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The following is an excerpt from the book Steal These Ideas!
by Steve Cone
Published by Bloomberg; September 2005;$18.95US/$26.50CAN; 1-57660-191-9
Copyright © 2005 Steve Cone

Confucius and Stardom

Marketing stars create big ideas that work. And they come up with them because they have the time to think.

"The busy man is never able. The able man is never busy."

Confucius allegedly said this in the fourth century B.C., and Time Warner's Steve Ross knew it when he rewarded any executive he caught thinking. Thinking is what every marketing professional should strive for. You will never be a marketing star if you don't take the time to contemplate, conjure, and dream.

Many marketing professionals measure success by their number of direct reports, the total head count in the marketing department, and by the size of their marketing budget. Headhunters encourage this analysis with their insistence that these criteria somehow measure one's ability. In truth, a better barometer would be how successful you are in the creation of compelling new ways to grab customers' attention, excite them, and get them to buy more, year after year.

To become a marketing star, you have to know how to inspire and manage people. You have to come up with ideas that they can get behind, ideas that will significantly move the business needle. You do not need them to report to you. Remember, ideas are budget-free until they are put into action. If an idea is compelling and good enough to impact the business, at some point the higher-ups will get you the bucks to give it a try. If not, come up with another one and keep at it.

Like Thomas Edison, all great idea people fail, fail, and fail again before success comes their way. Invention by its very nature is a series of mistakes or seemingly wrong paths taken that eventually lead to a positive outcome. Why should marketing be any different?

If you don't want to think and experiment and tinker and doodle and think some more about how to get customers to love you and buy more, you may still deserve to be somewhere on the marketing team, but you will never be the star.

There is a reason why a submarine captain has an executive officer who runs every aspect of day-to-day operations. The captain's job is not to run the boat. It is to inspire the crew, to think of how to make their jobs more productive, to think of better ways for the boat to operate. It is also to inspire confidence, boost morale, and encourage the crew to make the boat's performance the very best it can be.

The number one job of senior marketing professionals is to recruit the best second in command they can possibly find.

The number two job is to let the second in command run the ship so that they can do the creative thinking needed to leapfrog your competitors.

All of this requires a work environment that encourages free thinking and fresh initiative. When I'm asked what a marketing professional should look for in a job, the size of your company's marketing department or how many direct reports you will have is not my first response. What I do say is:

Do you have really good chemistry with your potential boss and colleagues?

Will you get the latitude to do the job of transforming the company's marketing from okay to great? After all, why take a job just to do okay marketing?

Is there commitment to spend the money if great ideas are forthcoming?

Pretty simple rules of engagement. And remember, being able is way better than being busy -- for you and your company.

Sweating the Details
To some degree, and very often to a large degree, the success of any marketing effort is directly related to the correct fulfillment of your product or service to the customer. For every marketing promotion, an individual on your internal staff should be assigned to sweat the details of fulfillment. It is not enough to rely on an outside service, especially one that is miles or continents away from your offices.

You need a professional who is accountable to you. It should also be someone who loves the challenge and science of what happens from the time an order is placed to the time you get an acknowledgment of receipt by the customer.

Your fulfillment expert should be highly motivated, and highly rewarded for a job well done.

Copyright © 2005 Steve Cone