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We Can’t Afford to Be Rock Chippers

September 15th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

rock_chipperA number of years ago, when I was with a different company, I met with my department’s VP and he said something that I will never forget.  Something along the lines of, “You’re different from other people because you’re not a rock chipper.  Rock chippers are great; you hand them a rock and something to chip away at it with, and they’ll do so in earnest.  The world needs rock chippers, but some have to be leaders.”

With how competitive the market is now, I don’t think any company can afford to have too many rock chippers in their organization.  I believe if you are in a leadership position and you’re not actively training your people to think strategically, you’re putting your business at risk.  People at every level should be in training to think like a marketer/sales person and be rewarded for behaviors that improve the position of the company collectively.

I met with a nice group of folks this morning from TDWI LA, which is made up of Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing professionals.  This time, however, they invited marketing folks to participate in their discussions so I went.  I admit, I get excited when put into the same room as people who are coming from a different business area and a different mindset, especially when we’re talking about marketing. I want to listen and understand what it’s like for them on their side of things, so as to better integrate the things that I am doing now and in the future with every facet of business.

In a nutshell, the first half of the discussion was about how IT is having more and more responsibility for marketing metrics, and how all this data is now coming in from disparaging sources, or even housed outside the company with vendors, so there has to be a new, more open way to manage it.

The second half was a presentation given by Betsy Lenahan, CMO for YMCA Atlanta.  She explained how for many, many years she was asking her IT staff for specific data cuts, but did not get what she needed until she found an outside company’s product, Birst, to assist.  She suggested to the IT folks in the room that they could help Marketing, and themselves, by incorporating their needs into processes early and often, as well as not take it personally when Marketing points out something that is deficient in the organization that they have responsibility for.

I totally get what she was saying.  People have to put their heads together to accomplish objectives, but cross-functional meetings rarely take place that should.  It is also an unfortunate fact that often people can’t differentiate that THEY are not deficient when it is pointed out that something needs to change in things that are being done by their team.  It is just ‘fact’ that in order to create marketing ROI, management has to get everyone involved in that process and make it a priority to communicate the reality of where the company is at currently and the hope of where they’re headed.  They need to facilitate cross-learnings, train people who don’t behave in a sales- and group-oriented way, as well as share with everyone the immediate and long-term sales goals of the company.  It can make such a difference, even down to what people do with their time day-to-day.  It helps people to stay focused if they know that a specific activity on their to-do list supports a short or long-term goal of the business.

Instead of having rock chippers chipping away at their own little rocks in silos, companies can provide the right motivations, communication and inspiration to create a group masterpiece that is squarely based on the sales and marketing of that business.

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