Movers and Shakers

Movers & Shakers

The changing game.

In keeping with the evening’s “Movers and Shakers” theme, I was asked to share some thoughts with you about how the game is changing. Before I do that, let me point back to two definitions that are representative of the people we're gathered here with tonight. As I do that, I'd like you to think about who the movers and shakers are in your community, your neighborhood, your business, your home, and where you fit.

Movers and shakers:
  • Those who disrupt the foundations of conventional thinking by the strength of their imagination and vision.
  • People with positive, energetic demeanor who initiate change and influence events.
I don’t know about the rest of the men here tonight, but the person creating the changes and influence at our house, is pretty much my wife Cindy. She's the mover and shaker. Between her influence and the demands of our dog Chloe, I'm regularly reminded where I fit in!

What do we know about change?

I suspect we’ve all heard - or maybe we’ve said ourselves - when planning for the future that “we don’t know what we don’t know.” It’s true. We don’t. We don’t know what we don’t know. So what!?

Do we crawl up into a ball and do what we’ve always done because we’re worried about what we don’t know? Let me add an action statement to that phrase and see how it changes the game. “We don’t know what we don’t know, so we must actively imagine what we can imagine.” It’s the strength of our imagination that will disrupt conventional thinking and create opportunity for change.

Change Ahead
So what disruptions of conventional thinking are changing the marketing game? Which shifts can we imagine that will alter the playing field in a way that changes how we compete and influences our opportunity to win?

How many of you have heard of FUD?  The term appeared in other contexts as far back as the 1920's and it stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.  FUD is generally considered a strategic attempt to influence perception by spreading negative or even false information. By 1975, the term was appearing in its abbreviated form - most frequently in marketing and sales contexts.

Although originally associated with IBM, from the 1990s on the term was most often associated with software industry giant and one of our Northwest neighbors, Microsoft. Many considered FUD to be Microsoft's primary marketing tool during an era when the majority of their products were technically inferior or at best in second place.

Microsoft as a challenger brand... do you remember? Lotus 123 was the dominant spreadsheet. WordPerfect the leading word processor. Harvard Graphics the pre-eminent presentation tool. And Ashton Tate, makers of dBase, sold the world’s leading data base.

More than anything else it was FUD that brought each of those world class products and companies to their respective knees. All, more or less, before there was a consumer internet. FUD traveled along traditional paths and at speeds that couldn’t begin to measure up to today’s standards. FUD was distributed by paid media, use of the trade press, and word of mouth - primarily in the voice of the dominant brand with fear on their side. Microsoft successfully used FUD to disrupt the foundations of conventional thinking. By definition, a mover and a shaker!

Now here we are, well into a new millennium, and the new acronym is VUCA. Have you heard of it? It’s an acronym that stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. I first heard it as a way to describe the world we’re living in. In fact, our world was called “Super VUCA” because we live in a vibrant time and place where our kids are connecting to each other - and to brands across the world – from the comfortable surroundings of their bedrooms. To some of us this probably seems like a world gone crazy. In a Super VUCA world we clearly don’t know what we don’t know. But we can imagine that it adds up to change. Change that must be acknowledged, embraced, and initiated.

Just this week, in preparation for a meeting with the PEMCO executive team, I reread an article on the topic of organizational design. One of the key takeaways for me was that innovation and change are primary requirements for achieving sustainable growth. Said differently, and perhaps more to the point, business must now be built to change in order to be built to last. Doing what we’ve always done in the way we’ve always done it, is like setting the table and serving ourselves up to become the other guys lunch.

We are now, more than ever, deep into an era where relationships are greatly defined, shaped and influenced by social engagement and digital delivery. Both are areas of PEMCO focus in the coming year or two.  We will be ramping up our use of popular social communities and finding more ways to defend PEMCO’s home court advantage by demonstrating that we know our NW neighbors in ways that other carriers can’t.

Our focus on digital delivery will increase opportunities for customers who prefer to serve themselves. This important work will also bring advantages to those who serve our customers by phone or face to face. For instance, our work on digital will reduce the number of questions required for underwriting; we’ll automate the application process and pre-fill our forms with required consumer information; and digital delivery will reduce the amount of paper documents being generated and mailed to our customers. At the end of the day, these and other actions are intended to improve the customer experience and result in a “very competitive price.” Our new digital services will enable customers to access simpler transactions on a 7x24 basis… and that buys more time for agents and staff to drive more growth.

We can take a lesson from Martin Luther King, whose life was celebrated last week. Remembering that Dr. King didn’t say ‘I have a vision statement!’ He didn’t declare ‘I have a strategy!' No, he had a dream! Winners in the changing game will be those whose dream for their brand is directly aligned with the dreams of their customers, employees, and representatives.

Business leaders are becoming creative leaders and are changing the language of business. How many of your business cards carry a title of CEO? They could, but they don't because one CEO per company is what the rules of the game dictate. Imagine. What if CEO stood for Customer Engagement Officer, or Chief Excitement Officer, or Client Empathy Officer? To Engage, Excite, and Empathize. Or to Execute? It's interesting to imagine what that difference would be like.

In the new game, we'll stop searching for the one big idea and creative leaders will emphasize putting lots and lots of small ideas into play. In turn, by letting the people we interact with feed those ideas and actively listening, they will make the best ones big.

The role of sales and marketing has changed now. There is little that’s new anymore. By the time we hear of something "new" going on, it's often becoming old in today's world. Speed and velocity is everything today. 

Marketing’s job is to create awareness and movement and to inspire people to join us. And it’s more than that. Service is the new marketing. Reminding people, with deeds and words, of the good decision that they made by selecting us is what leads to recommitment and renewal. Great marketing feeds loyalty and encourages the voices of loyal customers to share their stories, recommend our business and become defenders of the brand. 

Few want to be sold to but everyone loves a great story. Movers and shakers know that we must converse before we convince. Consumers want inspiration and inclusion. We can no longer interrupt, but must instead interact. Brand advocates are listened to more than brand advertising. Asking exclusively about return on investment is the wrong question today. We need be asking about return on involvement, and return on relationship. 

Successful brands will be defined and shaped by consumers more than companies. Winning businesses will be built to change in order to be built to last.

In this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous “super VUCA world” winners will need to do more than spin the wheel or roll the dice. Winners will be those who disrupt the foundations of conventional thinking by the strength of their imagination and vision. Winners will be people with positive, energetic demeanors who initiate change and influence events. 

The winners will be the movers and shakers. The movers and shakers are people like each of you.

Congratulations on your success in 2012.