Stacey and I caught up last week, and she peppered me with some interesting questions about the business value of thought leadership, how to organize/staff around thought leadership, and what are the leadership/governance models that work. We thought it would be fun to write up our chat in the form of a (rather lengthy) Q&A, shared with you below.
Reading through it, I think it's important to approach thought leadership as an organization, and not just a marketing activity or program. True thought leadership happens when the market talks back, and you get to exchange valuable insight with other leading thinkers on the topic. Kinda like Stacey and I do here.
Summer's winding down and it's time for people to get serious about closing out the year and looking forward to a digitally disruptive 2014. I can tell because the phone is ringing off the hook these days and nearly every call has the same focus: What steps can we take now to get the jump on digital disruption?
First, I'm thrilled to get these calls because implicit in the question is the belief that digital disruption is real. I've found that to be the case in the many months I've been on the road speaking about my book Digital Disruption and calling people to adopt the digital disruptor's mindset. Very few people doubt the unique power of digital disruption, in fact, they often have better examples of disruption to offer me than the ones I came prepared to talk about.
But after the mutual thrill of excitedly comparing case studies, these conversations have rapidly settled down to the same question: What can we do about it? It's precisely in that spirit that Tom Pohlmann, Forrester's Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer, sat down with me to get the straight scoop on what companies can do right away to understand and act on digital disruption. The result is an 18-minute interview that we're serving up as a podcast under the Forrester Talks Podcast. You can either listen to the whole thing in one shot (episode 1) or consume it in bite-size, topic-focused chunks under episodes 2, 3, and 4.
I was fortunate to take an extended vacation this summer to visit my daughter who is serving in the Peace Corps in Madagascar, with a stop in South Africa and Victoria Falls on the way. Although you see amazing animals while on safari, experience the incredible power of Victoria Falls, and find the undiscovered treasures of Madagascar, it was the beauty of the night that really struck me. Without city light pollution, you find yourself immersed in a night sky full of the most incredible stars. A clear view of a streaking Milky Way and a strong Southern Cross just takes your breath away. Night after night, the stars are there to light up the sky.
But being in the Southern hemisphere, the North Star that I am so used to seeing was nowhere to be found. That got me thinking about how comfortable we are in this half of the world with having the North Star to act as a beacon to guide navigation to true north.
When I first became a marketing executive responsible for leading a team, life was simple. All we needed to worry about was having a solid marketing strategy and then doing a good job of executing against it with engaging creative and the right offer. In those days, technology was someone else’s concern. The most we worried about was the condition of the direct marketing file or rented list and the percentage of responses we were able to get. Pretty easy, right?
Fast-forward to today and that simple life is a thing of the past. The digital revolution has forever changed the balance of power, putting customers in charge. Marketers live in a brave new world where customer understanding and the ability to provide value to customers in their buying journey across the exploding number of engagement channels are now the name of the game. And now technology is everywhere touching all of these aspects of marketing and more.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been honored to speak at NYC Internet Week’s Cardinal Path and Google's Building a Data-Driven Culture opening panel and the Ad Age Marketing + Technology Summit; as well as at several Forrester client events in the US and Europe on the topic of marketing technology and the CMO role in the strategy development, vendor selection, and execution process. And one thing that I stressed across all of the discussions at these events is this — CMOs must accept that it’s no longer possible to run the business of marketing without technology. Technology is now necessary to help your marketing team handle the external fragmentation and internal data sources that drive decisions and results.
For the history of humanity, for one person to make a difference, the individual had to convince many others to join the pursuit. And the convincing part was tough — whether you were Martin Luther or Martin Luther King, Jr., the amount of effort was high, and the probability of success was low. (Certainly the list of people who tried to change the world and failed is long; it’s just that we won’t know their names, which itself is part of my point.) From Christopher Columbus to Steve Jobs, individual power has really only amounted to much infrequently, and only when backed by very large and wealthy entities. Kings and queens financed the discovery of the Americas; Wall Street and venture capital bankrolled Silicon Valley.
I recently heard my all-time favorite excuse for why you can't disrupt yourself. It was in a session with 40 senior IT leaders of a Fortune 500 company including the CIO. Somebody brought up Uber and Airbnb, and most in the room nodded in agreement that a big company could learn a thing or two from these disruptors. That's when someone dropped my new favorite excuse: "But we can't imitate Uber and Airbnb because what they're doing is illegal."
Sure, it would be nice to just avoid taking the fast and bumpy road of disruption in favor of staying in the smooth parking lot of denial. But that's not really an option because the lessons of Uber, Airbnb, and other disruptors apply to everyone in every industry.
I don't mean to sidestep the legal question, but I do mean to point out that it's hardly the issue here. Uber and Airbnb are coming under fire because they're using cheap technology and existing resources to make their customer's lives dramatically better, one positive experience at a time. That's the real issue here, and it's the one companies of any size should focus on.
Internet, search marketing, digital advertising, sales enablement, social media, video, online communities, mobile, predictive analytics, content curation . . . Is it even possible for the pace of change in marketing activity to continue to accelerate? According to top marketing leaders in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, absolutely. So get ready, folks, the rocket ride isn't over.
During the month of May, Forrester and the BMA collaborated to entice and persuade 117 CMOs and senior VPs at firms roughly split between companies with fewer than 5,000 employees and those with 5,000 or more — to respond to attitudinal questions about the pace of change, the role of marketing, evolving skill sets, and the degree of collaboration between marketing and peer functions.
Welcome, graduates of the class of 2013, and congratulations. You are some of the finest students our system of education — no, our society — has ever produced. Rather than stand here and occupy your time with random inspirational thoughts, I would prefer to stand back and let you rush out there to disrupt the world into which you were born.
Unfortunately, you probably won’t. And that’s too bad because those of us who have gone before you really need you to disrupt things — which is ironic to say because we are actually the reason you won’t live up to your potential.
Now that I have your attention (and perhaps have primed the urge for an antidepressant), let me tell you why your future is likely so bleak.
You are among the world’s first fully digital citizens. You were born after the Macintosh IIx, Windows 3.0, and the launch of AOL. We now have the iPad, Windows 8, and Google Fiber. When you entered kindergarten, already 20 million US households were connected to the Internet, and by the time you started high school, that number had quadrupled to approximately 80 million. Oh, and in that year of high school, YouTube posted its first video and Facebook opened its social network to anyone with an email address; today, YouTube shows 4 billion hours of videos each month, and Facebook has more than 1 billion friends.
Folks, this one is going to be short because it's the easiest case I've ever made. Microsoft wins the next-gen game console launch wars by launching something that the company doesn't even call a console. Where Nintendo offered us a tablet to accompany the millions we had already bought and Sony then offered us a box that we couldn't even see, Microsoft has trumped them both by delivering the Xbox One. Let's tally up the points:
The name. Wii U means something, I'm sure, to someone. PS4 means "we like the past and want to extend it." Xbox One takes a bolder and more important stand by saying, "It's time to reboot the whole category." This is beautifully illustrated in the way that the Xbox presenters never referred to Xbox One as a game console. It is an All In One Home Entertainment System.
The reveal. PS4 famously flopped its launch by hiding the console entirely. That would have been fine last generation, maybe. But this generation comes in the post-Steve Jobs era where the device and its price are shown. Microsoft debuted the box, the new Kinect, and the new controller in the first 60 seconds of the event.
The scope. Wii U and PS4 both promise to provide access to video and other interesting media experiences. Xbox One actually delivers those things in the most satisfying and complete way anyone other than TiVo has done so far, letting you switch from gaming to TV to movies to web browsing with simple voice commands and practically no waiting.
If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know that I love to write about sports analogies to help marketers get a new perspective on the issues they deal with. But, although we’re in the midst of what most likely will be our world champion Miami Heat’s march to its second NBA championship in 2013, I’m going to turn left and mix things up a bit in this post.
I’ve been married to an architect for 25 years (as of this May 29th), so it probably won’t surprise you that I also often think of things in terms of designing and building. Considering what goes into creating a building, it provides a fitting analogy to think about how you should approach building your relationship with your chief information officer (CIO); similar to the way architects needs to work with their clients.
Of course, one can’t construct a solid and sustainable building alone or with just anyone. It requires the unique contribution of a diverse group of professionals with specific areas of expertise — the creative vision of the architect; the construction team’s ability to execute; and the specialized skills of concrete workers, carpenters, roofers, and plasterers. And let’s not forget the importance throughout the process of interior design experts as well as the technical insights from structural engineers to ensure that the building is and remains hurricane- and/or quake-resistant.
So how does constructing a strong, yet flexible, building apply to CMOs and the relationship you should have with your CIO?