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Be curious, not dismissive
While you shouldn't say yes to everything, it has asymmetric upside when the consult is right - learn to trust your team
I recall a situation in 2007 while in the consulting space when most businesses were barely scratching the surface with digital marketing. The story goes like this: one of my clients, a national brand that is a household name (you’ve 100% been there many times) was reticent to participate in social. While some of my clients (like this one) leaned in and became case studies the entire industry still references to this day, others were like a deer in headlights.
What was interesting is very smart people were running this particular company (I won’t name and shame them). But even after we explained the situation, shared research and outlined the benefits of embracing social media (and how they could be a pioneer in the space: none of their competitors were there, all they really had to do was show up) they still seemed ambivalent. Or perhaps a better word: dismissive. “Why would anyone want to do that?” was a common response to what we showed people (specifically their fans) were doing. Posting to the internet seemed alien to them, and interacting with fans in a public forum even more so. Even when endorsements, reactions and demand for social participation was right in their faces, they ignored it. Even though they had web and email analytics showing clear ROI from internet marketing, they hesitated in something that to my team was a total no-brainer.
They dismissed the idea that the world was changing: either out of fear of something they didn’t understand or perhaps felt that their previous years of success and being a household name could be put in jeopardy (I sensed in some regard they felt it ‘beneath’ them). So at that point, easier to ignore the change going on around them than embrace it.
Of course, they changed their tune eventually. It wasn’t long after someone must have pestered their CMO one too many times about social, and so they finally came back and let us build a strategy and start execution. Thankfully I had already registered their brand handles because I knew they would want them at some point. I happily handed over the keys…
This massive brand is now one of the most successful consumer brands on social. They have 7 or 8 figure followings on most of their channels. They actively engage their communities, have a thriving social CRM program, deftly execute social promotions and tap their fans for content and to share brand messages. The leadership and middle managers are now also on social of course. It’s wonderful to watch and to someone on the outside, it seems organic. Like those operating the brand knew well enough to participate in social. They didn’t. Not without much persuasion, presentations and hand-holding. I wanted to share this story today because I know I’m not the only one who went through this with social in early days (amongst other things).
The thing is, it could have been so much easier. They could have been curious and started sooner (the reality is we began the process in 2006, it took a lot of work on our part and I didn’t give up nudging). Many cycles wasted by fighting the future, they were still relatively early, but could have been even further ahead. I had a conversation with an executive from this brand years after, asked why they didn’t see it sooner and got a half answer. But I still think they did see it, they just weren’t ready to accept the shift as they were part of a culture that was seriously change-averse.
The lesson? Be curious, not dismissive. Experiment. Try things and iterate. It is such a better mindset and leads to so many more possibilities than being closed off. The world is changing faster than ever and you need to be ready to change with it. This doesn’t mean don’t question things and not conduct diligence (ie, there are repercussions and bad optics if you decide to try something without full knowledge or details, and doing things just to do things is busywork and un-strategic). It simply means to keep an open mind.