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Changing The Game

The following article was originally written for and published by Biz Catalyst on June 6th, 2016 by John Philpin. It is reproduced here by kind permission.


The following article was originally written for and published by Biz Catalyst on June 6th, 2016 by John Philpin. It is reproduced here by kind permission.


… upping your game, changing the conversation, breaking through the glass ceiling … whichever your metaphor of choice, the sentiment is right, the question is how?

This came top of mind on three separate occasions just this past week. Specifically

  • how does the email industry get a ‘seat at the table’?
  • how do we get more women speaking at conferences?
  • how can I be better recognized at work?

Three different scenarios. Three distinct problems.

One answer. Something better change.

Something’s happening and it’s happening right now
You’re too blind to see it
Something’s happening and it’s happening right now
Ain’t got time to wait
I said something better change
I said something better change
I said something better change
I said something better change

                            Hugh Cornwell, Dave Greenfield, Jet Black, Jean Jacques Burnel

Scenario 1 – how does the email industry get a ‘seat at the table’?

The email industry has been stuck in the doldrums for years – if not forever. And by that I mean that as the original digital customer communication channel, it has always allowed brands the opportunity to connect with customers, get better understanding of them, observe and record their behavior and then tie that all back to business performance, including revenue, engagement and profit. They could do this because things could be measured. And measurement of marketing efficacy is something that senior management has been interested in for a long time.

“HALF THE MONEY I SPEND ON ADVERTISING IS WASTED; THE TROUBLE IS I DON’T KNOW WHICH HALF.”

          Attributed to : John Wanamaker, Henry Ford, JC Penny, and a host of others

They still are, but the email industry continues to wrestle with attracting senior management to it’s conferences, or gaining even the smallest share of mind. So why the gap?

A while back now, Peter Drucker pointed out

“WHAT’S MEASURED IMPROVES.”

There’s a corollary

“JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN – DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD.”

This from a UK Digital Marketing Consultancy; 

Despite the plethora of social media channels and digital marketing tools available, email marketing still leads the way in terms of conversion rates. For purchases made as a result of receiving a marketing message, email has the highest conversion rate (66%), compared to social, direct mail and other channels.

(Source: DMA)

How do I know that the message is not getting through? Try this from the CMO Council, who measure marketing channel spend by brands.

Similarly, email’s score of 3.4 continued a decline from 3.7 in Q1 2011 and 3.8 in Q1 2010. This may be a reflection of the channel’s maturity more than its effectiveness: a recent survey from the CMO Council revealed that marketers believe email is their most effective digital marketing channel.

Think about that for two seconds. Marketers believe email is their most effective digital marketing channel and then not only do they spend less on it, but year after year, continue to reduce that share. Seriously, if the professionals don’t get it, is it any wonder that the rest of us are left out in the cold?

In a nutshell, the industry talks to itself too much and measures the wrong things like clicks. opens and bounces and not the right things like revenue, profit and ROI.

Don’t believe me?

As recently as February of this year, Hubspot published a blog post; “The 6 Email Marketing Metrics & KPIs You Should Be Tracking”, namely clickthrough rate, conversion, bounces, list growth, email sharing/forwarding, oh – and finally ROI!

To their credit, the Hubspot list did not include all the measures that the industry started out with – and for good reason. But, where is the analysis of segment ROI, the connection of email to revenue and profit, the cart abandonment metrics and how they can be improved, the tie in between EMail and the other channels that Brands use to engage with and sell to their customers? And why is email being looked at in isolation?

Marketing organizations already have big channel attribution problems. CLICK TO TWEET

The industry should be educating people how to reduce that and not recommending approaches that force continuing isolation and non integration of the channels.

Solution : the email industry needs to change the rules of engagement and conversation. Talk in the language of the c-suite and the c-suite will start to listen.

Scenario 2 – how do we get more women speaking at conferences?

In one group discussion this past week, a debate centered on the lack of diversity in speech platforms, which in turn morphed into a discussion of how minorities succeed and stand out at all. The original diversity question was centered on women. In amongst my comments I wrote ;

“women – when they are themselves, putting forward their beliefs, talking about their passions, doing what they are good at – and not trying to ‘up the ante’ by performing ‘better’ than men … oh my god – #Awesome – but too often I find that they try to play by the rules of men ….. don’t. stop that. really. I am serious.”

The responses were mixed, but can be be dropped into three buckets. Some took it that I was trying to tell women how to behave, others understood my words and agreed completely while a third group wanted to know why this just applied to women.

For any speaker I’m watching at a conference, I’d rather see them being genuine and talk about their topic with passion than see them compete for who can say the most shocking/tweetable thing.

More right than anything actually. I was trying to explain was the need for women to be themselves and not be like men. This comes from a belief that I hold that many women through time have had to work so hard and play like men to get where they are, that they forget that they are women. But the lesson holds true for anybody.

Solution : whoever you are, regardless of any artificial segmentation that society uses to classify you – cut through that and define yourself. Be different. Hold the conversation on your terms. Change the rules.

Scenario 3 – how can I be better recognized at work?

A simple one really. Stuck in a role at the office? Positioned by others based on their small mindedness or the need to keep you in your box. Yet you know that you are so much more.

Rise above it. Why shouldn’t an EA have opinions about a brand and talk 1-1 with senior management about brand positioning. Why shouldn’t a sales person have an opinion as to how a product might develop, sales people talk to customers all the time.

Not to mention all those organizations that are not yet customers. In other words, what the company might have forgotten is; that three years before that sales person graduated in electrical engineering from MIT they have knowledge well beyond their job description. So why not use it?

At the end of the day, organizations, (and by definition the people in those organizations), tend to look at others through the lens of the organizational structure. Which tend to be myopic, hierarchical and in silos. We are reminded constantly that you should ‘only speak when you are spoken to’, a lesson that may not be given too often in the modern family – but there are exceptions – and the idea is alive and well in the modern corporation. And slowly, ever so slowly, we are forced into the mould that is deemed right for us. By organization. By society. By peers.

Solution : break out of that mould. What is there to be lost if you do open up a conversation with the management team. Why shouldn’t you write your own blog and so get invited to talk at events that you (not your company) have been invited to talk at. We increasingly live in a world that wants the brand of you. So, cut through that and define yourself. Be different. Hold the conversation on your terms. Change the rules.

To conclude

I don’t usually come up with sporting analogies to support my arguments, but I do like a good Bucky quote ..

“You never change things by fighting existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

.. Buckminster Fuller ..

I will paraphrase one response I got when I used that line recently ….

‘Change The Rules ? That is so hard!’

business_rulesTrue, but so is starting up a company, climbing Mount Everest or getting your first million into the bank. But people still do it. And they win.

If you want a very topical example of someone changing the rules – look no further than ‘The Donald’. Love him or hate him, he has absolutely turned the political establishment, the media and the USA on its head. He changed the rules. And continues to do so.

And finally, since I specifically don’t use sport analogies, let me ‘change the rules’ and share three with you.

Basketball : How did the Warriors succeed – by changing the rules

“He (Curry) will make you believe in something different and I think that’s why he’s electrified the league,” Myers said. “He shows you a different way and I think we all believed there was only really one way — strength, power, athleticism — and he’s shown a level of skill and obviously taking advantage of what nobody else has in such a way, the 3-point line.”

Baseball : How did the A’s succeed – by changing the rules

“The central premise of Moneyball is that the collective wisdom of baseball insiders (including players, managers, coaches, scouts, and the front office) over the past century is subjective and often flawed. Statistics such as stolen basesruns batted in, and batting average, typically used to gauge players, are relics of a 19th-century view of the game and the statistics available at that time. The book argues that the Oakland A’s’ front office took advantage of more analytical gauges of player performance to field a team that could better compete against richer competitors in Major League Baseball (MLB).”

Oh – and if you are from the other side of the pond …

Football[1] : How did Leicester succeed – by changing the rules

“Play to your strengths” is a bit of a cliché, but Leicester took this simple adage and let it bloom into an unbreakable mantra. They found a simplistic way of playing – going against the grain of the game’s obsession with possession – that all the other teams in the league struggled to work out how to deal with. Leicester flooded their own penalty box with a no-nonsense and towering defenders and protected them with the tough-tackling Kante, whose key role was to break up play and feed the skill of Mahrez and the electric speed of Vardy. It was quick, efficient and direct counter-attacking football and it was devastating.”

[1] Sorry US residents – Leicester is a Football team – not a ‘soccer’ team. Which reminds me – why do the US insist on calling a game that is primarily about using your hands Football.

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