“Create more value than you capture.” Tim O’Reilly’s quote is one to live by for anyone in the service industry, on a team, or interested in being an overall good human.
At PR 20/20, we’re constantly brainstorming ways to add more value for our clients. As our CEO penned in The Marketing Performance Blueprint, we’re continually working to “differentiate by doing.” Why? Well at the end of the day, how businesses perform impacts our economy, cities, and our own livelihood. When you can tie marketing efforts to bottom-line business results, you’ve created value.
The following is a running list that compiles ideas from our entire team around the theme of creating value—or becoming the best value contributors we can be, versus value consumers.
Continual Learning & Development
Better your own skillset to bring more value to your team and business.
- Learn a new skill. Let’s get this one out of the way first because it’s on every list, but seriously, keep learning. Programs like Coursera, Grovo, Udemy, EdX and Treehouse make it hard to find an excuse not to learn something new.
- Get to know your tech stack on a deeper level, and get a grasp on what’s available in the market. Take the burgeoning marketing automation space as an example.
- Get certified in the technologies marketers use daily (Google Analytics and Inbound certifications are free).
- Demo new technologies that align well with company goals, campaigns or your existing tech stack. There are tracking, reporting and visualization tools being introduced or expanded regularly. Know what’s out there and critically evaluate if they can make your marketing more effective.
- Read. Consider books about marketing, books about your (or your client’s) industry, books about growing a business, and creative fictional stories to open the brain.
- Share your book club notes. When you find a really good read, clean up the highlights for the rest of your team, or jot down a few actionable takeaways.
- Curate a shared RSS feed, and check it daily.
- Follow the blogs of the technologies you use (or want to use). When new features or updates launch, check them out, and send the highlights and use cases to your team. Do the heavy lifting, and show why it matters.
- Go beyond the traditional article send: summarize context, potential action items, and key points or quotes when you share it.
- Check out a local or industry event, and share your notes.
- Better yet, turn those notes into a blog post you can publish and send to your network.
- Follow-up to connect with new contacts from that local or industry event you went to. We can often learn a lot about professional development from other people and their experiences. Plus, having a good network will make you look forward to attending future events.
- Attend an industry webinar for new content ideas and relationship building. Share your notes. (Catching onto this theme?)
- Write. In the marketing world—and in Ann Handley’s (@MarketingProfs) world—everybody writes. You must be able to write and edit well. Period.
- Communicate. On a higher level, work on communicating ideas and building strong arguments. To quote David McCullough, “Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That's why it's so hard."
- Spread the marketing love with knowledge share sessions. Map out a marketing bootcamp for your executive, sales or service teams. Cater content per audience: executive reporting, social selling and service, top converting content and evergreen collateral, etc. You get the idea. Map out a quarterly program, and you’re about to add value for a mission critical audience—your internal team.
- Listen to your company’s (or your client’s) quarterly earnings calls. Highlight the transcript, and send it along with a bulleted summary of the most relevant notes to your team.
- Make yourself replaceable. As you continue to develop, share what you learn to bring others along the way. Think about your team—who would naturally assume your role should you land that promotion? Preparing that person builds confidence. Plus it frees your own time for additional workflow.
Be someone others want on their team.
- Get organized. Consider your personal project management process, calendar, inbox, and file storage. If someone asks you for something, you should know how to find it. If someone asks if you can set up a meeting, you should know your schedule. If someone asks you to do something, you should have a pulse on workload to realistically set expectations. Getting your own house in order is key to being a reliable member of a team who adds value.
- Have an agenda (and follow it!).
- Be on time.
- Be a good listener. I can’t articulate how important this one is. Being there is one thing, but being present in the moment is how you actually digest what’s happening. Contribute valuable feedback to the conversation, meeting, brainstorm, discussion with your parents, etc. It’s an art, so be mindful and practice.
- Google it. Before you ask someone else to take time to help you figure something out, could Google have helped? If you’re asking someone a question and can show you’ve done some homework before, you’ll show you value that person’s time.
- Take notes. And read others’ notes.
- Send a follow-up email with highlights from those notes. (And if you call out action items and owners, you’re a saint!)
- Meet your own deadlines.
- Manage up and across. Everyone knows this one, but can you think of someone who does it really well—and how great that is?
- Reply. It doesn’t have to be right away, but it should probably be within 24 hours. Even if you need more time for a thoughtful response, let your sender know you’re thinking on it. Practice proactive communications.
- Think before you cc’ others on that email. If you’re reading everything that comes into your inbox, and expecting others to do the same, do you really need to capture others time and attention on irrelevant or unimportant emails?
- Be brief. No one has time to read the detailed reasoning behind why you chose the cute baby picture over the cute kitten picture, nor should you waste 30 minutes explaining it. Include only what’s necessary in your communications.
- Related to reliable communications that add value: learn to think with your audience’s needs in mind. Everything, from your emails to your performance reporting, should be structured in a way that highlights why it matters, and what does it mean for you, the audience.
- Ask the right questions. Whether you’re starting a blog post, editing a colleague’s post, or revamping a business strategy, think about the greater context to thoughtfully and intentionally ask and answer the right questions along the way. When I get a draft back with grammar edits, that’s one thing, but when it comes back to me with a few thoughtful questions or comments, I know someone took the time to think it through and add additional perspective.
- Nail the intangibles. Mind your Ps and Qs, be friendly, get motivated, you know the drill. You can’t add value if no one wants to be around you.
- Perfect your elevator pitch. Often, employees are the best biz dev. So next time an Aunt Wanda asks, “What does your company do again?” have an answer you’re confident in.
- Market your marketing. Similar to the above, be able to confidently share what you’re working on, and why it’s important. When I hear a colleague talk about a recent project they’re working on in a way that rallies others, I know he or she’s on top of it.
- Practice being a finisher, or the person who double-checks every detail prior to launch, sends status updates, ships work, and closes the loop.
Performance & Wins
Promote a performance-driven culture: know your goals, and celebrate team wins.
- Know your marketing goals, and think about them daily.
- Know how those marketing goals connect to greater business goals, industry climate, competitive landscape. If you don’t know, research and ask.
- Consider how marketing and business goals can align to your own personal professional development goals as well. When you show personal growth that connects to the bottom line, you’re telling the story of a value contributor without a ceiling.
- Write down your goals, along with timelines and regular check-ins along the road to reaching them.
- Loop in your manager who can hold you accountable, and promote the performance he or she sees as your internal champion. Getting a superior’s sign-off means folks know what you’re trying to do (which can in turn make it easier for you to focus on those agreed upon goals and priorities, and say no to other glittery projects that will undoubtedly come along).
- Measure performance constantly.
- Report on goals quarterly (at least). Get into a regular cadence with reporting on a weekly or monthly basis. Then each quarter, really step back, look at what’s been accomplished (or missed), and reset.
- Know when your department is up for review (QBRs, board meetings, pre-earnings calls, annual planning meetings, etc.), and offer to share metrics, resources, or big ideas ahead of time.
- Keep a running list of big wins. These can include campaigns launched, goals or milestones achieved, colleague and customer quotes and praises, and more.
- Get past the plateau. For many brands and marketers, performance ramps up until it stalls. When you’ve tapped out of any initial owned or paid strategies, look outside for that next earned opportunity, a supplemental paid campaign, a vertical industry focus, or a new publishing platform (Medium, LinkedIn, etc.) to keep growth going.
- Dive into your web analytics. Devote a day to reading team reports, sifting through top conversion paths, examining top content, referral sources, CTAs, etc., or working with your dev / web team to put the foundational elements in place if you haven’t already.
- Dive into your CRM. Where are reps meeting or missing goals, what are top sources for deals closed, and how are marketing assists attributed? This working knowledge can help you pull reports that fuel marketing strategy, and have better informed conversations with the sales team.
- Trust the data, if it’s clean and a single source of truth. Take subjectivity out of the equation and try to base all decisions on objective data.
- Optimize the past. Do a handful of blog posts assist in a majority of conversions or new visits? Reoptimize and republish. Here’s an in-depth story on how HubSpot did it.
- Take your quarterly and annual goals and KPIs, and create an infographic out of them. It’s one way to communicate wins and get folks talking about marketing metrics.
- Think about the project your boss found the most valuable this year … or one she continually brags about or brings back up in conversations. Continue it, build on it, or replicate it for another persona / industry / message / product line / season.
- Score a media placement. People love to see their story on a big-name industry pub or mainstream outlet. If you place something great, look into framing it for the team or the person quoted.
- Keep a running list of media wins. Consider an annual lookbook that highlights some of the company’s and thought leaders’ top placements in print.
- Secure guest posts, and look into referral traffic or the social network effect that borrowed reach has on the bottom line. If you’re building out an annual report, consider this as its own KPI column next to each big win.
- Work with sales to close the loop. Marketing wins are far more fun when you can confidently associate dollar signs with your efforts.
- Celebrate victories! Who doesn’t love to toast a project well done? Plus, celebrating wins promotes a performance-driven culture, rallies teams and individuals by praising success, and motivates to keep the wins (and value) coming.
Think About Your Customer
Obsess on adding value for the customer.
- Revisit personas. Are there challenges or opportunities to revisit and address with a dedicated content campaign? Is there a new network that’s growing in popularity among a specific persona that didn’t exist last year?
- Download, purchase or use your product or service. The best way to get into the customer’s shoes is to become the customer. From there, identify ideas to improve the experience or better communicate the value the product can bring.
- Use filters. In Google Analytics, set up segments to filter out different types of traffic, so you can get an accurate view of how visitors are interacting with your site. One that’s proved highly useful is a segment to filter out (or only include) traffic sessions that include a visit to a login page. Customers logging into a portal may make up a significant percentage of traffic (especially for SaaS companies), but will use the site very differently than someone evaluation your solution.
- Assess top web pages used by existing customers. Are they logging into a portal, viewing multiple pages on a help site, or searching specific content multiple times? Do what you can to flag web activity indicative of a poor customer experience, and create better experiences by making popular customer content more accessible.
- How are new audiences finding your brand? Revisit your keyword strategy, then take action by choosing six keywords, pulling the top results, assessing what results are doing right (or wrong), then developing the content and promotion strategy to take that spot.
- Mine data for conversion opportunities. For example, consider testing predictive lead scoring, or assessing common touchpoints across top prospects with recommendations on how to connect more leads and prospects with those touchpoints.
- Take a fresh look at CTAs. Assess all that exist, where they live, how they’re performing, and if they make sense for the customer… You may find a simplified approach / strategy can improve overall experience (along with help in the marketing performance side of things).
- Research and tap into tools that inform and enable conversion optimization. Optimizely, Sumo, and HelloBar are inexpensive tools that make it easy to test and learn.
- Take a fresh look at overall nurture efforts. Are you sending the same series of three emails after each content download? Consider the experience from a fresh perspective — could your business benefit from an email assessment then rehaul? Consider lead-stage nurturing.
- Make that first point of contact better. Think about your brand’s search results, homepage, mobile site, welcome email and more. Start there when updating digital properties to make a good first impression on potential customers.
- Identify groups of top customers. They can be those with the longest contracts, most revenue paid, most referrals, largest networks, biggest fans, those who are just an absolute pleasure to work with, and more—sky’s the limit. Propose a plan to treat these customers to perks or rewards for being so great.
- Survey customers, or hold a focus group. In an industry where you can simply ask, “What do you find the most valuable?” and get an honest answer back? Keep a running list, and scale those most valuable features or services across the company.
Get to Know Your Competition
Know the choices available and how you differentiate; then arm your team for battle.
- Talk to sales about the questions customers ask when comparing your brand or solution to the competition. Does the team need additional research support, talking points, or to better marketing to tell the stories of lesser known features?
- Read through your industry’s Magic Quadrant report, and keep a pulse on the competition. Which companies are leading innovations, and what can you learn or apply to your own go to market strategy?
- Do some online digging on the competition’s marketing strategy. Identify the competition, its messaging, its customer base. A few tools to help on this endeavor:
- If you can, demo the competition. Take notes or a video screen-capture to share across your team.
- As part of the demo process, take note on how they nurture their contacts. What type of emails do you receive? How frequently? What type of calls to action do they use?
- Create battle cards. If your brand doesn’t already have them, take what you learn from some competitive analysis, and create overview documents for the marketing and sales teams. Include quick facts on competing companies, strengths, weaknesses, a head-to-head feature comparison chart, key messages, and a list of top additional resources.
Bring Ideas - Crazy Ones
Push yourself and your team to continually outthink your greatest ideas.
- Think like an entrepreneur or startup founder. What problem does your solution solve for customers, and why does it matter? How can you be ten times better than the competition? Look outside the standard marketing toolkit for new platforms and creative ways to get your message out.
- Ask that person who has nothing to do with marketing or your industry to lunch. Ask what they’re working on; ask what they’re reading; ask their opinions on the overall marketing program or a specific campaign. Continually seek ideas and information from unconventional sources to keep it fresh and useful.
- Think outside the marketing world to get inspired. Need a starting point? Here’s a post that lists 23 resources that will make you a better marketer, and they have absolutely nothing to do with marketing.
- House great ideas in a running “wish list.” Keep a running “delay” list too. Revisit it when you’re planning the next quarter or year’s activities, when you have downtime, or when you’re looking back on why a project that never really took flight.
- Pitch your next idea like a proposal. Get thoughts together with an executive summary, working plan of attack, potential timeline and budget, then appendix for supporting research and resources. It will get your own thoughts organized, show your boss you’re serious about the idea, and put you in the position to lead next steps moving forward.
- When you believe that an idea’s really important, stay with it.
- Ask why, and ask why not. Marketing, business, and even the everyday ins and outs of life are the way they are because we, regular folks, made it that way. Dare to ask the big questions, dive into less likely answers, and explore the uncharted. Steve Jobs said it best: “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.”
- Partner with people who want to play the marketing game. (Trouble getting CEO buy-in? Work with those who want to work with you as a starting point.)
- Think “pilot” or “beta” to move a project forward; it’s less daunting to the status quo and more likely to get approval. From there, prove value with version updates, progress reports, lessons learned, why it matters, and what’s next.
- Do a project debrief before launch. Think ahead to what could possibly prevent the project from achieving potential success, and put plans in place to circumvent those obstacles ahead of time. On the other hand, what are the biggest potential wins that you’d love to report on, and how can you maximize those opportunities?
Become indispensable. Create lasting partnerships and trust.
- Check in. Call, swing by the office, send a card, or reach out in some way outside the inbox! Even if it’s once a year for a long-distance client, make a point to connect for a few days in person. Talk business, but then be sure to carve out time for dinner, drinks, or another activity that fosters a personal relationship too. Some of the best ideas can happen on the golf course …
- Commit to open lines of communication or weekly regroups. By nature, agencies and clients have limited insight into the inner workings and conversations happening on the other end of the line. It’s up to the account manager to build a relationship and rapport with clients that makes it easy to ask important questions, be copied on priority emails, and get invited to those more strategic meetings.
- Revisit your client’s organizational structure to really understand roles and stakeholders. Building relationships throughout an organization positions your agency as an extension of the team. Plus, it enables opportunities to add value throughout the organization.
- Ask your boss, your team, your client: how can we bring more value? Give them a few days to think on it, then dive into a frank conversation. (Ask yourself this question first, and have your own assessment and responses ready to really make it a worthwhile conversation.)
- Ask your client contacts: what slide would you love to present to your CEO at your next review? Then, how can we help you make that happen? Set calendar reminders a few months in advance to ensure your client is confident and ready-to-go when he or she is up for review.
- Make sending resources with relevant takeaways a habit. Consider top articles, notes from technologies you’ve demoed that make sense for your client, copies of good books you’ve read that would interest them, and more. If you need to, set a personal cadence goal with reminders to deliver a good read each month.
- Bring others from the agency in on brainstorming sessions. We regularly hold marketing growth hackathons with or on behalf of our clients, where we’ll pull from top talent across the team to get new ideas flowing.
- Present your best ideas to your client. You can bring in the top dogs from your agency to brainstorm a slew of great ideas, but what good are they if you don’t present them to your client? Align ideas with your client’s top goals to bring a few relevant, creative strategies to the table. If you happen to have an extra slide with big ideas that aren’t quite related to the goal at hand, your clients will likely appreciate it.
- The best way to add value for clients is by staffing their account teams with top talent. From an agency operations and management level, figure out a process to track overall team capacity and deliverables, as well as individual’s managed revenue and services delivered. Keeping regular tabs on top talent can ensure a group of top performers are matched to top clients without being stretched too thin.
When you care about something deeply, you’ll do your life’s best work.
- What defines your brand at its deepest core values? Caring about the brand, and living out brand values is key to long-term brand equity and value add. Think about the “value” of beloved brands like REI, Toms, Patagonia and more. Those marketing teams are able to connect to consumers on a brand-love level because they articulate what they care about in a meaningful way. As a marketer, think on that deeper level, urge executive conversations, and propose a huge splash to incorporate core values into future marketing programs or a brand rehaul.
- Once your team has defined that “why” mission and vision, work up a plan to gain internal buy-in, incorporate deep into your culture, and share with external audiences.
- Think about the people you care about the most … parents, children, a spouse, a best friend. How do you show them you care? What are those little gestures you do for those people that come naturally? Practice observing how you’re actually showing them you care, then apply some of those insights to your work. Chances are, the more you care about something, the better work you will do.
- Plan a community day. Get your team together to donate time to your local community. You’ll get the brand name out there, but even more importantly, you’ll give back and gain perspective.
- Connect with a relevant cause. Want to do more than a few days of local volunteering? Add “world value” and goodwill by partnering with a non-profit year-round. Especially if there’s a cause that closely aligns with your brand’s core values and mission, this one’s a no-brainer.
- Join a non-profit. Outside of work, get involved in the community or volunteer your time to a cause you believe in. Not only will it make you feel good, but you never know what type of business opportunities you’ll be able to cultivate.
- Guess what? When we started noodling around with this idea, “100” was the list goal. But the last point on this list, “#101” in all its glory, is to continually improve, keep moving the needle forward, keep stretching for bigger goals and better deliverables. Don't settle!
How are you creating more value than you capture? Thoughts on your favorite points above or additional ideas are more than welcome in the comments below.
Create more value: differentiate by doing.
Ready to build a performance-driven organization that exceeds ROI expectations and outpaces the competition? Our free marketing growth webinar will show you how to use the principles behind hackathons to prioritize and put plans into action.
Image credit, Canva.