More than ever, change is constant. So is the challenge of trying to manage a business and communicate with your valued customers — customers who are on the receiving end of more and different choices every day.
To get a better sense of what are the top issues facing Minnesota organizations in 2016, the Institute for Research in Marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management asked four senior managers from four very different Minnesota-based businesses what are the things they pay attention to most. Here are their responses.
Paul Hillen, vice president of global marketing for Cargill
Creating a culture of transparency. In this day when all of us have nearly any information at our fingertips and a camera in every phone, transparency is not an option. The question is less about whether you should be transparent (because if you don’t, others will do it for you), but whether you can get your company culture comfortable with opening itself to the outside world more than it ever has in a way that builds your brand and reputation.
Building an organization of storytellers. In this information age, if you don’t define who you are, others will. Information travels fast, and misinformation tends to travel faster. So, if you are not preparing and using your employees to tell your company’s story via their social media channels daily, then you are losing an opportunity to define yourself.
Staying focused on your brand benefit. So many companies are jumping to the newest digital channel to deliver their message with an eye to entertain. I see fewer companies and brands speaking about the benefit they uniquely provide. Companies can’t lose sight of the fact that customers (B2B) and consumers (B2C) buy benefits and they need compelling reasons to believe (proof points) your brand can deliver that benefit uniquely.
Thinking about mobile as an option vs. “mobile only.” Over 50 percent of information searches today, and nearly the same number of online purchases are made from a mobile device. Those companies that don’t think “mobile only” (not just “mobile first”) as they design their communication plan and vehicles, will soon be left behind.
Kenneth Greer, chief marketing officer, Augeo Marketing, St Paul
Imagine a world where all your actions, statements and behaviors are recorded. Welcome to today. We have seen financial empires dissolve because of an offhand, inappropriate, private comment. And with a quick post, the world knew about it. Thanks to the ubiquity of recording devices, from surveillance cameras to mobile phones, how we conduct ourselves at work or at home can easily become a matter of public record. We all must try to remember that today, the record light is always on and the amp is cranked.
Most executives focus on the big challenges, the scale of the objective, the significant growth goals, the enormity of the task. Business leaders have always faced big hurdles. What is different today is the pace at which we are expected to clear them. These days, it’s not the height of the hurdles, it’s the pace of the race.
Titles no longer come with entitlement. Just because someone reports to you that does not mean they respect or trust you. They might do what you ask but that’s because they have to. Enthusiastic and engaged employees contribute many times more value than those with limited engagement. We should work on building trust and focus on identifying opportunities to earn our employees’ respect.
David Van Horne, vice president of global marketing, peripheral interventions, Boston Scientific
Shifting customer base. Traditionally customers in medical-device markets have been physicians who cared mostly about clinical product advantages and made decisions accordingly. More and more key product decisions are shifting to administrators whose value proposition is more than just simply clinical considerations. We need to adjust.
Sizing and driving global markets. Often advanced technology is available to patients outside the U.S. first. The first available markets are not always the best for long-term growth. Figuring out where in the world to focus limited resources for most impact always proves difficult as little data on procedural information are available.
Expanding our message beyond traditional sales channels. The medical-device rep has always served as the primary conduit of marketing messages within medical device. As our sales model evolves and customers use other means of communication (i.e. social media), our message and usage of these platforms needs to increase and augment our rep’s work.
Shifting portfolio of products and R & D spend. In years past, a product with a new feature could command a price premium. Differentiation for an organization came in the form of number of current iterations you could put out. While refreshing the current product lines is still important, more of our R & D dollars are shifting to game-changing technologies and the clinical data that will support them.
Karen L. Himle, vice president, corporate affairs, Thrivent Financial
At the top of our list is fostering a reputation and relationship with current and prospective members that engenders trust. The financial service industry is considered one of the least trustworthy in the minds of consumers. It is essential for us to reverse that perception. We will continue to work to make sure what others say about us, in any communications channel, is consistent with what we stand for in the marketplace.
Another key for us is attracting and retaining talent, and this requires us to look at how and where we recruit that talent. In the ever-changing world of communications technology and social media it can be very hard to do. It seems like almost every week I am confounded by another skill set that we need to add to our capabilities. How do I continue to attract and retain the best talent when the communications technology continuously changes?
Finally, working in a global public policy environment can be challenging. The more global the financial services industry becomes, the more difficult the task of monitoring trends that could ultimately impact the U.S. regulatory scheme. While we are a U.S.-based business, we are now looking at financial trends in countries around the world. Trends that impact us are now being formed on a global, not a local, basis. And of course we directly experience the reverberations created by global market movements.