Focus on fitness, communication, and connections.

focusFocus is a very good thing!

Earlier this month, as the new year began, I boldly posted an entry to this blog declaring that I would have "No New Resolutions" in 2012.  The reason, simply stated, is that my resolve to accomplish a few specific goals in 2011 needs my continued focus and commitment. To spread myself too thin only deverts my attention from the most important things.

As a PEMCO colleague likes to say "Keep the main thing the main thing."

Within days of my post, Russell Sparkman, the founder of FusionSpark and organizer of the second annual Content Marketing Retreat in Langley, Washington, contacted me with the following question.

"With focus being core to your success, what would you say is the most important area of focus for marketers in the coming year?"

This was my response...

Let me be clear that my declaration of “no new resolutions” as I turned the corner into 2012 is largely personal. I’m working on commitments that I made to myself and want to ensure that I complete them and/or build the desired habits that can only be accomplished with consistent and diligent focus over an extended period of time. For me those include: 1) personal health and fitness, 2) writing and sharing, and 3) developing meaningful connections.

As I think more broadly about those commitments, I can see that they are also, at least in part, the answers to your question regarding my suggestions for marketers. I'd like to examine that a bit.

Health and fitness: Marketers must not become comfortable with the shape that they’re in – especially with market conditions being what they are today. When that happens, the chances for bad things to occur increase substantially. Satisfaction, when unexercised, will often lead to complacency. You’ll become less nimble and before long, you’ll find your organization gasping for breath as the market rewards the improved strength of your competitors. Make this the year that you put down the remote, get up off the couch, and move in a less familiar direction. Change something and see what happens. I encourage marketers to make or renew their commitment to professional fitness and to exercise new and overlooked muscles that can strengthen their performance in the market.

For some, the focus will be on mental toughness – a willingness to explore, embrace and apply new concepts and tools. In 2007, I committed to becoming a student of word of mouth marketing. I quickly became aware of how much I didn’t know and how my lack of understanding could hold my company back. As my knowledge and confidence grew, so did our willingness to make new strides into social engagement as a marketing and enterprise-wide commitment. Now, as I look ahead, I recognize the increasingly important role that timely and relevant content plays in our success. Developing the right strategy to drive the desired outcome requires, once again, that we exercise new muscles and build new behaviors.

Bottom line, if you aren’t focused on your professional fitness, you probably aren’t going to be leading the race for long.

Communicating and connecting: The art and science of effective communication has at its core a reliance on positive thoughts, motivating language, and a willingness to listen for the needs and desires of others. It’s about sharing timely and relevant information between people in ways that are interesting, engaging, entertaining, and informative. As marketers we must focus on doing all those things in ways that will be received, understood, used, and valued. And as content creation is increasingly embraced by consumers the complexity of our challenge is certain to increase.

As the new year begins, I’d encourage my colleagues in the marketing and communication professions to consider the fact that consumers have learned to trust the messages of their friends, families – even people that they have never met – more than they trust the messages that we present to them in our corporate voice. The power of consumer communication and consumer-generated content is at an all-time high. Those of us who understand and accept that new reality, and who enable the customer to speak on our behalf, will benefit the most.

Marketers and the companies we work for need to better examine the value of communities, fans, and followers. The people that link, “like” and list us might well be our greatest marketing asset. How we engage and connect, at each step of the journey from awareness to advocacy, matters more than ever before.

Bottom line? Consumers have the power to describe, define and determine the success of our brands. No longer do they only vote with their dollars. They now hold the power to influence how the masses vote by the way they use their voice.

CMR 2012          - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I'm looking forward to attending the Content Marketing Retreat on January 26th and 27th where I'll be providing the opening day keynote message.

If you would like to attend, please use the code "Brooks25" to receive  a 25% discount off your registration fee.

Hope to see you there.

Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.

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The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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