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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Maverick marketing

Does turning conventional corporate rules on their head help marketing? Reading books like Maverick Success Story Behind the Worlds Most Unusual Work Place: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace, Jack Stack's The Great Game of Businessand Steve Yastrow's Brand Harmonysuggest to me that your highest marketing success will occur when you ensure your internal business culture is in harmony with itself and your clients.

I'm reading Ricardo Semler's Maverick -- a story of a Brazilian company that defies the rules of conventional business, with a focus on worker autonomy, independence, and freedom. "No Receptionists * No Dress Code *Workers who set their own Salaries * Mandatory Vacation Time -- Would you run a company this way?" the book cover asks.

Semler's approach is largely in line with Jack Stack's Great Game of Business and other leaders who advocate giving freedom and autonomy to their employees. Semler isn't so strong on employee ownership in the unionized Brazilian business, where Stack believes it to be essential. (Though they both have generous profit sharing systems.) Both operate in manners which would stretch the reasonableness of most large corporations and a large percentage of smaller businesses and seem to invite chaos and inefficiency (plus leave the room for theft -- both of time and materials!)

But their common point has real relevance for the marketing process. Stack, Semler and others sharing these values advocate that if you create a working environment where employees feel a sense of autonomy and ownership in their work, they'll be much happier, more enthusiastic, and creative.

All of the evidence I can find is that most businesses find most new business either from within their existing clients and through referral and recommendations. Advertising, cold calling and canvassing, and third party leads services certainly have their place (fortunately for us, of course, because our business earns 99 per cent of its revenue by selling advertising), but in the end, successful businesses find future business by treating current clients with such quality and and spirit that repeat and referral business are almost routine.

So, essentially if you find a way to recruit the right people in your organization, and they are working in harmony and good spirits, clients will see the enthusiasm and purchase and refer more. Again, if 80 per cent of your new business arises from current/repeat clients, then just a 10 per cent improvement in this regard will have more impact than a multi-fold increase in the effectiveness of your advertising or cold leads quality! When you think marketing, then, you should give priority to the way you work with your employees and current clients.

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