We Don’t Need a Hero – But We Do Need a Champion

One of the biggest roadblocks to marketing success is a lack of buy-in from non-marketing staff. A more positive way to phrase that is, one of the most important things marketing needs to succeed is…a champion.

I don’t mean a great marketing director or CMO. I mean a great CEO, principal or other senior team member that is in fact, not a marketer at all. As I’ve said numerous times, marketing isn’t about a one-on-one sales relationship and it is never a one person job – even if the marketing department only has one person. Marketing is an organization-wide initiative because every team member represents the brand, the message, the commitment to project delivery, etc.

A champion is crucial.

One big reason is that marketing success often requires process change or “doing things differently.” And doing things differently is hard. When the request or command only comes from marketing, it is sometimes easily set aside by billable employees with other priorities. When that request is powerfully and consistently backed by a champion outside of marketing, it has more weight. This isn’t because “the boss” is now asking people to do something. It’s because staff has the ability to hear why this request is important from someone that has been in their shoes before. It’s easier to get on board when numerous people are saying it’s a good idea, and when those people represent a variety of backgrounds.

Think about some of the simple business processes that we as marketers have to endure. How do we get staff to update their resumes? How do we get PMs to provide project descriptions for the website? How do we get people to review/weigh in on new opportunities (one that is near and dear to my heart thanks to GoNoGoPro)? Like it or not, these are business processes, and ones that have to be addressed somehow. Generally, marketing achieves more success in getting these things done efficiently when it’s not JUST marketing asking for it.

Another reason a champion is so important, is that marketing can’t have a “place at the table” all the time. During those times when impromptu project meetings happen, or the Principals get together but marketing isn’t represented, the champion has the ability to carry the torch and know what marketing can do and how value can be added. All it takes is “This is a great idea, we should let marketing take this report and clean it up a bit,” or any number of other suggestions. The idea is that marketing’s capabilities are being considered, even if the marketing department isn’t in the conversation. Then, obviously it’s key that marketing deliver on those promises.

So, as marketers, what do we do to create a champion?

  • Find a senior team member that already has a sound approach to marketing or works with your department often.
  • Get them involved more in what your team does. Show them the exciting new thing you just did, even if it isn’t for their department.
  • Make sure they’re in the loop when you develop new pieces or processes and get their feedback on how they may or may not be useful.
  • Don’t abuse the relationship – a true champion will go to bat for you when you want to make changes for the better, but pick and choose your battles wisely.

It shouldn’t be “us” and “them” when it comes to marketing and billable professionals, and the most successful marketing teams keep that from happening. Having a champion greatly helps bridge the gap between the two sides of the table and often prevents things from getting lost in translation among teams that have very different daily objectives.

A Firm By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

I’ve had three or four blog posts half-started in my head for the past week, but none of them really excited me. A quick look at Twitter tonight and I received all the motivation I needed.

I’ve blogged before about the importance of a name, when it comes to defining your brand.

I then saw a really nice article a few months ago about firm naming in NY Times (thanks to Twitter).

Well, tonight I saw a tweet from a “social media guru” that was using SurveyMonkey and his thousands of Twitter followers to help him choose the name for his technology start-up. At least I hope it was his, and not a client paying him for his guru-level expertise.

I have all kinds of problems with this method. So, as a follow up to some of my previous thoughts about AEC firm branding and naming, and a reaction to this tweet tonight, I offer the following advice.

1. Your firm’s name is yours
Don’t allow the masses to pick the best name for your firm. Develop certain aspects of your brand, what you stand for, what type of services you plan to offer before you pick a name out of a hat – EVEN IF it turns out to be your own last name(s).

2. Develop a little background or story
The survey said nothing more than choose the name for a “software start-up.” People are choosing a name based on phonetics – no back story or brand story for the firm or for any of the naming options. When you finally settle on the right name, you’ll know it’s right because you will have an engaging story to explain it. In a year, or ten years, when somebody asks you where you came up with the name, who wants to say, “I let a bunch of strangers pick it through SurveyMonkey”?

3. If you must…use a focus group, not just a group
Focus groups don’t usually have a place in picking a professional services firm’s name, but if for some reason you do go that route, there is a science to it. At least create a focus group of your peers or potential target audience. The mass request to more than 20,000 followers had no focus to make the results the least bit useful. The answers are anonymous and could all be received from people that have no technology background or no need to buy software.

4. Pick a name that can stand the test of time
Rebranding or changing your firm’s name is a time-consuming and expensive process. You don’t want to have to go through it just because your name doesn’t sound cool anymore. Letting the masses pick your name is a sure way to get something that nobody actually likes (thanks to Groupthink) or is right in line with a current trend. Which means the name won’t keep its attraction for long.

Regardless of which side of the argument you fall on – partner names on the door vs. non-partnered firm name – be sure that you choose a firm name that resonates with your brand, your team and your audience. If not, there is an upside. At least you can find some great stock logos out there (like the one above) to match the stock name!