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Prerequisites for success

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What aspect of your business do your clients judge you on the most? And does your marketing reflect that?

Apologies for my tendency to quote 1980s BritPop but I keep remembering “tell me what you want, what you really, really want”, and not for the reason you’re thinking. It sums up the dilemma we face when we’re trying to decide how best to prioritise our marketing messages.

What do prospective clients want to know about our business or brand? What resonates with them? What helps brands stand out above the rest? Do we even take the time to understand what customers want, or do we build our messaging around what we want them to hear?

I went to Massey’s Wellington open day with Miss 18, who’s eyeing up a career behind the scenes in film or TV. The whole day blew me away, but a stand-out session was the introduction by Lucas Haley, head of the Creative Media and Production degree. He left those eager young faces wide-eyed with his inspiration and passion.

We hear a lot of talk about ‘soft skills’ from people in HR and career development, and Lucas summed up the importance of these prerequisites for success in a way that struck a chord in terms of brand management too.

He talked about four essential qualities to be nurtured during undergraduate years, preparing for working life: communication, teamwork, creative thinking and technical skills.

Communication skills can set a young applicant apart in the race for a job – the ability to put together a good cover letter, have a half decent conversation, be engaging and make themselves understood.

Likewise, if our marketing messages lack clarity, our brands get nowhere. If the way we present ourselves in our marketing, or how our staff present themselves individually, gives a poor first impression, we won’t get the chance for a second.

Teamwork is one of the most important skills we need in the modern workforce, particularly as we work more collaboratively with our peers or external partners. More than ever, we have to work well with others, have mutual respect, positive interactions and a collective desire to get things done.

If this attribute isn’t blatantly apparent in your customers’ interactions with you, the seeds of doubt will soon take root.

I recently helped a client with a response document for a tender, and it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a group of people pull together so effectively. Yes, winning that tender contract would be huge for them, but the benefits that came out of those few days of mutually supportive hard graft will be equally tangible.

The world now has a better understanding of the phrase ‘creative thinking’, knowing that we don’t mean arty-ness and pretty pictures. Employers now value (or should) the applicant prepared to look at challenges from a different angle, brave enough to be different. There’s plenty to be said for ideas and methodologies that are tried and tested but in so many industry sectors, a hunger for new approaches is a valuable asset.

With our marketing, we know the safety net of the familiar will catch a certain number of customers and, particularly when budgets are tight, we have to understand the risk when throwing out ideas that have worked before. But if our marketplace is full of others doing the same, being first to change gets you noticed.

The point that stood out most from Lucas’s four prerequisites for success was about technical skills and how, although they’re important, there is flexibility. New in a workplace, we all soon get to a point when we’re expected to deliver on the promise of our abilities. But in many sectors, most in fact, skills requirements change. Technology moves on. Trends shift the landscape. Changing demands influence the skills we need to have to be able to complete what’s required. The ability to build on our expertise and adapt can be more important than being the best at what we do.

Will your customers even know that your brand is best in the business if you’re not effectively communicating that to them? Will your customers keep coming back for more if their experience is tainted as a result of a poor team dynamic?

If it’s a level playing field in your industry in terms of what you do, will the company that talks about it differently win the day?

Take the time to understand what is most important in your clients, whether it’s one of these four attributes or something else. You still have to be true to your brand, but you won’t attract clients until you can give them something they want, really really want.

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About Author

Vicki Jones

Vicki Jones is director of Dugmore Jones, Hamilton-based marketing management consultancy. Email vicki@dugmorejones.co.nz