Will Isolation Kill Creativity and Innovation — Or Reinvigorate Us?

As the pandemic continues to isolate many, we have to wonder if this isolation will eat away at our creativity and innovation — the fuel that great marketers live off of. Or, will it reinvigorate us?

Happy Memorial Day 2020. To say the least, I salute our fallen soldiers and sailors. They matter greatly to us. This year, of course, we know of another “frontline” of warriors battling a grave threat. We’re also thinking of them — some of whom have succumbed. We mourn and are humbled by their sacrifice, too. Fighting and dying to protect us. Fighting and dying to preserve our freedoms.

Continued adherence to local public health mandates for social distancing and isolation is perhaps the best way we can honor these heroes. We cannot let down our home guard.

And yet, it’s the unofficial start of summer. And my mind and body are eager for familiar patterns this time of year — in a world that is anything but familiar. Much of what I love about late spring inevitably means 1) making plans to go places — and then going; 2) sharing experiences; and 3) taking “down time” to refresh and reinvigorate.

Every one of these activities feeds our creativity. Every one is a sum greater than its parts. True, like a good book, our immersion in virtual experiences can launch our minds and imaginations in new ways.

Graph Showing American Vacation Plans for 2020 with COVID impacts
Credit: eMarketer, April 2020

Yet, it’s also true that hand-to-hand exchanges, encountering new faces and places, and human contact rev up the creativity meter that much more.

I’m fortunate to be a knowledge worker. I have a job. I am able to work remotely with initiative — and get assignments accomplished, and I’m absolutely thankful to have my life and livelihood. But as the cold weather finally has faded away, we need to start our summer.

A Creativity Pact — Isolation That Inspires

So let’s make a pact. This will be our most creative summer ever, because:

We’re going to challenge ourselves to find the silver lining — sun, rain or in-between. They’re plenty of them: “rediscovering” our family relationships and our immediate neighbors, and appreciating them for their quirks and gifts.

I know this sounds strange, but I’ve spent more time studying my family … and I’m grateful for the time we’ve had on top of each other. It’s as though my office mates — who I sometimes think of as family — just became Zoom mates, and my “real” family recaptured the role they were always meant to have. I’ve been re-grounded in family values.

We’re going to go places. They just likely will be near and nearer. Some believe globalism just died, and that supply chains, politics, networks and communities have been forced into isolationism. Some are even celebrating this fact. Tsk, tsk.

I work in the world of data, and silos are NEVER a good thing. So we must commit ourselves to “Think Global, Act Local” — and let the innovations flow. Balkanizations never produced anything worth emulating. So protect that down time, and use it locally.

Find five area points of interest — a state or national park, a bike or hiking trail, a new neighborhood, a vista, an outdoor venue and go there — anywhere that gives you time to breathe, think and share safe distances to both people and nature watch. Observations produce revelations.

We’re going to find new ways to “share” that stimulates the brain. What might you do on those Google Hangouts to provoke the unexpected? Wear a funny hat. Display an aspirational background. Show some personality. Provoke.

I’m about to engage a summer intern, virtually, for the next 10 weeks. And, with my colleagues, it’s going to take a collective effort to make this new normal one where “remote” learning will be anything but boring. So on each call, there will be at least one external experience — non-work — to share. To exchange an idea is a gift — and we need to be in giving mood.

I’m ready to be invigorated. Aren’t you? This pandemic offers us new opportunities to take our familiar summer themes in whole new directions. Let’s discover them — and be very grateful for our ability to make better this unprecedented time.

 

5 Strategies to Become the Marketing MVP

It’s a great time to be in marketing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor predicts a 9 percent growth in employment for marketers through 2024, 2 percent above the average growth rate of other industries. With this type of growth comes tremendous competition, which means it’s getting harder for A-players to stand out. In order to rise to the top and become a Marketing MVP, you need to proactively manage your career.

It’s a great time to be in marketing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor predicts a 9 percent growth in employment for marketers through 2024, 2 percent above the average growth rate of other industries.

With this type of growth comes tremendous competition, which means it’s getting harder for A-players to stand out. In order to rise to the top and become a Marketing MVP, you need to proactively manage your career. Here are some strategies you can start applying today.

1. Keep a Career Journal

As a marketer, you know the importance of data. Well, keeping data about your career can assist you in getting the raise or promotion you want and provide guidance when going after new opportunities.

There should be two parts to your career journal — one focused on your overall career goals and another documenting details of projects as you complete them.

For your overall career goals, ask yourself questions like these and review your answers on a quarterly basis.

  • Where do I see myself in the next step of my career? Be as specific as you can.
  • What skills do I need to develop to get there?
  • What do I need to improve or create in order to reach my goal?
  • What is my No. 1 priority for the next 12 months?
  • What do I want to be doing more of in my career?
  • Am I spending time on the things that will take me where I want to go in my career?
  • What do I want to be known for?

Then as you complete projects in your current role, jot down what the challenge or situation was, the actions you completed and the results you got. This is what is commonly known as a CAR story (Challenge, Action, Result) or STAR story (Situation, Task, Action, Result). Be sure to include all quantifiable data you can in the results.

2. Always Be in Contact With Your Network

This doesn’t mean you have to contact your network daily, but checking in every few months to say hello, ask how they’re doing, wish them a happy birthday, etc. is a best practice. It helps keep you top of mind.

It’s also important to maintain your network even when you are happy in your current position. Be of service to others so when you find yourself in need of help, you’ll have people to reach out to.

3. Keep Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile Updated

It’s nice to be at the ready when a recruiter unexpectedly comes calling.

If you review your resume and LinkedIn profile every quarter, you won’t have to spend hours and hours updating your resume trying to remember everything you’ve done in the last few years. Plus when you are still employed, you have access to the quantifiable data!

Keep in mind you should not just dump your resume in your LinkedIn profile. Your LinkedIn profile should complement your resume. Get rid of all the resume speak and incorporate keywords into your headline. For more details on how to craft a great LinkedIn profile, check out my previous blog post “LinkedIn for Stealth Job Seekers.”

In case it’s been several years since you last updated your resume, you’ll want to give it a format overhaul so it looks like it belongs in this century. Think of your resume like a newspaper article — incorporate a headline (your target job title) and subhead (your personal branding statement) and follow those up with proof points (your summary). For more tips on resume writing check out my previous blog post “How to Write a Killer Marketing Resume.”

4. Volunteer for Opportunities Out of Your Comfort Zone

If you want to get ahead in your career, ask your boss what you can take off their plate. When you can show you’ve done it, you’ll be more likely to get that promotion. Volunteering for projects shows you take initiative and may also get you exposure to more decision makers in your company.

Volunteering outside of your company has lots of benefits too. It can help expand your skillset and your network. Not only that, but studies have shown it makes you a better employee. A UnitedHealth Group study found that “Employees who volunteer also bring more refined job skills to the workplace which provides a significant benefit to their employer.”

5. Pursue Professional Development 

Regardless if your employer pays for it or not, you should be taking courses to enhance your skills and keep them current. When you seek out opportunities to expand your skillset it makes you a more valuable asset to your current company and more marketable in general.

It’s not always an MBA you need to pursue either. Certifications like Google AdWords, Copyblogger Certified Content Marketer or HubSpot Inbound Marketing can be valuable if you current or potential employer uses these tools.

Although professional marketers don’t have agents like professional athletes, you can still be the MVP of your marketing team when you take charge of your career.

Industry Experts Weigh In: Marketing That Matters

Earlier this month, I participated in a professional development and networking event for alumni of the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) graduate program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. I spoke with some of my colleagues about how they define performance marketing and what they envision for the next generation of performance marketers, and they shared valuable insights about its growth and accountability.

Earlier this month, I participated in a professional development and networking event for alumni of the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) graduate program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. I spoke with some of my colleagues about how they define performance marketing and what they envision for the next generation of performance marketers, and they shared valuable insights about its growth and accountability. Here’s what a few of them had to say:

Tom Collinger, associate professor and sector head of direct, e-commerce and search marketing and associate dean of Medill. Collinger is also president of The TC Group, a marketing strategy consulting firm, and serves as a member on the editorial advisory board for the Journal of Consumer Marketing.

CG: What does performance marketing mean to you?
TC: Performance marketing is, after all, redundant, isn’t it? The goal of all marketing and communications is to grow connections and engagement that results in sales performance. I believe the term has grown in popularity recently as a result of the growth in measureable outcomes to marketing initiatives, but, really, can you ever imagine a marketing communications initiative funded without a stated expectation of results? I can’t either. So, for me, performance marketing means an expectation of results as a consequence of the strategies used to promote a brand.

CG: What advice do you have for the next generation of performance marketers?
TC: I’d advise the next generation of performance marketers not to fall victim to the belief that an immediate and measureable result to a prompted marketing communications initiative is always the best basis of proving success. Rather, consider each and every initiative in the context of how a business, brand or service is made more or less relevant to a customer. Each initiative is a brick that either builds or erodes the wall that becomes the barriers to switch.

Ron Jacobs, president of Jacobs & Clevenger, an independent multichannel direct digital marketing agency. Jacobs started a professional program in direct marketing at DePaul University in 1990, and in 2006, he began an endowment for the program. He also devoted 17 years as a senior lecturer in the Medill IMC program. Jacobs co-authored the “Eighth Edition of Successful Direct Marketing Methods,” the best-selling book on the tools and techniques of direct marketing.

CG: What does performance marketing mean to you?
RJ: I find myself constantly reminding my clients, staff and students that performance marketing is direct response marketing, and many of the traditional tools and techniques of direct marketing apply. The ultimate objective should be conversions or sales. The messages and calls to action need to reflect the keywords that got prospects there in the first place. Moreover, while you may not be able to measure everything, you can easily find three to five key performance indicators that make sense for your business.

CG: What advice do you have for the next generation of performance marketers?
RJ: Today, virtually all marketing communications are accountable; it’s the new normal. Performance marketing is a leader in this transition. Marketers, media and agencies are shared stakeholders in this change; we all need to find ways to adjust our business models to accommodate it. 
Whether seeking direct marketing or broader results, the accountability of the web continues to drive the evolution of performance-based approaches toward game-changing methods to better assess and optimize performance.

Final thoughts
Initially an arms race to get the right technologies in place, performance marketing has become more consumer centric as the practice begins to mature. Successful performance marketers will understand consumers and how they use technology to find information and ultimately make decisions.

The measurement process for performance marketing almost always includes generating response; collecting information; and analyzing large data sets, complex systems and partnerships — all focused on the consumer as a participant in the exchange. This intelligent data management links the business intelligence engine with the execution engine to reduce marketing waste, optimize marketing spend and scale quality implementation for improved return on investment.

As these industry experts stated, consumers’ perspectives will only continue to gain significance in performance marketing. Marketers must find ways to be relevant, and performance marketing offers several reliable methods to connect with high-value audience segments, quantify success and keep campaigns accountable.

How do you envision the future of performance marketing? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments thread below or email me at craig.greenfield@performics.com.