How to Be a Brand Leader and Not a Perfectionist Who Hamstrings Your Organization
As a brand leader, it’s tough not to grimace sometimes. To bury your head in your hands. To want to climb into a hole.
Because your job is to invest the company’s marketing and advertising resources painting this aspirational, reliable, trusting, and high-quality view of your brand.
And yet ...
So … much … can … go … wrong ☹
And I’m not even talking about the epic fails, like the world’s largest cloud computing provider unable to keep an e-commerce website up on the company’s biggest shopping day. Or strategic leadership mistakes.
Marketing leaders must stay on top of the daily drudgery of keeping the operation humming along smoothly to live up to the brand image. Making sure all of the forms on the website are correct. The rebate checks for the promotion get printed on time. All of your vendors, partners, consultants and agencies are vending, partnering, consulting and agencying about the right things to the right people at the right time. The email displaying correctly across every device type. (Heck, even data king Google can mess up automated personalization.)
You might have gotten into marketing for the creativity, but to truly lead is to execute across digital, mobile, print, brick-and-mortar … the list goes on.
When things go wrong, and things will go wrong, I highly recommend you commission (or pull out a previously created) competitive analysis.
There’s this show I’ve gotten into recently. Don’t judge. But it’s that show “Sex Education” on Netflix. Here’s what has me hooked (minor spoiler alert).
It portrays different perspectives. In Episode 1, the star athlete and class president (“head boy,” it takes place in Britain), bounds on stage, high fives the principal, does a split and rallies up the class. The viewer thinks he’s got it all figured out. But by later episodes the perspective shifts, and we see that outward perfection is all just a veneer. The popular kid has his own struggles, as well.
This scene came to mind while I was analyzing different types of competitors for a client of our conversion marketing services. These included some content sites that are doing some big things really well for their B2C audiences, but had much less focus on their B2B customers who actually paid the bills.
Forms were broken. Fonts were wrong. Privacy policies were missing. Emails didn’t get sent. When they did, some had odd placeholder text (and I quote, “cold-pressed Neutra locavore aesthetic organic sustainable.”) Or the email went to my junk folder. These sites must have lost their QA checklist.
Those were just basic errors. Even worse, some of the UX was horrid. I was a highly motivated user, because I was analyzing the content marketing. I really wanted to find it and learn everything I could about it. And yet, it often took me way longer to find than a real prospect would allow. Email subscription options were often buried, as well. And much of the content marketing seemingly lacked a cohesive strategy. There was plenty of random, poor quality and overly promotional content being produced, using company-centric language. (I should note that, of course, some stuff was fantastic and inspirational, as well; but those examples lie outside the scope of this article.)
This competitive analysis produced a funny feeling in me. I call it marketing schadenfreude — pleasure derived from the poor user experience of another brand.
I’m not proud of it. And there are more important reasons to conduct a competitive analysis, like determining the exclusivity of your value proposition.
But it did feel goooooood. And these weren’t even my brand’s competitors.
“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” — Confucius
I share my embarrassing delight because I’ve known many marketing leaders who were perfectionists. They had communicated, massaged and highlighted their brands so well that they were embarrassed by even minor imperfections.
This type of thinking can hamstring an organization. It’s important to get the details, true. Don’t allow anything that doesn’t comply with important regulations or truly undercuts core value that actually matters to the customer.
Here’s the Secret
Some flaws are inevitable. Don’t let flaws hamstring you and keep your team from the prime movers that have the largest impact on your brand’s success — the quick wins, as well as the big, important initiatives you must focus your team on climbing toward. And above all, a customer-first ethos.
Because customers are forgiving of brand mistakes when you get the big things right, like having that customer-first orientation with your marketing and business.
So I’m willing to admit it. I have taken a small bit of pleasure at the failings of others. Because it made me realize we’re all part of this fellowship of marketing. We’re all trying, but inevitably blemished.
And I’ll admit that my own organization’s content and marketing isn’t perfect. You’re welcome to take a look at MarketingSherpa and find the flaws for yourself.
Hopefully, this realization will free us all from focusing too granularly on having to be perfect and instead focus our time on the big things that actually matter to the customer.
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.