I want to tell you a story about why marketing matters. Or why it matters to me, at least.
And, spoiler alert, it’s not because marketing is so great. In fact, it’s precisely because marketing—for so many people, and especially for so many companies you wouldn’t consider to be as exciting or beautiful or popular as others—has been the opposite of great.
Because too many people think of marketing as nothing but advertising, or promotions, or clever, well-designed trickery crafted to convince people to part with their money. That’s what a lot of marketing firms have sold in the past, and, one way or another, still do.
To me, though, marketing is great when it’s none of those things. Yes, you’ll likely still advertise, and promote, and design your brand and your communication to be beautiful and memorable and maybe even clever. In fact, all of those are pieces of a well-crafted brand strategy. They’re important. But all of that can only be great when it’s honest. When it’s true. When it’s, as I admit too many of us probably say these days, authentic.
But you can only have that kind of marketing one way—when who you really are as a company is exactly who your marketing says you are. When you’ve started not with “What will we say about ourselves?” as something to live up to (or, worse, an overpromise to get customers to pay attention), but when you’ve started with “Who are we really?” and who that is, is something you can honestly and happily talk about.
The best marketing comes directly from who you are at the core (you can call that your “why”). And when who you are is something remarkable, great marketing follows.
So the question is, “How does your company become remarkable?”
For starters, let’s try being human.
When I first started my professional career, just a kid, full of piss and vinegar and ready to conquer the world, I didn’t realize just how much my job, my boss and the environment I worked in would influence my life. I think a lot of people don’t.
But on average, next to sleeping, we spend more of our lives working than doing anything else. More time at work than with our own families. So when work is bad, life isn’t so great either.
I learned that firsthand early in my career, and I don’t think I’m all that unique a case. I worked in some toxic environments, for some people who couldn’t have cared less about their people even if they’d tried. I’ll spare the details, because you could probably supply your own. But let’s just say this: my work life very nearly sucked the life out of everything else. It added stress and took away joy. It harmed relationships. It caused real emotional pain.
And I decided then and there. Nobody should be subjected to this. No one should have to go through what I went through. Nobody should have to put up with a terrible job.
People deserve to be respected. Treated well. Cared about.
That’s why I wanted to start this business in the first place, to build the kind of company I wanted to be a part of. And it’s the same kind of experience we want to help other businesses uncover, define and communicate.
That’s where marketing comes back into the story.
My experience was an extreme case, so I don’t blame you if you’re thinking, “What does that have to do with marketing and communication?”
Here’s how I see it. Most of the companies we come across really are great companies. Most care deeply about their people, and want to be their best for their customers. But they sometimes don’t quite feel like it on the inside, or can’t quite explain what that means on the outside. The story of what makes your company special simply isn’t being told. Or it’s being misunderstood, told differently, or overshadowed by bad experiences that can not only distract from what you’re really about—they actually become the narrative of who you are. Often it’s those things that can make a company feel like the meaningless, soul-sucking grinds that some of us have experienced.
Almost exclusively, we’ve found that this issue comes down to two things: understanding and communication.
We often need to dig away those layers of confusion and misalignment to get at the core of what makes a company great. The purpose that sometimes gets obscured as a company grows, adds more people, acquires new locations, and builds out new levels of administration. We need to walk the game of telephone back to the source. That’s where we find the core of who you are—something that your whole organization needs to hear, understand and believe in. The “why” that allows you to deliver an exceptional experience to your customers.
We help our clients uncover that truth, then communicate it clearly for both your internal team and your external customers.
Yes, there are times when there are leadership problems, divisions, drama or toxicity that go beyond the scope of what we do. And it’s hard for us to uncover an authentic and compelling story if the honest truth is that things are truly broken inside your walls. If that’s the case, we’ll let you know, and we’ve got amazing partners we can point you to.
Because here’s the truth … if you don’t start by caring about your people, if you don’t start by committing yourself to being the kind of organization people believe in and want to be a part of, all the marketing and communication in the world will never get you where you want to go. The only way to do great marketing is by being the kind of company employees want to work for and customers want to do business with—and telling that story over and over, through words and experiences.
And when you approach branding, marketing and communication from that starting point, you look at it a little differently. You stop thinking about it as just tactics or strategies for communication and start realizing it’s about one whole, all-encompassing experience—an experience you can reinforce and nurture and intentionally design through communication and brand and marketing.
You have a great company—but we believe you deserve better marketing.
In everything we do, we believe in unlocking the potential of people and organizations to be their best. Because that’s how you’ll make the most meaningful impact in the lives of others. And that’s how you’ll build a brand that moves and inspires and engages the people who come across it.
It starts on the inside, where clear understanding and consistent communication of who you are plays a critical role in making your company a place people want to be. And that purpose and understanding radiates through everything you do, all the way out to your customers, giving them an experience they’ll never forget—and won’t need to search for anywhere else. It goes beyond that, too. It’s how businesses help entire communities thrive. Entire regions. It can trickle out to the whole nation, even the world.
Being that kind of company is the foundation. It’s something you need to decide to do, and follow through on every day. It’s something you need to make sure your own team understands inside and out, backwards and forwards, so they can help you follow through on it every day, too. And when that’s in place, it’s something you’ve earned the privilege to tell your customers about.
The bridge connecting all of those things is communication. Crystal clear, honest, intentional communication. Often you just need someone to help you bring clarity to that story, so you can be who you truly are and clearly tell the world about it.
And we’ve created a framework to help you do that.
We call it the Customer Experience Ecosystem.
The Customer Experience Ecosystem is a culmination of everything we believe about branding and marketing and communication, built on decades of experiences, successes, failures, trial and error, changes, upgrades, restarts, and continuous improvements. It’s all led us to understand that we make our greatest impact with clients when we share the same perspective, recognizing that marketing only reaches its potential if it’s part of the bigger picture. When there’s true alignment around who you are, what your marketing says and what customers experience when they interact with you.
There’s nothing revolutionary about our process—everyone has a two-step, three-step, 27-step process, and they’re never all that different (you diagnose, you prescribe a remedy, you apply it). Our process has three steps: Uncover, Define, Align. Not a revolution. But what is unique (and, dare we say, revolutionary) is what happens when we take our process and apply it through the lens of the Customer Experience Ecosystem. Because that’s what makes sure we’re never looking at a challenge without considering how it relates to the entire experience.
It’s what allows us to dig deeper than you probably ever have yourself to uncover the emotional core of your story. And it’s how we take that story and help you live it, communicate it and bring it to life to both inspire employees and engage customers.
The Ecosystem is a lens—a framework that allows you to see your organization, your brand, your communication differently. Not as separate concepts or operating divisions or initiatives, but as one complete entity, with one unified purpose and one shared experience. An environment where your internal team hears and understands what you stand for, owns it and knows how to deliver an honest, intentional and sustainable customer experience.
We believe approaching your brand any other way is risky at best. It’s how many companies find themselves with marketing that reeks of inauthenticity. Today’s sophisticated customers can sniff that out in a heartbeat. And that’s a death knell for your bottom line.
But when you approach communication through the lens of the Customer Experience Ecosystem, good things can happen. The kind of things we see in some of the most successful, world-class companies.
Profits go up.
Employees start choosing you over competitors.
Customers are drawn to you, and can’t help sharing your story.
That’s why we do what we do. To help you see those kinds of results. To help you define and live out the best version of yourself.
You already have your most powerful tool.
In all of this, great communication is critical. It’s critical to creating alignment. It’s critical to building engagement with employees and with customers.
But clear, intentional communication is really critical because—let’s be honest—people don’t care about “alignment” or “engagement.” That’s jargon. None of it matters. What people do care about is feeling and knowing that they are important, that they have value. They need to feel—to know—that they’re respected, safe, even loved.
And if they’re going to feel and know that, you have to tell them. Often.
That’s true both inside and outside your organization.
For employees, you don’t want to be the company that says, “I told you that you were important to us on the day we hired you, and if things had changed we would have let you know.”
You need to be the business where nobody has to wonder how you feel about them. Where everyone knows they fit in. Where everyone hears again and again how much they matter.
Because people who hear and know and believe that will reward you with their best work. They’ll make you better. They’ll be the reason customers want to do business with you. You can call that “engagement” if you like, but please understand, engagement is not something you create in your employees—it’s what employees reward you with when you’ve earned their trust and respect and love.
Which can only happen if you love them first and let them know it. And not just by going through the motions or saying what you think they want to hear. It’s a combination of your behaviors, your actions and your words. It’s consistently letting them know they matter, by what you say and what you do, that creates outstanding employee and customer experiences.
And on the outside, the same goes for your customers. They need to hear that they matter to you, too. And they need to see it in the way they’re treated.
That means telling them through communication. It means showing them through actions. It means consistent reminders, no matter where or how or with whom they interact. You need to surround your customers with messages that make it clear what they mean to you. That all tell the same story, whether it’s words or pictures or experiences.
All of this—creating an awesome experience on the inside that powers an exceptional experience on the outside, a full customer experience ecosystem—that’s what marketing should be. That’s what branding should be.
Make your marketing matter.
If you believe what we believe, that the best, most successful organizations start by being great on the inside …
That your people need to understand what you stand for, why you do what you do, how they play a role in making your mission happen, and know without a doubt that they matter …
That that’s how you’re able to be your best for your customers …
And that crystal clear communication is the essential glue, the connection between all of this, and key to keeping all of this on track …
Then we may want to work together.
Because we believe in helping companies like yours clarify and communicate who you are—what you do, who it’s for, and why. Equipping you with the tools to tell that story for your own team, showing them what it means to be one of your people, telling them every day that they matter to you, to your business and to your customers. And showing customers by what you say and by what you do that yours is a story they want to be a part of, too.
That’s how great businesses find themselves with a remarkable story.
That’s how a remarkable story powers the best kind of marketing.
That’s why marketing matters.
President and CEO