat customers as she would want to be treated. If you tell your employees that above all things they need to take care of the customer they will surprise you in so many ways. Angie shows what a positive impact one team member can have on a company’s marketing. That experience is worth more than any coupon, countless email campaigns, or advertising Red Lobster could ever create because she showed us kindness, and respected our time and our money.
On the flip side, it would’ve taken many months, maybe years, and a lot of advertising to get me to even consider going back – why? My time and money are worth something to me and where I live there is no shortage of places to patronize. Angie single-handedly acted as the most powerful brand ambassador and the most effective advertising Red Lobster could ever do for me as a consumer. This is now my experience with that particular brand and I was actually impressed with the level of execution of Angie’s professionalism and commitment to excellence.
Getting it? Good! Let’s keep playing! What is another winning strategy you can impact on your team?
Educate them on what your company does so they can articulate what you do and why you’re so great at it. I’ve been at social events, on planes, at conferences where I was able to connect someone with the right person at my company because I knew we could meet a need of theirs. Do all of your employees know what to look out for?
Do they know what type of person or company could use your services? This goes beyond saying “we make extraordinary widgets” or “my boss give me all the time off I need”, although positive they aren’t connecting your company to potential buyers. Teach your team to talk about the problem the company solves.
Next, create an opportunity for every employee to have a voice for new ideas – whether it’s promoting, innovating, etc. Don’t beat them down when an idea comes through that you don’t’ like. Those ridiculous ideas just might contain the next big idea. See Got Marketing? Part II for a recap if you need it on why that’s important.
Marketing is not for the passive, for the wimpy, or for the weak. It is for the bold – so take action and explain more than just the rules of the game – take the time to coach your employees on ways they can have a powerful and positive impact to your Marketing initiatives. Cultivate a culture of Angie’s. As for Dodge Ball, I learned it really isn’t all that scary once you’ve got some balls of your own.
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