My good mate Chris asked me a fair question the other day about my comment on vulnerability vs. authenticity. He went on to eloquently articulate his story. My answer to his question went like this.
When it comes to vulnerability and authenticity there is a murky bit in the middle of the two but for purposes of clarity….
Authenticity is largely a question of delivery and presentation. I am authentic because of how I am and how I express myself. Authentic people can also be not particularly nice at times (Donald Trump).
Vulnerability is about what I choose to disclose, say and do.
Most leaders fail on vulnerability because they won’t speak the truth or express themselves out of fear of shame, embarrassment or consequence.
Until organisations embrace and encourage vulnerability how can real conversations happen? Why would a leader speak openly on platforms like Yammer or Chat? They’d rather continue to hide behind closeted meetings, 1:1 emails and all kinds of corporate pretense…. And they can do all of that being authentic, but being very selective about what they talk about and to who. Rarely do you ever see who our leaders actually are…
Then I read this. The honesty and vulnerability on an issue that affects us all is profound. What Brad says requires an enormous acceptance of vulnerability – and then expression of it. How he does it is authentic.
Q: How much does the issue of mental health differ in startups from the world at large?
A: In general, I don’t know. But leaders and entrepreneurs are programmed to “never show weakness”, so I expect there’s much more pressure to keep it hidden and suppressed, which if you’ve ever been depressed, can make things much worse.
Read the whole story. It’s time for a new dialog – specifically on the issue of depression – one that embraces vulnerability and authenticity.
Link to a conversation I had over at the CMO Show…
In between a mountain of work I’ve been popping in and out of the Marketo User Conference in San Francisco. One of the words that keeps being used is “moments”. It seems that it is the “moment for moments”.
Adam Bain (the Twitter Adam) was the first person I heard speak about the importance of moments to marketers. It struck me as really important in the context of Twitter – that is what we do on Twitter, express the moments that matter around us.
Marketo is clearly building on this idea (maybe without knowing of Adam and Twitter’s use of the phrase – which is OK). How do we use marketing automation platforms – and marketing in total to drive customer engagement – to create moments in which customers experience our products and new kinds of value are created. And, how do we manage the moments that aren’t going to plan.
Couple of other big thought-starters so far:
- Most large marketing teams are really struggling to build marketing operations capability that reflect their scale. For businesses like Xero, we nail this early and fast. Without a strong marketing operations capability, you can’t win in a marketing technology centric world.
- SMB as a phrase should be entirely eliminated. There are small businesses and then there are medium businesses. They are no more similar than MLB – medium large businesses. Lets stop characterizing them as the same when they aren’t.
- Marketers should never assume that the role of marketing is understood – or that it is a cookie-cutter of what the exec team did somewhere else. Great brands are building amazing customer momentum with no marketing. MyfitnessPal got to 45 million users with no marketing – but now marketing plays a vital role in driving engagement.
- Engagement will be a key marketing activity, if it isn’t already. For the past decade marketing automation has driven focus to acquisition – how many funnel diagrams have you seen that stop at win/loss. Those same platforms are now being turned to focus on engagement and how won customer become addicts and advocates.
- Employees are a squandered marketing resource. How do we build amazing employee referral systems that turn every employee into not just an advocate but an active acquirer of customers.
- Engaged leaders are vulnerable. Read Charlene Li’s book and check out Brene Brown. Had a great conversation with Charlene Li on why I think authenticity isn’t a great thing to ask for (people can often be authentically awful) when the central cultural barrier in organisations is a lack of vulnerability.
More to come…. your thoughts?
What’s the word customers most use to describe your brand?
Don’t do any fancy research or hire any consultants. Just go listen. Listen with an ear to the words they use in the first sentence. Then keep score.
Over the past few months, I’ve chatted to hundreds of Xero customers and partners all over the World. “Like” didn’t make the top ten list. None of them didn’t like Xero. But the vast majority LOVE Xero.
That’s the word that was used most frequently in the first sentence. It would go something like this; “I just love Xero – its made me sane again”; or, “I love doing invoices right after a job”; or, “I love it – its just beautiful”.
Now, I know that’s all a bit rich coming from Xero’s CMO. So, here’s the next step in understanding what your customers are saying. Correlate the statement to independent research and behavioral data. A friend forwarded me a piece of research from Ross Cameron, a well-recognised researcher whose latest newsletter contained this gem:
“In our most recent wave of panel interviews we asked business owners to discuss the brands that they admire. Two brands stood out – Xero and Apple. Indeed, quite a few pointed out ‘Xero is the Apple of accounting software!’ The comments on Xero were most striking as the positive commentary bordered on the evangelical …”
Ross reported customers saying (competitor names redacted) things like:
“Xero is clean, competitor y is messy. It’s like Mac and PC – PC is competitor y; Mac is Xero. Just everything they do as a brand I like it, it’s clean, simple, easy to use, that’s what you want. So I’m really happy with Xero, it’s simple to use and I wouldn’t go back. Like on my apps – so I log into my app with a 4 digit pin – I can get in there and do all my bank recs in the morning when I’m sitting in traffic. Just simple things like that, I can check it at night, it’s always live and it’s changed my perspective on the way that apps should be designed.” (Retail, 5 FTEs)
“Xero are competitor y, but done right … Their improvement path is better, they’ve doing everything really well, they’ve got smarter people working on it, overseas developers, everything … Xero are doing what competitor y couldn’t – improving it and doing it all web-based and better interfaces and easier for people to use. I can use Xero really quickly, it’s like using my iPhone – there’s 2 year olds that can use an iPhone. And Xero is just simple, it’s much simpler accounting software to use … Xero will become the most used accounting software in the world. It might take 5, 10, 15 years, but it will become the number one in the world.” (Software/intranet Development, 95 FTEs)
People who love you tend to be evangelical. There is plenty more data to support what we are hearing – for instance, for the first time more people search Xero in Australia than the well-established competitor.
So, how do you build love?
Simply put, build something that people can fall in love with, then never stop building. Over the past year, Xero has released an average of one to two updates per day and just this week added major new features like inventory, quotes and more.
It is as much about the “how” Xero does it as the “what” Xero does. Competitors have done inventory, for instance, for awhile. But they haven’t done it beautifully. Do it beautifully and people fall in love. Beautiful, we’ve learnt has many dimensions – here are just a few:
First, you can’t fake beautiful. We’ve invested millions of hours in getting the total experience right. And we continue to everyday. We have more people in product development and design than any other function. This creates a fortress to defend and compete from. It’s not just about looking beautiful; it has to work beautifully in every respect. So when we create a feature like side-by-side files that enables users to compare and reconcile to documents easily, that doesn’t just look beautiful, it boosts productivity by working beautifully as well.
Second, beautiful goes beyond the product. It’s about how you treat customers. When we launched invoicing, quotes and more the price stayed the same. Beautiful isn’t a tax – it’s about creating ever increasing value for customers. Sure, every few years you need to adapt pricing to the economic realities around you – but when you are continuously innovating, that shouldn’t impose on the customer’s wallet. It also is reflected in how you support customers. ‘Xero Wait’ support enables a customer to get access to local support personnel on their schedule rather than being routed through a web of offshore call centres.
Third, beautiful is about simplifying every task. While traditional accounting products added complexity and cost for the user, Xero eliminated them. Want to connect to your accountant or bookkeeper – easy. Want to connect to your industry-specific software – easy. Want to move data – easy. Want to see your cash flow – super easy. To build beautiful you need to understand the process not just as the customer experiences it now, but how they should in the future.
So, if you want to build love for your brand – love beautiful.
Well worth the longer read… but some principles every marketing team should embrace.
- Cross-functional teams — collaboration among different disciplines fosters creativity
- Small, dedicated, co-located teams — optimize for team communication and bonding
- Progress = outcomes, not output — measure all work by its impact on real customers
- Problem-focused teams — the team is focused on a business problem, not a set of tasks
- Removing waste — ruthlessly jettison processes that don’t help move outcomes forward
- Small batch size — work in small increments where possible to test ideas in the world
- Continuous discovery — understanding prospects and customers is an ongoing journey
- GOOB (“get out of the building”) — go talk to real customers in their environment
- Shared understanding — teams aren’t just a sequence of siloed contributions
- Anti-pattern: rockstars, gurus, ninjas — team cohesion is better than stars
- Externalizing your work — get ideas out of heads and into tangible forms
- Making over analysis — just debating ideas is a waste, go try them out
- Learning over growth — learn what works before you rush into scaling it up
- Permission to fail — breed a culture of experimentation, which breeds creativity
- Getting out of the deliverables business — focus on customers, not documentation