Transcript of How to Reliably Generate Big Ideas for Your Business

Transcript of How to Reliably Generate Big Ideas for Your Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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John Jantsch: Everybody wants that next big idea for your business, but sitting down and thinking up big ideas is kind of a really great way to freeze your brain up. In this week’s episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast I speak with Mike Brown. He is the author of Idea Magnets, and presents, really, a great framework for asking questions that lead to those big ideas, check it out.

Asana logoThis episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Asana, a work management software tool that we use to run pretty much everything in our business. All of our meetings, all of our product launches, all of our tasks. I’m going to show you how you can try it for free a little later.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Mike Brown founder of The Brainzooming Group and author of a book we’re going to talk about today called Idea Magnets. So welcome, Mike.

Mike Brown: Thank you, John, I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you and your listeners.

John Jantsch: I interview people all over the world, but today I’m interviewing somebody across town.

Mike Brown: Yeah, we’re close, not too far away.

John Jantsch: Which is always fun. So, let’s start…you know, brainzooming is not an everyday name, in fact you’ve trademarked it. So what does brainzooming actually mean and do?

Mike Brown: Well, brainzooming, the name is probably about 10 years old. Came out of some work I was doing in the corporate world of trying to help people who weren’t strategists be better strategists. And not marketers be better marketers. We’d surround them with exercises and tools, and we were actually doing a session for a class at Baker University, which is in the area. And the teacher wanted four or five exercises within the course of 50 minutes. I was sitting at my desk, and I didn’t really have a name for what we were doing. I was thinking about trying to get all that done, and I just thought, you know, at that point it’s not even brainstorming, it’s brainzooming.

I looked up and said, “Thank you, God. That may be a name.” And googled it, and it was available, I had the URL that night. Basically, it’s really from that start was how you provide structure for people so that when they look at strategic planning, or they look at trying to innovate, that can be a pretty daunting task, but when you give them structure, and frameworks, all of a sudden they can apply what they know about their product, or what they know about their customers, or their markets in a really productive way versus handing somebody a template or a form to fill out and they go, “I don’t know what to put in here.” Started it on the corporate side, and have just started to do it across industries and into nonprofits and educational organizations, community, cities as well.

John Jantsch: Do you sometimes find that it’s kind of hard to explain to people what it is you’re selling unless they’ve really experienced the problem?

Mike Brown: Every time, John. Every time. Particularly if they’re coming to us for strategic planning, so rarely have people ever experienced that where they felt good about it, it’s tough for them to wrap their head around, it could be fun and it could be engaging, and people beyond the senior management team could participate. So we do a lot of things whether that’s workshops or I’m out speaking, or we’ll do community events where people can experience it, and then they go, “Oh, I get it now.” It’s tough to describe for sure.

John Jantsch: Yeah, you’re in one of those categories of business where you’re solving a problem sometimes people don’t know they have.

Mike Brown: Yeah. It’s funny. A couple years ago, I was looking at traffic on our website, and we were getting a ton of hits for a post on fun strategic planning, and nobody is really out talking about fun strategic planning. I’ve discovered over time, if people are out looking for that, and one of our biggest clients, they did a google search for fun strategic planning, and found us. If somebody is looking for that, they’ve already made it way past, “I hate doing strategic planning. I want to get people in.” They know they want something different but typically can’t find anybody who can bring that to life for them. So it’s not only difficult to describe at times, there’s no common category of, “Oh, it’s this demography, and this size company.” It’s a lot more about the leader and their philosophy and what they’re looking to accomplish in the organization.

John Jantsch: So when the book title first came across my desk, Idea Magnet, I’m a marketer I’m thinking, “Oh, this is a way to attract more clients somehow.” Then the subtitle, of course, 7 Strategies for Cultivating and Attracting Creative Business Leaders, made me kind of pause and say, “Okay, so who is this book for then?”

Mike Brown: Yeah, good question. It’s really across almost any business leader, or any leader of an organization where the genesis of it came from, I had a long corporate career, so I was 18, 19 years on the corporate side. I tended to pair up with, particularly for a long stretch, a guy who was just a wildly creative person. He would come up with ideas that you’re just like, “I don’t know how you ever thought of that.” Then I was the person that said, “Okay, let me operationalize that. I’ll figure out how much we can deliver, how we’re going to do it, and carry some of that enthusiasm out to the team.” But I sort of took this role as I’m more the implementer of the big idea.

When I jumped out and started brainzooming eight, nine years ago, I realized I don’t have that person paired up to me anymore, and I had clients looking at me going, “Okay, we want the big ideas from you.” It was … what I did at that time, and I’ve described Idea Magnets almost as a presentation and then a book from the road, I went back and said, “These big creative leaders I’ve worked with over time, what did they do? How did they motivate themselves? How did they energize a team? How did they move this through to implementation?” And really just try to reverse engineer it and say, “That’s not exactly me, but I need to step into that role. What are frameworks? What are tools? What are exercises that can make that happen?” even if that’s not my natural bent.

So that’s where people who are wildly creative, it may not be the first pick for them in a book, because that just comes from them naturally, but I think maybe we all hit those creative dry spots, that could help them. But for somebody who feels like, “Wow, there’s a lot of pressure in business, and we’ve got to grow, we’ve got to do different things.” Ideally, it’s going to be targeted at them where it will be a resource to help them step up into that role and be more successful with it on a more predictable basis.

John Jantsch: Yeah, there’s certainly a lot of people out there, leaders of organizations or departments that probably suffer from that, “I’m just not very creative.” I think part of what you’re saying is that you just don’t have a creative process.

Mike Brown: Exactly. Often when somebody says they’re not creative, they’re thinking about, “I don’t draw, I don’t write, or I don’t make music.” But you say, “Well, what’s your favorite thing to do?”, it’s, “I love to fish.” “Tell me how you fish?” Then they have all kinds of ideas, and hacks, and ways that they’ve discovered. I always say, “There’s your creativity. Apply those same lessons to other things and all of a sudden you’re creative.” So getting to that inspiration in the tools, the process, the structure, it just lights people up that, “Well, I can do this, I can do this predictably.”

John Jantsch: Hey, as I said in the intro, this is brought to you by Asana. It’s a work management software tool that we’ve been using for a long time, our entire team, it just allows us to be so much more productive, to unify our communication, to keep track of tasks, to assign and delegate pretty much everything from meetings all the way up through our client work. You can get it and try it free for 30 days, because you are a listener. So get started at Asana.com/ducttape. That’s Asana, A-S-A-N-A, .com/ducttape.

So, and you don’t have to go through these one by one, but anytime somebody comes up with, “Seven strategies for something,” you know, it begs to say, “Okay, explain a few.” So I’ve got them listed out here, but maybe pick your favorite couple that could give people a flavor of what they might find.

Mike Brown: I think number three is attracting opposites is one of my favorites. The heart of that is really that easy to put ourselves into a box and say, “Well, I’m an implementer.” Or, “I come up with ideas. But then I hand them off to somebody else.” The thing that I saw in the Idea Magnets I work with, and continue to meet is they’re both of those things. They come up with ideas, but they know how to implement them. They can generate a bunch of ideas but they can also make really good decisions and prioritize. There was a, since we’re both from Kansas City, there was a billboard a couple years ago in the Waldo area, and it was all these pairings of contrary perspectives, and it was a company saying, “We want all those people.”

I think that’s what Idea Magnets embody is they’re not just one, they’re really good end thinkers and end people in how they approach business. I think another one I really like, again, maybe based on my background is number six, which is implementing for impact. That it isn’t just fine to come up with 20 ideas, or 100 ideas, or 1000 ideas, you’ve got to weed through them and be able to bring them to fruition. Whether that’s a business objective, or a personal objective, or an organization you’re involved with. Ideally, you’re also pulling on number five, which is encouraging other people and their ideas as well.

I’ve always loved that idea of a diverse team, I think you get better thinking and I think you get better implementation. You’re just more successful whether it’s a formal team in an organization, or even if you’re a solopreneur, who are those other business people that you’re surrounding yourself with who can give you a different kind of perspective than you have. That’s two or three that are personal favorites of mine.

John Jantsch: I mean, in some ways, as I hear you describe those, it’s almost like you’re saying these are attributes that you need to develop or these are talents that you need to find in other people. I mean, it’s almost like there’s nobody that’s going to be all seven of these things, I don’t think, but they can work on some of [inaudible].

Mike Brown: Exactly. You’re right at the heart of that, John, that nobody is equally good at all those things, and in some of them you’ll excel at, some of them you’ll rely on more directly or more frequently, but you’re working to develop the others. As you said, you’re surrounding yourself with people, whether it’s organizationally, or more informally, that you know you’ve got gaps, but other people can step in and help fill in those gaps and help create success for you, but importantly create success back for them, growth opportunities for them as well.

John Jantsch: So, one that you didn’t touch on, so I’m going to bring up one more. Because I’d love to hear how…your take on how this actually works in a creative leadership role, that’s embodying servant leadership. I’d love to hear how, I think I know what the opposite of that does, but I’d love to hear maybe how you apply that.

Mike Brown: Yeah, I think for a lot of people, I think of sort of the classic command and control leader of somebody’s articulating the direction and the vision, and then everybody follows. I guess I grew up under leaders who were much more open to the idea of we need to collaboratively come up with this vision. You know what? Somebody who’s on the team, even though they may be the most junior person, can help shape that or have an insight that can change that in a material way. You’ve got to be open to that. I think about it as servant leadership and the idea that an idea magnet isn’t in it just for themselves. Yeah, they have personal aspirations, they want to grow, they want to make money, but they realize they’ve got to work with other people and other people are going to help the team, or help the organization be more successful.

We had a video that we were doing just as an example that sort of came to mind. We were doing a video at our corporation, it was the leadership as young kids. None of us who were in senior roles wanted anything to do with it. It was like this could be bad. There was a guy on my staff, he stepped up, he helped write the script. He helped in the casting, and really shaped it like three levels through the organization because he was the person that was inspired by the creative vision. So leaders can use chain of command, but I think they can be so much more effective if they reach beyond organizational ties to the people who really light up with ideas and bring them in no matter where they fit in an organization.

John Jantsch: So a lot of my listeners are solopreneurs, very small businesses. I think when you start talking about things like chain of command and strategic planning, you know, they’re like, “Oh, you’re not talking to me.” How does the idea of an idea magnet apply to that very small solo business.

Mike Brown: Yeah. I think in a couple of ways one is, as I said in Brainzooming, is small business. I have people that I reach out to that are very close, but through social media, or through net working, or just personal connections. Try and surround myself with people who have very different perspectives than I do. So, again, it may not be formal, but it may just be informal of if you’re an entrepreneur, you know it too, it’s tough to just go that road by yourself. You need to be around other people. So I think that’s a way to start to apply that idea of I’m reaching out to other people who can help me along this path. It doesn’t have to be somebody who write me a paycheck too, or giving money for it. It may just be informally as well.

The idea of strategic planning is funny too. Because I actually went through that last week. I had one of my collaborators was putting me through strategic planning because I’ve said, “I can’t plan for myself. I need somebody else’s outside perspective.” It doesn’t have to be, and it shouldn’t be 75, 80 pages of a document, because who’s going to use that? I think it’s in our world using questions and structure. So you’ve thought about your objectives, you’ve thought about your direction and in the world of what we do have had conversations about it, so it becomes sort of almost an oral tradition for the organization. Yeah, strategic planning shouldn’t be scary, it should just be basically saying we’re trying to look ahead, focus on what matters with some insights and some innovation to how we’re doing it.

John Jantsch:  I always tell people for me the best part of strategic planning is deciding what not to do. I think that’s the other aspect…it’s really easy to come up with 19 priorities for this quarter.

Mike Brown: Exactly, [crosstalk] right now.

John Jantsch: But whittling it down to three, now that’s a harder job isn’t it?

Mike Brown: Absolutely. Absolutely. We see that when we work with bigger organizations or even just smaller organizations. They’ll come up with the ideas, then they’ll put 90% of them into the next six months, and I always say, “You’re not going to do that. It’s fine to load them up, but be prepared to have those spread out, because we just can’t tackle all that stuff at once.”

John Jantsch: So, I’m going to do to you what…When I go out to speak so often I’ll talk for an hour, and give lots and lots of ideas and inevitably somebody comes up at the end and says, “Okay, that was all really good. But what’s the one thing that if I did that everything would change?” So what’s the one thing in Idea Magnets that you want small business owners to take away?

Mike Brown: There’s questions throughout that book, John, that if you’re trying to come up with bigger ideas, there’s questions that you can use. If there’s ways that you’re trying to think about your business in unexpected ways, maybe a fresh perspective, there’s questions. I think that to me is [inaudible] take away that I’ve learned over the course of a career that really started as a researcher is the power of very targeted questions. I think as an entrepreneur, as a small business person, put together that list of five, six, seven questions that tie to what’s going to be important for you in the year ahead, or the years ahead.

You can keep coming back to those questions in new situations and come up with new ideas, new perspectives. All of us, if we know what the different ways we want to look at our business are and have a set of questions like that, can be tremendously effective.

John Jantsch: Speaking of questions, you’ve got an ebook for our listeners, why don’t you tell us about that?

Mike Brown: Yeah. We’ve got special one, it’s called 49 Idea Magnet Questions for attracting big ideas. I always tell people the worst question you can ask is, or the worst thing you can demand is, “Hey, let’s come up with big ideas.” Because typically people shut down. What we try and do is say instead of big ideas, use big questions that stretch your thinking, stretch your perspective, and the ideas will come and a lot of those will be big. We’ve got this ebook, it’s free, and we’ve got an excerpt of Idea Magnets in that, and specifically for your listeners can get it at ideamagnets.com/dtm, for Duct Tape Marketing, it’s out there, and it’s free. It’s a great start of questions that they can use in the year ahead to improve how they address opportunities, tackle challenges, and maybe stretch themselves and their organizations in new directions.

John Jantsch: Of course, we’ll have as always a link to that in the show notes at Duct Tape Marketing. Tell people where they can find the book, Idea Magnets, and anything about Brainzooming.

Mike Brown: Ideamagnets.com, it’s out on Amazon. You may have to search a little bit, you may get some kitchen magnets, but Idea Magnets is out there, you can also get it at Ideamagnets.com. The Brainzooming side of things, which is [inaudible] strategic planning, innovation is at Brainzooming.com. We’ve got, I don’t think I have as much writing as you, John, but about 2500 blog posts out there, not about how we do stuff, but tools, frameworks, the types of things that show up in Idea Magnets. Where you can focus in and use those to improve your business prospects.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Mike, thanks for joining us, and a lot of times I end this show by saying I hope to run into you out there on the road, but I guess I’ll say, I hope to run into you out there at the grocery store, or the pub, or something.

Mike Brown: Absolutely, John. Thank you so much for the opportunity, I really appreciate it.

How To Reliably Generate Big Ideas for Your Business

How To Reliably Generate Big Ideas for Your Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Mike Brown
Podcast Transcript

Mike BrownMy guest this week on the podcast is Mike Brown, an author and strategist who specializes in operationalizing design thinking. His new book, Idea Magnets, helps dynamic leaders to cultivate big ideas and create innovative success.

Brown is also the founder of The BrainzoomingTM Group, where his customized, collaborative approach to strategy, branding, and innovation resonates both with large companies such as Farmers Insurance and American Greetings, as well as with solopreneurs, small businesses, and nonprofits.

Through his writing and speaking, Mike connects hundreds of thousands of people globally with the Brainzooming approach for strategic planning, branding, and innovation.

On today’s episode, I talk with Brown about how to inspire creative thinking predictably, whether you’re running a big company or are a solopreneur.

Questions I ask Mike Brown:

  • What’s the difference between being creative and having a creative process?
  • How do you build a team that has all of the attributes to generate great ideas?
  • What does it mean to apply the concept of servant leadership in your business?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why finding people that are passionate about the work at hand is more important than focusing on title or seniority.
  • What the idea magnet concept means for small business owners or solopreneurs.
  • How to use targeted questions to get the results you want.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Mike Brown:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Asana logoThis episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Asana! Asana is a work management tool to keep your entire team on track. The Duct Tape team relies on Asana to unify communication, assign and delegate tasks, and manage deliverables for everything from individual meetings to big client projects.

To help support the show, Asana is offering our listeners an exclusive deal. You can get a free, 30-day trial. Just go to asana.com/ducttape.

Why Behavior Scoring is the Missing Ingredient in Your Marketing Approach

Why Behavior Scoring is the Missing Ingredient in Your Marketing Approach written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

With inbound marketing becoming ever more popular in recent years, a marketer might be tempted to think broad when it comes to their approach. After all, when anyone can happen upon your brand, it means that anyone’s a potential customer, right?

That’s not quite true. In fact, the number of leads that actually become customers is only around 10 percent. So that means you should really be focused on creating highly targeted marketing messages that are likely to appeal to that small sliver of the population, rather than trying to please everyone.

But how do you find those people? And once you’ve found them, what can you do to make sure you’re speaking to them in a way that really resonates?

That’s where behavior scoring comes in. When you understand the behaviors that are most often exhibited by your customers, you can begin to identify your most promising leads and refine your marketing messaging so that it speaks directly to them.

What is Behavior Scoring?

Behavior scoring, sometimes called lead scoring, is assigning a numerical score or grade to prospects based on certain behaviors they exhibit. You start by analyzing the behaviors of your best existing customers. Are there ways they interact with your brand that consistently result in conversions? Is there a certain page on your website they visit, social media platform they follow, or email newsletter they sign up for?

When you understand the behaviors of your existing clients, you can then create a “composite sketch” of your ideal customer. Those customers who do X, Y, and Z convert a high percentage of the time, so your prospects who do those same things are given a high behavior score. They’re the people you want to focus your marketing time and effort on.

People visit sites or interact with brands for all sorts of reasons. Let’s say you own a tree care company. You may show up in search results for an apartment-dweller looking for advice on tending to her indoor potted tree, a student thinking about starting a lawn care business who’s doing research on pricing in similar industries, and new homeowner in the area who wants to replace some of the older trees on their property. Only one of these people has the potential to become a legitimate client, and since you don’t get full biographical information on those who visit your website, tracking behaviors can indicate their level of seriousness.

The woman in the apartment might watch a short video on plant care your site and then disappear. The student might beeline to the pricing page. But the homeowner looks at several pages outlining services and pricing, plus checks out your testimonials. If this is activity you’ve seen from past customers, then you know this is a lead worth spending some time on.

Lower Your Customer Acquisition Costs and Increase Customer Lifetime Value

Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) are two critical metrics to track for your business. When you understand how much it costs to acquire your customers and how much value they produce once you have them, you can tweak your sales approach and pricing models to ensure your acquisition costs are covered and you’re still able to make a profit.

However, the reverse is also true: When you understand the behaviors that make someone a promising lead, you can lower CAC and increase CLV. By only marketing to those prospects exhibiting desirable behaviors, you stop wasting time on prospects who will never convert. This means that you’ll get more marketing bang for your buck overall, since you won’t spend dollars chasing those who would never become customers anyway.

Plus, as you begin to develop a more and more nuanced understanding of your customers’ behaviors, you can continue to refine your marketing approach to get even greater results and drive existing customers towards purchasing bigger and better products. All of this leads to an increase in overall CLV.

Understand What Resonates with Your Promising Leads

When you understand the actions of your ideal customer, you can create marketing campaigns that drive prospects to take those actions. Experimenting with website layout, calls to action, and your messaging and tone can all help to drive people who are interested in your business to take the steps that are likely to lead to conversion.

A/B testing is a particularly effective way to further refine your approach. Try running different variations of your web pages to see which gains the greatest traction.

Showing half of your hot leads one option and the other a variant of the same page allows you to understand the messaging and layout that works best. If there’s a significant difference in response to the two variations, that tells you something.

You then can do the work of analyzing the differences, identifying the aspects that made the one page so successful, and replicating that approach across other pages, platforms, and channels.

Further Refine Your Outbound Approach

Once you understand what resonates with your hot leads, you can move beyond inbound tactics and create advertising that’s highly targeted to those leads.

Facebook’s advertising platform offers business owners a number of ways to identify and target hot leads. With the Facebook Pixel installed on your website, you’re able to track visitor behavior—a key part of the scoring process. On the Facebook advertising platform itself, you can create lookalike audiences, groups with attributes that mirror those of your existing customer base, allowing you to target them with advertising.

All of this becomes a positive feedback loop. As your marketing approach is refined, you continue to attract more qualified leads. These leads in turn give you an even more nuanced picture of what your ideal prospect looks like, which allows you to further tailor your marketing approach. Over time, you generate greater and greater results.

Pass on the Leads that Will Never Convert

The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of leads who will never convert, no matter what you do. If you spend your time and energy reaching out to every person, the majority of your energy is being dedicated to people who will never convert.

That’s why a critical part of behavior scoring is not just assigning positive points to those leads who exhibit certain behaviors that often lead to conversion, but also taking away points from those who exhibit less-than-promising behaviors.

Leads who consistently delete your emails without reading, have only been to your website once or twice, or are in a location that your business doesn’t service are ones that you should not spend time pursuing.

Inbound marketing can sometimes make you feel like you need to be everything to everyone. In reality, the most effective marketing strategies—inbound and outbound—are those that speak directly to the small percentage of the population that actually need the solution your business offers. When you use behavior scoring to better understand the actions of your best customers, you can create messaging that resonates with the leads who have the best shot at conversion. All of this saves you time and money, and it makes your customers happier, because they know they’ve found a business that really gets them.

India is planning to achieve 50 GW of prodction from renewbale energy by 2028



India is planning to achieve 50 gigawatt (GW) of production from renewable energy by 2028, in order to get to its goal of 40 per cent of electricity generation from non-fossil fuels by 2030, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy secretary, Anand Kumar said at the India-Norway Business Summit 2019 in New Delhi.

Of this 500 GW, 350 GW would come from solar, 140 GW wind, and the remaining generation capacity would come from small hydro and biomass power.

“This figure excludes large hydro. If we take large hydro into account the figure will grow to 560 GW to 575 GW. To reach this figure we have to bid out 30 GW of solar energy and 10 GW of wind energy every year,” Kumar said.

He added that India’s requirement for electricity generation capacity may reach 840 GW by 2030 if the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grows at a rate of 6.5 per cent.

“Out of 840 GW, we plan to install a little more than 500 GW in renewables. We have installed 75 GW renewable energy capacity in the country and another 46 GW is under various stages of installations,” added Kumar.

Weekend Favs January 5

Weekend Favs January 5 written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one that I took out there on the road.

  • Anewstip – Identify journalists writing stories in your space, based on past articles and Twitter activity.
  • Notify – Get Slack notifications any time your company gets mentioned online.
  • Pexels Videos – Access free stock video.

These are my weekend favs, I would love to hear about some of yours – Tweet me @ducttape

Transcript of The Secrets to Leading Creative People

Transcript of The Secrets to Leading Creative People written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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Transcript

This transcript is sponsored by our transcript partner – Rev – Get $10 off your first order

John Jantsch: Leading or managing people in an organization is a tough job. It gets just that much tougher when the folks that you are choosing to lead are highly creative. In this episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I visit with Todd Henry. He’s the author of Herding Tigers: Be The Leader That Creative People Need. If you or your organization has creative people, and let’s face it, that’s what drives a lot of business today, you need to check it out.

Hello, welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Todd Henry. He is a speaker, consultant, advisor, and author of a number of books including the book we’re gonna talk about today, called Herding Tigers: Be The Leader That Creative People Need. So, Todd, welcome to the show.

Todd Henry: John, it’s so great to be with you. Thanks for having me.

John Jantsch: I can’t believe it’s taken me this long. I’m a big fan of your previous work, Die Empty, in fact you were awesome enough that you just happened to be passing through town and we flagged you down to come speak at one of my events and it was very, very motivating for everybody.

Todd Henry: It was so much fun, and I just have to say as encouragement to you, you’re the most humble person in the world so I know that you would never toot your own horn, but just seeing your community there and seeing how people responded to you and responded to what you have built there, it just really showed me the kind of integrity that you bring to your business, because you were able to attract people from all over the place to come to Louisville to spend some time with you, learning about the things that you wanted to teach them.

Just as encouragement to you, it was really, really amazing to see your community in action there as well. You didn’t ask me to do that, but I wanted to do it anyway.

John Jantsch: Well, I appreciate that, but longtime listeners know I’m not really that humble.

Todd Henry: Okay.

John Jantsch: So let me ask you the big question that came to my mind as I was reading Herding Tigers. How does leading creative people differ from being a creative leader?

Todd Henry: Oh, that’s a great question. No one has ever asked me that, actually. Listen, we’re all creative. We all have to solve problems every day as a function of our job. That’s just the nature of the modern workplace. So, if you have to go to work, solve problems, figure things out, if you’re an entrepreneur, if you’re a business owner, you are creative to a certain extent. What I wanted to do in this book was talk about the dynamics of leading highly creative people.

Leading highly creative people is different from being a creative leader, because you can be a creative leader and lead a team of engineers or a team … which, by the way, engineers are incredibly creative and incredibly bright in that way. But, you can be a highly creative leader and be leading a more mundane, process oriented business and still be highly creative, because you still have to solve problems, figure out systems, et. cetera.

This book really is about leading highly creative people. People who maybe think a little bit differently from the norm, maybe people who might be a little more difficult to wrangle. What I wanted to do is really address some of those common dynamics among teams that are highly creative. What is it that makes them especially difficult to lead, and how can leaders, especially leaders maybe that are stepping into a role of leading highly creative people for the first time, how can they better position themselves to set their team up for success?

That’s the goal of the leader is to help their team succeed, not necessarily for them to succeed because if their team succeeds, then they will succeed.

John Jantsch: I guess it kind of begs two questions. Maybe you’re defining creative person in a very strict sense like the graphic designer or the writer or the video editor. Is that fair?

Todd Henry: I think it is fair, but I think that this applies to really leading any group of people that has to figure it out and make it up as they go, so if you’re a sales organization, you’re having to come up with creative solutions all the time to reach potential clients, having to re-strategize all the time. Like I said, if you’re leading a group of engineers, that is a project based business, a project based function, but it’s highly creative because you are doing nothing but problem solving all day. You’re looking out, exploring what Steven Johnson calls the adjacent possible, looking for potentially useful fodder for your creative process.

All of those industries have some of the same dynamics I describe in the book. Now, that said, yes, my background, my experience is in leading the ‘traditional creative’ which is the designer, the writer, the videographer, those kinds of people. Yes, I was writing specifically from those kinds of experiences, but I think that the advice in the book applies more broadly to any group of people who have to solve problems and make it up as they go.

John Jantsch: So fundamentally then, what does this group, what do these creative people need that is fundamentally different?

Todd Henry: There really are two primary things that creative people need from their manager in order to thrive. The first one is stability, and stability is about ensuring that you have clarity of process, clarity of expectations, that they know that the rules of the game aren’t gonna change midstream. In a lot of industries that don’t require a tremendous amount of overhead in order to accomplish the work, it’s not that big of a deal if the objectives change midstream, because okay, now we’ve got a new strategy, that means my job is gonna be different tomorrow.

But, when you’re doing highly creative work that requires a tremendous amount of ramp up and forethought and then iteration, when the rules of the game change midstream it can be extremely frustrating. If somebody isn’t bought in to a strategic direction, and let’s say you get two weeks into the project and suddenly your boss’s boss swoops in and says, “You know what? This isn’t really working for me.” Well, your team has spent two weeks iterating on that idea, and now they have to go all the way back to the beginning, re strategize and start all over again, simply because someone wasn’t bought in.

That’s tremendously expensive to the organization. It’s very frustrating to a team of people, and so over time, the team of people just basically says, “Alright, I’m just gonna wait until you tell me what to do. I’m not gonna bring my best thought to the table or my best effort until I know it’s not gonna be wasted effort if the rules are constantly changing.” They need some degree of stability.

There’s a myth, John, that highly creative people just want complete freedom. Just don’t fence me in, give me no boundaries, I just wanna do what I wanna do, but that is a myth, because the reality is that healthy creative process has boundaries. It has rails in order to focus the creative energy. Without that, that energy is just gonna wither up and die. So, stability is the first thing that we need. Clear boundaries, clarity of expectations, clarity of process.

The second thing that highly creative people need is they need to be challenged. They need to be pushed. They want to know that their leader has faith in them. That their leader sees things in them maybe they don’t even see in themselves yet. They want to be pushed to be the best that they can be and to try new things, to tackle new kinds of projects, to venture out into those risky territories, and to know that if they fail, that somebody has their back.

This is also very important, people won’t take risks unless they know that the leader is there to have their back. If it’s a strategic risk, not if it’s a stupid risk, but if it’s a strategic risk then the leader needs to have their back and they need to know that they’re not just walking on thin ice. Hey, you could die and lose your job at any moment, or else people will begin to hold back just a bit.

The problem with stability and challenge is that they exist in tension with one another. As we increase the amount of challenge, we tend to destabilize the organization. This is where a lot of startups and entrepreneurial organizations live. We’re building the bicycle as we’re trying to ride it and we’re going a hundred miles an hour down the highway and we’re trying to avoid traffic and, oh isn’t this just wonderful?

Yeah, it’s wonderful for a little bit, but then over time, people begin to fry. They begin to burn out because we’re not wired for that kind of challenge without the supporting infrastructure to support that challenge. Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, you have organizations that settle in and they’re so processized that there’s no challenge any longer for the people on the team. People get bored, they get stuck, they start looking for broader horizons, and this is often where you hear people say things like, “I’m just not really challenged around here. I just don’t feel like I can really do my best work here. I feel like I’m not growing.”

Sometimes it’s because they don’t feel challenged. They don’t feel like they’re getting what they need from you as a leader in terms of challenge. As a manager, as a leader, as an entrepreneur, somebody who runs a business full of talented people, you are in the unique position to be able to identify that right mix of stability and challenge for those people on your team. If you notice somebody seems to be burning out pretty frequently, well, you need to ask, is it because there aren’t processes in place? There’s no stability there to support what I’m asking from them in terms of challenge, or if somebody’s constantly complaining they feel bored, they feel stuck, is it because I’m not giving them an opportunity to grow themselves, to challenge themselves, and to venture into those uncomfortable places?

John Jantsch: One of the places that you spend a lot of time, and I was glad to see this because I see this actually in lots of organizations with lots of small business owners even, whether they’re managing creatives or not, if they’re managing people, so often they get in this weird cycle of giving work, assigning work, creating process and structure, and then the minute something gets a little hard, they take it all back. There’s no way to grow for anybody, including the organization if you keep taking the work back. I think you called it stop doing the work.

Todd Henry: Right.

John Jantsch: You need to learn this. First off, what do you feel leads to that, and I guess, secondly, how do you solve that?

Todd Henry: I think that especially for entrepreneurs, think about somebody who started a business, I know a big chunk of the people who follow your work are small business owners, entrepreneurs. There’s a tremendous amount of identity wrapped up in starting a business, in the business itself. So, you identify yourself by the output of that business. Sometimes in healthy ways, and maybe sometimes in not so healthy ways. As you start to grow your business and you start to hand off more and more responsibility to other people, it becomes difficult sometimes to separate yourself a bit from the business from an identity standpoint, so that you’re allowing other people to take ownership of certain aspects of the business so that you’re not the one constantly there over their shoulder.

If you are the person constantly over their shoulder, then again, they’re just gonna say, “You know what? Just tell me what you want me to do.” You’ve hired great people and then you’re gonna look over their shoulder and micromanage every decision they make, that’s not the way to scale a business. It’s easy for that to happen, because so much of your identity is wrapped up in the work that gets done, in the business.

What we have to do is we have to transition from a maker mindset to a manager mindset. We have to transition from a mindset of presence to a mindset of principle, or from a mindset of control, which is what really all this is about, it’s about us wanting to control the work of the organization, to a mindset of influence.

We need to establish rails. We need to have a clear leadership philosophy. We need to help people on our team learn how we think about the work and how we think about decisions that we make, not just which decision in a specific scenario is the right decision to make according to us, and so I think it’s difficult to make that transition, to move from control to influence. I think a big part of that is just extricating yourself.

I think about the world that I come from, somebody maybe was a great designer or a great writer and they get promoted. What happens typically in organizations is somebody is really good at something and so somebody comes along and says, “You know what? You’re a really good designer. You know what you should do? You should lead other designers.” That’s a fundamentally different skill set, that’s a totally different thing, and yet that’s exactly what we do. This person, basically they’ve built their entire career upon the fact that they’re really good at a thing. That thing may be is design, or maybe that thing is financials or whatever it is. But, they’ve been really good at that thing and now, all of a sudden, they’re transitioning to not doing that thing, but leading other people who are doing that thing.

How do they identify themselves? Who are they anymore? What is the value they contribute? Before, they could point to a thing and say, “I did this.” Now that you’re leading other people, what is it exactly that you do? I think that’s where the identity crisis often resides in this. Our job is to shift our mindset from a maker mindset, from control, to influence, which means I’m going to teach my team a series of principles to help them make better decisions on their own. I’m gonna teach them how I think about what a good idea is. How I think about a good risk versus a bad risk. I’m gonna teach them how to determine the quality of a product and say, “Okay, is this good? Is this a good output, or is it not quite there yet?”

How do we define excellence as an organization? I’m gonna teach them how conflict should be handled so they can handle conflict between themselves instead of having to come to me every time there’s a conflict on the team. Once we begin to teach these principles, then we can step back and do the job that we’re actually accountable for, which is either growing the business, or leading the team to grow the business, depending on the type of business that we’re running.

John Jantsch: I think for me, at least, over the years, the lessons I’ve really learned is that this has to be very intentional, of course. But, there are times when I’m doing my thing. Like you, I’ve go out and I speak and I write and I’m doing the work really, in the business. But, I have a team of people too, and it’s almost like I have to switch on that hat and remember that now I’m leading, so I’m not supposed to have all the answers. That to me is the hardest part because people come to you as the leader, and they say, “Todd, should I do this?” And your response, or at least my response is usually, they ask me a question, I’m gonna give ’em the answer and what I’ve learned over the years is you’ve gotta establish this practice of giving it back to them, saying, “What would you do in that situation?” Or something of that nature.

Todd Henry: Yes.

John Jantsch: Then, of course, the other challenge is you’ve gotta stay so consistent, I think, with it, because how many companies have read a book like yours and the person goes back and says, “It’s gonna be different now!”

Todd Henry: Yes, that’s exactly right. The challenge in all of that is either that we, as a leader, our area of greatest insecurity is the place where we have the potential to do the most damage. As a leader, if we’re not aware of that, the fact that it’s really hard for us to let stuff go, the fact that it’s really difficult for us to let our team run with things, those areas of insecurity become the places we have to turn into watch points personally, because your area of greatest insecurity is the place where you have the potential to do the most damage to your team, and ultimately to your business if you’re not careful.

John Jantsch: How much of the job of the leader, because I think creative people seek inspiration. They tend to be maybe a little more curious about how things work and why they work and don’t work. How much of the job of the leader in this case is to keep those folks inspired?

Todd Henry: I think it’s a huge percentage of the job is keeping them inspired and keeping them focused on the right things. Setting good rails, making sure that they’re looking in the right places. “Hey look over here! Hey, have you seen this? Hey, let’s not focus on that right now, let’s look at this thing over here, because this seems to be the thing that has the most potential.” That’s not the same thing as doing the work for them, that’s basically doing traffic flow for them. It’s making sure that they’re windowing out the stuff that you can see is really not essential and focusing them then on the things that are actually most important.

The thing is, if we wanna be an inspirational leader, then we have to be inspired ourselves. This is something I find often in the lives of leaders; they want to inspire their team but they’re not building practices into their own life to keep themselves inspired. They’re not dedicating time for study, for going out, for exploring, for tilling the soil and looking for potentially useful things in the environment that they can funnel to their team. They’re not doing any kind of personal and professional development themselves and yet they expect their team to be doing that, but they’re not developing themselves.

I think the first thing we have to recognize is that if we wanna be an inspiring leader, if we wanna be the kind of leader that’s bringing ideas to the table and pushing our team in the right place and is able to think systemically in a way that’s actually valuable and useful to our team because we’re seeing the patterns that are emerging in the work and in the team dynamics, then we have to be dedicating time and energy to developing ourselves, to studying, to looking for patterns out there in the marketplace and patterns out there in the environment.

That’s really one of the things we’re uniquely positioned to do as leaders because of our perch, and yet often we don’t do that. If you are not inspired, then you cannot inspire your team.

John Jantsch: One of the things that’s gotta be part of any leader is we’ve got objectives, we have key results that we’re trying to do, we have deadlines, there are things that have to be measured and tracked. I would suggest that some people would say that that’s harder to do with creatives? Maybe a deadline works, maybe it doesn’t, but how do you define and track what might be different with a creative team?

Todd Henry: That is a really great question, because you’re right. If we’re doing accounting, it’s pretty easy to tell whether we got it right or not. You could sorta say, “Numbers aren’t adding up. Okay, let’s figure this out. This isn’t working right.” It’s a different kind of problem. With creative work, it is highly qualitative often. In the end, somebody is either gonna give you the thumbs up or thumbs down based upon, in some cases, their subjective opinion. No matter how research based your work is, no matter how tight your rationale is, they’re gonna give you the thumbs up or thumbs down, and it’s basically based on what they perceive to be right or not right with regard to the work.

So, one of the tools that I like to teach people to help them determine, in a little bit more of a not quantitative way, but a little bit more of an objective way, which idea is the right idea? It spells the word EPIC, which, I don’t like doing things like that where, hey it spells this, but it does, it spells EPIC, is, if you have a handful of ideas you’re trying to evaluate, you’re trying to decide between, I encourage you to use this framework to do it. It works really, really well.

The first thing is, you’re gonna ask, is it effective? Is this idea effective? Does it solve the problem we set out to solve, or does it not? You can even rate this on a scale of one to ten, so you can put these ideas up next to each other and say, “Okay, which of these is most effective? On a scale of one to ten, how well does it actually solve the problem that we’re trying to solve?”

The P is practical. How practical is it for us to execute this idea, given our resource constraints, given our time constraints, given the fact that we only have a couple of team members who can work on this. How practical are each of these ideas, again, on a scale of one to ten?

Then, is it interesting and cool is the final metric here. On a scale of one to ten, how excited are we about this idea? Because sometimes maybe there’s an idea that doesn’t seem as effective, but it’s really cool and so somebody is really arguing for it. Okay, well, that’s fine, give it a 10, but it’s only a four on effectiveness, or a five on effectiveness, which means maybe it’s not the best idea even though it’s got a lot of energy in the room, because it is cool, but it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem we’re trying to solve.

Once you’ve ranked all of your ideas using this framework, effectiveness, practicality, and then is it interesting and cool, then you can actually have a meaningful conversation. You can say, well, idea two isn’t quite as practical as idea one, but I think we can make it more practical if we dot dot dot. So, it’s a great jumping off point for iteration. It also, as a leader, it gives you an opportunity to do some teaching with your team about how you think about ideas, or how you think about practicality, or how you think about resource allocation, or how you think about what is cool and what actually is interesting from a creative standpoint.

This is, in a world of highly subjective measurements, I find this tool to be really helpful because it gives teams a framework to have meaningful discussion instead of just saying, “Well, I like it. Why don’t you like it?” Which isn’t always helpful.

John Jantsch: I grew up in a really big family and my parents, I don’t really ever remember seeing them argue or fight. I think it made me very conflict averse as well. One of the things you talk about is that really healthy teams can fight in a positive way.

Todd Henry: Yeah. Yeah, this actually happens pretty frequently. I’ll have a manager approach me and say, “We’re a really healthy team. We never fight.” I just wanna grab them lovingly by the shoulders and say, “You are the most dysfunctional team I’ve ever encountered in my life!” Listen, if you have healthy, talented, creative people in the room together, there is going to be conflict. Conflict is the natural result of talented driven people bumping into each other. It’s going to happen. If there’s no conflict it means, A, there’s no accountability on the team, so nobody feels the need to speak their mind or bring their opinion to the table, B, people are just phoning it in, people really don’t care about the work, or, C, you’ve created such a culture of fear and conformity that people feel like they can’t speak their mind without risking losing their job.

If there is never conflict, it means that there’s something that is not healthy in your organization. Now, that doesn’t mean that free-for-all conflict should be the norm. No, of course not. We have to have some healthy principles for conflict, and this is one of the things that I went into in Herding Tigers. There are a couple of rules, I think, that we have to follow, whenever we have some kind of argument about an idea or about a direction or something. I think number one, we have to agree on common ground from the start.

I think sometimes, especially in today’s culture and you’re seeing this play out in the political arena right now, we’ve seen it in the marketplace in a handful of ways, we are seeing scorched earth strategy playing out everywhere. It’s, I will destroy the ground between you and me, and I’m gonna fossilize around my opinion, and I’m just gonna fight just because I’m fighting, because I disagree with you. I think it’s important in any conflict when we disagree, to agree on the common ground from the start and say, “Okay, are we actually fighting about the same thing here?”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen in a lot of organizations I’ve worked with where two people are having an argument, and then they get about halfway through and realize, oh, we’re actually not even fighting about the same thing. I didn’t realize that. We were just fighting to fight, but we weren’t even talking about the same thing here. We actually have a lot more common ground than we thought. That’s the first thing.

The second thing I always encourage people to do is try as much as you can to articulate the other person’s point of view before you disagree with them. Make sure that you understand their argument as well, so not only that you’re arguing about the same thing, but that you understand their perspective and their argument. Try to articulate their point of view and even share with them, here’s where I agree with you, and here’s where we diverge. That way you can see what you’re actually fighting about.

The third thing is, you always fight over ideas, you never fight over personality. The moment a conflict gets personal, everybody loses. When I talk about conflict, I’m not talking about, “Oh I hate those people. I hate that person. I can’t stand that … so I’m just going to muscle up every time they introduce an idea.”

That’s not healthy conflict, that’s just stupid conflict. We can’t allow conflict to get personal. It has to always be about ideas, not personality. If we follow these principles, then we’re going to have an environment where people feel like they can bring their ideas to the table, an environment where people feel like they can disagree and we can even hash it out and it can get really animated.

Another thing I wanna say that is a little bit controversial but I think is also important to recognize, I hear often people say, “Oh, our team is a family. We’re like a family.” Well, maybe you’re like a family, but you’re not a family. I think that’s a very unfair thing that managers do or business owners do, is when they say it’s a family because I don’t know about your family, but I’m not kicking someone out of the family if they don’t do their chores this week. They’re still gonna be a member of the family. There might be consequences, but they’re not gonna get kicked out of my family because they didn’t do their job. There’s a baseline level of performance you have to maintain in order to stay employed, so saying to a group of people, oh, we’re a family, no, actually you’re not, because somebody in this room might be fired at some point if they fail to do their job.

We have to make sure that we’re treating people in our organization with trust and respect. We don’t have to like everybody we work with. You probably won’t like everybody you work with, that’s okay as well, but we have to treat them with trust and respect and we have to fight well. If we do that then our culture is gonna get sharper and sharper and sharper and more and more focused and more and more refined over time and people will trust one another, because they’ll know that people are speaking up.

John Jantsch: One of the things I love when books do this is that each chapter you kinda have some summary points. Here’s some actions, here’s ways that you can talk with the team, here’s some habits you can develop so you kinda give people a whole toolbox of ideas to end each chapter rather than saying, “Do X.”

Todd Henry: Yeah.

John Jantsch: So, Todd, where can people find more about you and about Herding Tigers?

Todd Henry: The best place to find Herding Tigers is wherever books are sold, so wherever you shop for books you can find it. The best place to find me is at accidentalcreative.com. That’s where our podcasts are and all the other work that I do. That’d be the best place to find me.

John Jantsch: Well, you have, as I know, the book is in some ways a starting point. You have, of course, training and workshops and everything that you do around that as well, don’t you?

Todd Henry: Yeah, that’s correct. We have a Herding Tigers workshop that is basically our two-day in person workshop, but it’s distilled down to basically a four hour video course with exercises and workbooks and all kinds of things. Basically it’s like me coming to your company for two days, only you can get through it in four hours. Now, four hours to experience it, but then you have to do the work beyond that, but it’s basically that distilled into a video course.

John Jantsch: You don’t do the work for us? Darn it.

Todd Henry: No, unfortunately I can’t do the work for you. Sorry. It would be so much better if I could. No, I’m sorry, I can’t do the work for you.

John Jantsch: Well Todd, thanks so much for joining us, spending time with us, hopefully next time I’m in Ohio or somewhere out there on the road we can bump into each other again.

Todd Henry: Yeah, that’d be great. John, thanks for the great work that you do.

 

 

The Secrets to Leading Creative People

The Secrets to Leading Creative People written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Todd Henry
Podcast Transcript

Todd HenryThis week on the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, I speak with Todd Henry. Henry is a writer and speaker who travels extensively to talk about creativity, leadership, and productivity. He gives keynotes and leads workshops on the topics and has helped teams and audiences around the globe.

He has also written four books, which have been translated into more than a dozen languages. His latest, Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Needis a practical handbook for managers who lead creative teams. On today’s episode, we talk about the processes and approach outlined in the book, and Henry shares practical tips for getting the most out of a creative team.

Questions I ask Todd Henry:

  • How does leading creative people differ from being a creative leader?
  • What do creative people need that is fundamentally different?
  • What percentage of a leader’s job is keeping creatives inspired?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why creative people need a leader that offers stability and a challenge.
  • Why our own insecurities as leaders can be the areas that cause the most damage to our teams and our businesses, if we’re not careful.
  • How conflict about ideas, not personality, can actually be healthy for your team.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Todd Henry:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Where Marketing Automation Fits Into the Customer Journey

Where Marketing Automation Fits Into the Customer Journey written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

When companies incorporate marketing automation into their approach, they often focus on the middle of the marketing hourglass. They use the automation tool to stay in touch with existing customers or to reach out to prospects who are very near to making their first purchase.

However, marketing automation can be used throughout the entirety of the customer journey to great effect. When you’re smart about automating marketing processes, it frees you up to do more of the prospecting and lead nurturing work that only a real human can do, while taking some of the more tedious and time consuming parts of the marketing process off your plate.

Here, we’ll take a look at the various features that make up marketing automation, and how best to use them throughout the customer journey.

What is Marketing Automation?

Before we dive in, let’s provide a quick definition of marketing automation. It’s the process of using a software platform to automate some of your repetitive marketing tasks. It can be used across channels, and includes social media, email, and certain website actions.

The software allows you to group users by certain attributes or behaviors and to target them with messaging that is most relevant to them. For example, you might group people in the same geographic location together, or group people who have made multiple purchases from your business.

Marketing Automation for the “Know” Phase

At the very top of your marketing hourglass, people are encountering your brand for the very first time. Maybe they’re someone who’s in desperate need of the good or service your provide; maybe it’s someone with a passing interest in your field. How do you sort things out this early on in the game?

One of the first things that marketing automation tools can do is help you with lead capturing efforts. Using the same form across your website allows you to gather the same contact information for everyone who fills out the form. From there, you can begin the process of analyzing their attributes and behaviors to figure out whether or not they’re serious prospects.

Behavior scoring (otherwise known as lead scoring) asks you to take data on your existing clients to build a composite profile for your ideal prospect. Where do they live? What profession are they in? What kind of actions do you expect them to take before they convert?

When you know what your ideal prospect looks like, you can then use your marketing automation tool to compare each lead against this dream prospect. If they’re ticking most of the boxes, this is a lead you know is worth your time. They’re likely to convert, if you play things right, so it’s smart to spend some marketing dollars courting them.

Leads that fall completely outside of this ideal picture are likely not worth your time. They’re just not the kind of person that realistically needs or wants what your business offers, so no amount of time or money will result in them changing their mind.

Marketing Automation for “Like” and “Trust”

Once you’ve identified those leads that are worth approaching, you can begin to use your marketing automation tool to create an effective email campaign.

Marketing automation tools allow you to segment your audience so that you can send specific messaging to different groups of people based on their attributes and interests. It’s also possible to use the tool to personalize the email, setting it to auto-populate with name, company, and job title based on the information you have in your database.

For prospects, you can establish a set of prospecting emails that slowly and methodically introduce them to your company and the problems you can help them solve. Only 23.9 percent of all sales emails are even opened, so it will take several attempts to get a prospect’s attention.

You should start by creating a handful of emails that contain different offers so that prospects can come to know and like your business—an invitation to access a white paper on your area of expertise, an opportunity to join a monthly webinar that you hold, or an offer to book an introductory call with a member of your sales team.

You can then set these messages to send on a regular schedule, with a built-in trigger to turn off the next email in the set if the current email leads to a conversion.

Your marketing automation tool can also help you to tailor the content on your website to the profiles of your visitors. The tool can show specific content that you know will be valuable to a given prospect, and you can create dynamic content that is replaced based on actions a prospect has taken or interest that they’ve expressed in a particular topic. This level of personalization makes a prospect feel seen and heard, which goes a long way to building likability and trust.

Marketing Automation for “Try” and “Buy”

Once you’ve proven to prospects that you understand their specific needs and have the perfect solution for their problems, you begin to move them into the try and buy portion of the hourglass.

Using marketing automation to target them with messaging that is triggered by a specific action can be an effective tactic here. At this point you already know a bit about the prospect, so you can get even more specific about giving them information you know they’ll be interested in.

For example, let’s say a prospect has signed up for your company newsletter, you can use this action to then trigger messaging to drive them to the try phase in the hourglass. Maybe this means a pop-up on your website that invites them to a free trial of your service. Or perhaps it’s an email invitation to an upcoming event on the topic you cover in your newsletter, with a friends and family code so they can attend for free.

Once someone’s made their first purchase, you can set your system to automatically follow up with them. Send them a welcome email that gives them additional information on how to get the most out of their purchase. Then automatically send them an email again in a few weeks’ time to make sure they’re still happy and to offer support with any issues they may have encountered.

Marketing Automation for “Repeat” and “Refer”

You’ve already used your marketing automation platform to get your prospects to convert, but you can continue to use the tool to influence the remainder of their customer journey.

Once a customer has made a specific purchase, you can offer them related products or target them with communications that are focused on their areas of interest. In a recent Marketo survey, 78 percent of respondents said they would only pay attention to promotions that were related to their previous interactions with the brand. That means that most consumers would rather have no deal offered to them at all than have a generic offer sent their way.

Marketing automation can also help you to establish and maintain a strong referral base. With the ability to set up regular communication with your existing customers, marketing automation tools help you to stay top of mind so that customers are likely to have your name on the tip of their tongue when their friend asks for a referral in your field. Additionally, if you choose to establish a referral program, you can use email segmentation to stay in touch with members of that program, offer meaningful rewards, and target new leads coming to you via referral with specialized messaging.

In addition to the benefits that marketing automation provide you throughout the customer journey, the tools offer bigger-picture benefits as well. You should be using the data you collect on the effectiveness of your marketing efforts throughout the customer journey to refine each of the steps you take along the way.

Marketing automation tools compile a lot of information on the effectiveness of your marketing approach across channels, which allows you to identify holes, find logjams, and then invest the time in fixing those issues. When you have a better understanding of your complete marketing approach along the entire customer journey, you’re empowered to create one that is even more optimized for future customers.