What you create defines who you are
"Why are you making this plan?" we asked Maarten in the summer of 2014. A successful entrepreneur, Maarten had just sold his start-up to a French group. We were chatting, over a glass of wine, about the marketing plan that he wanted to draw up. As part of the acquisition arrangements, he was appointed Marketing Director in the new organization.
"This plan will help strengthen our company's position in the market. We have a highly innovative service portfolio. But the customer is not sufficiently aware of this." That seemed to us like a fair answer. It is an answer that we often hear. Maarten was quick to add, however: "But it is, of course, also my intention to profile myself clearly to my fellow directors. I want to make it clear that in the future marketing will be an important element in the new structure. To put it simply, I want to be taken seriously by the other directors."
Well spotted! Often, another reason for making a good marketing plan is to position the marketing function as a professional function vis-a-vis the colleagues from IT, production, R&D, and sales departments. But there is also a third reason to develop a good strategy. This eluded Maarten, like so many others, while it is definitely the main reason to make a plan.
After all, you make a plan to develop yourself professionally. What you create defines who you are. Just as musicians develop professionally more and more with each song, we unfold our own potential while drawing up and executing a plan. Some marketers are the equivalent of John Lennon, others are at the level of the entertainer in the local cultural center. The fact that there is a "Stairway to heaven" as well as a "Highway to hell" says a lot about the success and failure rate of plans. But we all develop our skills while creating a plan.
Anyone can become a beautiful work of art. We have discussed this topic often with our executive master students in recent years. The following six questions provide a summary of these discussions.
· What is your personal ambition?
Start with knowing what you want. This is unanimously indicated as a prerequisite. The question is therefore not just "What is good for the company?" but also "What do I want?" Simon Sinek is right. You should never lose sight of why you are doing what you do. An MBA participant put it as follows: "There is a very subtle difference between career planning and personal branding. Personal branding starts with who you are, your personal strengths and interests. Career planning usually starts with where you are and what the next logical step is."
· Are you relevant and distinctive?
What is your personal value proposition? In what are you better or different than your competitor-colleagues? This unique added value that each of us carries inside ourselves is often less visible than we think. A marketer told us: "I have come to the conclusion that the things in which I differ from others, the things for which I am praised are things that I personally see as very ordinary and definitely not special." The exceptional is sometimes shrouded in the ordinary.
· Do you keep reinventing yourself enough?
Your competitor-colleagues aspire to your current job and your future position. You should therefore keep reinventing yourself. Why do we not ask ourselves more often what we always ask about what our companies offer: how can we remain better or different than our competitors? The litmus test is simple: when was the last time you did something totally new?
· Are you consistent in what you do?
The activities that you undertake must be aimed in the same direction. After all, we change products but we build brands. Success author Jim Patterson only does the cool stuff. That way he shows the values he holds. These values provide him a modus vivendi of customer focus without caving in to customers.
· Are you building a strong brand?
"For a brand, the opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference." Well, everyone is a brand. In the words of Tom Peters, you are "the CEO of Me Inc." Many marketers, however, do not realize that the most important brand they commercialize is themselves. Moreover, branding is an action! This is perhaps the biggest challenge, as one manager told us: "It seems to me that I understand most of this in theory. The challenge lies in the actual implementation." Some build a strong personal brand by their actions within the organization. Others build their brand through their social media activities. Still others attend receptions and are champions at emptying champagne saucers.
· Do you take sufficient distance from the company?
This may sound surprising, and it is often formulated only reluctantly. But your colleagues in the company are not your family. Sometimes, when you sign a contract, you hear: "Welcome to the family." This is how Google's Larry Page welcomed newly acquired Nest to the Google family. Lucy Kellaway describes such statements as misleading.She is absolutely right. Many books are written about happiness.Enjoy your work, but never forget that there is a life outside work.
(1) Jones S. Brand like a rock star. (nadruk in het origineel)
(2) Peters T. "The brand called you," URL:FastCompany.com, Augustus-September 1997.
(3) Kellaway L. " Colleagues and bosses are not your family." URL:FT.com, 2 februari 2014.
(4) Een mooi overzicht vind je in: Cooper B.B. "10 simple, science-backed ways to be happier today." URL:FastCompany.com, 12 augustus 2013. Een luchtige en geestige aanrader in het Nederlands is Van Hees, P. De geluksprofessor. Meulenhoff, 2015.