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It all matters

August 24, 2021

This column is the third installment as we explore the seven principles that I’ve identified as vital to Walt Disney’s success as he built one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands.

Here are the seven beliefs/habits that I believe led to Disney’s success:

  • Your vision must be so clear and so well-articulated that someone else can complete it perfectly, even if you’re not there anymore.
  • No detail is too small, and in fact, the smallest details have the biggest impact.
  • Obstacles are road maps to innovation.
  • If the team is happy, the customer is happy.
  • Ask the best questions because you have to keep learning.
  • You’re never done.
  • Never forget who you serve and why you matter to them.

For this week’s column, I want to focus on the concept that the devil is in the details. As Walt was creating Disneyland, he drove his team nuts, making them scrap projects near completion (and putting the project behind schedule) because he felt vital details were missing. He had the unique ability to push aside his insider’s knowledge and truly see the park’s elements as a first-time visitor would see them.

Even today, almost 70 years after Disneyland opened, some of those details Walt insisted on are among the most talked-about features of the park. Perhaps the most famous is a tiny detail in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. As you ride through the attraction in a small boat, at one point you go under a bridge. Sitting on the bridge, with his legs dangling down, is an animatronic pirate. The first time Walt rode the attraction to give his blessing, he looked up as the boat went under the bridge and saw, for him, a glaring omission. Next time you ride Pirates of the Caribbean and notice the leg hair on the pirate sitting on the bridge, think of Walt.

That ability to see your facility, product or service through the eyes of your consumer is marketing gold. That’s when you can spot the missing details or that something is a little off. We get most of the big things right. But we miss the opportunity to plus-up the experience. It’s the surprising touches that we add to our core offering that make a customer stop and take notice.

We don’t need to do the details, but we do it anyway because we care that much. It makes our customers feel like we’ve gone out of our way just to delight them. It’s the handwritten thank-you note that you pack when you ship your product. It’s the decadent chocolate placed on a pillow. It’s picking up the phone on a weekend when a client is in crisis.

I love Walt’s attention to detail because with every nuance he and the Disney team painstakingly put into place, it reminds us that they were thinking about us and what would make the experience magical.

It also makes it talk-worthy. When we write a review or make a recommendation to a peer, we talk about those little extras that made the experience special. If you want to learn more about this marketing insight and how to create those magical extras, check out the book “Talk Triggers” by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin. They observed in many other organizations what Walt knew instinctively.

The details matter, and they reassure your customer that you’re willing to go above and beyond to demonstrate how important they are to you.

How do you apply this to your business? If you don’t have Walt’s gift to unknow what you know and see with fresh eyes, consider using secret shoppers to help you identify where you can add the minute details that will get your customers talking.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Can I see what you see?

August 17, 2021

As I mentioned in last week’s column, I will spend the next few columns digging into seven principles that I’ve identified as vital to Walt Disney’s success as he built one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands.

Here are the seven beliefs/habits that I believe led to Disney’s success:

  • Your vision must be so clear and so well-articulated that someone else can complete it perfectly, even if you’re not there anymore.
  • No detail is too small, and in fact, the smallest details have the biggest impact.
  • Obstacles are road maps to innovation.
  • If the team is happy, the customer is happy.
  • Ask the best questions because you have to keep learning.
  • You’re never done.
  • Never forget who you serve and why you matter to them.

This week let’s talk about having a vision that is so clear and well-articulated that someone else can complete it on your behalf.

Walt Disney died in December 1965. The groundbreaking for Walt Disney World was May 30, 1967. At the ribbon-cutting in 1971, a reporter remarked to Walt’s brother Roy that it was too bad Walt wasn’t there to see it. Roy replied, “If Walt hadn’t seen it, we wouldn’t be here.”

Walt used several tools to bring his vision to life that all of us can emulate.

Storytelling: Walt didn’t just talk; he wove a story. He used vivid detail about every new undertaking. He described the project, how it was going to be done, the players involved, and how the audience would react. He painted a 3D picture in everyone’s mind.

War room/wall: Walt had a secret lair where he would paper the walls with mind maps, scraps of color, visuals and timetables. He’d invite key people into his war room, where they would be immersed in the project’s nuances.

Theme or catchphrase: Walt believed in boiling any project’s essence down to a single sentence or theme. This single sentence would serve as a touchstone for the work. As decisions were being made, the team members could ask themselves if what they were about to do would get the project closer to honoring the underlying theme or core message.

Focus on who and why: Walt never let the team lose sight of the audience for any work they did. The work was done in service to that audience. There was a greater purpose in terms of how the project would affect them. Would it inspire children to dream big? Would it allow adults to be kids again? Would it continue a legacy and introduce it to a new generation?

The result of deploying these strategies was that Walt Disney World was the embodiment of Walt’s vision, even though he was gone long before the groundbreaking.

Sharing your vision is not just an intelligent leadership trait, it’s going to give your marketing a boost as well.

You can see how following these habits could fine-tune your marketing efforts around this project. The story of how/why the product or service was created will be rich with language you can weave into your ads and product descriptions.

The war room walls might help with the mood and tone of your marketing.

The theme or catchphrase would provide direction and messaging hierarchy for landing pages, product materials or headlines. Just like it did for the team creating the product or service, it can serve as your true north too.

The who and why will give your marketing team everything they need from an audience perspective. Who is going to care about your offering, and why is it important to them?

A shared vision that is vibrant, 3D and very tangible means that everyone can march it out together.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Disney’s Magic Touch

August 3, 2021

I am an unabashed Walt Disney fan. Like all of us, I know he had his flaws, but it’s hard to argue with his business success. He arrived in California in 1923 with an idea for a cartoon series and the need for a distributor. Once he secured that first yes, the Disney company was born.

Four years later, Walt’s distributor told Walt, pointing to a clause in their contract, that he  — the distributor, not Disney — owned the characters Walt had created and he was going to make future cartoons without Walt’s involvement. That was the last time Walt signed a contract without knowing what every word meant or could mean.

Walt had to walk away from his first moneymaking creation, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. But with his back against the wall, he knew he had to create a new character for his growing studio. That’s when Mickey Mouse made his first appearance. To say the rest is history completely ignores the torrent of challenges Walt faced over the years. But he won his first Academy Award in 1932, just five years after he thought all might be lost.

One of the things I admire most about Walt’s business acumen is that he figured out multiple ways to make money. If one aspect of the business was struggling, there were plenty of others that kept feeding the health and growth of the overall company.

Over the years, I have studied the evolution of the Walt Disney Co. and Walt’s leadership gifts. I have gleaned seven core beliefs that I see running through Walt’s life and, interestingly, still see them as guiding principles in the Disney Co. today.

Over the course of the next several columns, I’m going to unpack each of these seven principles and look at them from both a business growth and a marketing perspective. I think you’ll find some thought-provoking takeaways as we delve a little deeper into each of Walt’s best habits and beliefs.

Here’s a sneak peek at what we’re going to be covering:

  • Your vision must be so clear and so well-articulated that someone else can complete it perfectly, even if you’re not there anymore.
  • No detail is too small, and in fact, the smallest details have the biggest impact.
  • Obstacles are road maps to innovation.
  • If the team is happy, the customer is happy.
  • Ask the best questions, because you have to keep learning.
  • You’re never done.
  • Never forget who you serve and why you matter to them.

In 2020, the Disney Co. held assets worth a total of over $200 billion and, in its 2020 annual report, announced that its revenues exceeded $65 billion. Even after COVID, it has more than 200,000 employees across the globe and is diversified in its product offerings. 2020 was brutal for the company, and its income loss topped $2.8 billion, but as it has done so many times since Walt started the company in 1923, it will be back with a vengeance.

The company has plenty to work with to rebuild after the pandemic. Disney creates movies and original TV programming, owns theme parks in the U.S., France, Japan and China, and owns other entities like Pixar, Marvel and LucasFilm.

But above all that, it has 200,000 employees who believe in the magic that is Disney and who operate the company, from the guy who sweeps up popcorn in the Magic Kingdom to CEO Bob Chapek, with these seven core beliefs front and center.

I believe every one of us, no matter what our company does or sells, can learn from the lessons Walt’s life can teach us. It will strengthen our messaging, our marketing and our bottom line.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Is there a book inside you?

July 27, 2021

Back in March, I was part of a panel of nonfiction authors at the DSM Book Festival. As we were fielding questions about our writing process and how our books came to be, it became evident that there were quite a few ways to become an author of a business book.

In previous columns, we’ve explored the marketing and sales benefits from being perceived as an authority. Being the author of a book has always carried a great deal of cachet and earns the author some amazing opportunities to build on that esteem. Authors are often invited to speak at conferences, be guests on podcasts or write articles for trade publications, which leads to greater awareness and interest in your company, product or service.

Of course, before you can take advantage of all of those opportunities, you have to actually write the book. Fortunately, there are many ways to accomplish this goal.

You can interview your way to a book: Many authors build the content of their book by interviewing other people about their experiences, beliefs or habits. As the author, you need to make sense of the information you’ve gleaned and give it context and structure. But the bulk of the writing is done for you.

You can write your book in bits: Think blog posts, short, focused emails, or even voice memos. I have a client who wrote a book on podcasting over the course of a year’s weekly newsletter articles.

You can convert your book from another format: One of my books was a direct lift of a two-day workshop that I taught. We filmed the workshop and transcribed the entire thing. The transcription was the basis of the book’s outline and much of the first draft. It could be a speech you’ve given, a class you’ve taught, or manual you’ve written.

You can divvy up the work: Imagine authoring a 25-chapter book and only writing a chapter or two. You could share the writing duties with other people with an expertise that complements yours. By being both the writer and the editor, you can protect the book’s overarching message without having to write it all.

You can talk your way into a book: Build an outline and then talk it out. Just riff on each chapter’s topic until you run out of things to talk about. Transcribe your improvised musings and then clean it up a little. It will probably need some reorganization and editing, but you’re naturally going to hit the highlights.

Ghost your way to a book: Many books are ghost-written. A good ghostwriter will work with you to build an outline and then extract each chapter’s content from you from written or oral interviews. It’s your expertise and thoughts. Someone else is simply capturing your best stuff and putting it into a book format.

Last but not least – you could just write the book: Many people shy away from writing a book because it feels like such a daunting task. But when you break it down into manageable bits, it’s very doable.

Decide on your core message or topic. Build a mind map or an outline that guides your reader to the learnings you want to share. Most writers do best when they write at a particular time of day or in a specific place. You may have to experiment a bit to find your rhythm, but you’ll get there.

I don’t know any authors who regret the early mornings or the lost weekends as they reflect on their book’s creation. And I know many authors who have leveraged their book to be one of the most productive marketing tools they have. Why wouldn’t you want the same?

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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How much are you willing to invest?

July 20, 2021

Over the last several weeks, we’ve focused on how brands can leverage people of influence to advance their marketing with the influencer’s audience. This week, I want to look at the same opportunity, but from the other side of the coin.

What if you were the person of influence? There’s no reason you couldn’t build an audience that would see you as an expert. Because they’d come to trust you, it’s likely they would become a potential buyer for your product or services. But it sure doesn’t happen overnight.

Many business owners and leaders have spent decades in their industry, developing a deep subject matter expertise. They speak at conferences, write books, and often consult. They produce weekly content that teaches their audience and improves some aspect of their life every time. If that’s you, then you could be ready to step into that authority position.

But Dave Ramsey, Seth Godin, and Brené Brown didn’t become subject matter experts overnight. They didn’t just decide that they’d like to be considered an expert. They earned that moniker. We don’t get to decide that we’re an expert. The audience decides when we’ve been at it long enough, our advice has served them well, and our consistency has proved that we have a depth of knowledge that is sustainable. Then, and only then, might they consider calling us an expert.

Many people believe that writing a book or having a podcast is enough to earn the label. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a fine start. But it’s just a start.

We often believe that it’s the big things that earn someone that expert status. But in reality, it’s the little things that add up to the depth of trust required to label someone an expert.

Dave Ramsey has done a daily show (first radio and now TV) since 1992. Seth Godin has written a daily blog post for almost two decades and has written 18 books. Brené Brown has been an educator and researcher for decades. She produces a weekly podcast and has written five bestsellers and publishes on her social channels every day.

These professionals have so much to share that they produce helpful content every single day. For more than a decade. That’s how you become a subject matter expert. You make the grand gesture with a book or two. But then you support that grand gesture with daily or almost daily contributions that add value to your audience. You teach every day. You give away your best stuff. You don’t hold back or bait and switch.

You give generously.

I can hear you already. “I don’t have time to produce that much content. I’m too busy taking care of clients.” If it were easy, everyone would be an expert. If this matters to you and your business, you’re going to have to carve out the time.

Here are a few suggestions for being consistent with helpful content so that you can earn your expert badge from your audience.

Choose a single channel: You can’t put new content everywhere every day. Decide which channel both suits you best and is attractive to your audience.

Batch the work: Carve out a few hours on your calendar every week and produce next week’s content. Always be working at least a week ahead and make the consequence of missing your deadline one you never want to endure.

Think snack, not a meal: You’ve already written the book or done something else significant. This content should be snack-sized. A single idea or a helpful tip.

The value of being seen as an authority has a direct connection to your bottom line. But you have to be willing to earn the title if you want the rewards.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Amplifying your audience

July 13, 2021

In last week’s column, we identified the difference between a celebrity influencer and someone who has influence with the audience you care about. This is the marketing equivalent of having a very connected and highly respected person write you a letter of recommendation for a coveted job. They’re not celebrity family or even internet famous, but a good word from them can make you a top contender for the job.

Sure, you still have to be qualified and earn the opportunity. But that letter of recommendation gives you a significant edge over everyone else. It’s someone’s endorsement of you — and to a group of people who know, like, and respect your endorser, that is gold.

In many ways, that is what makes micro-influencers more effective than their celebrity counterparts.

When you follow someone who isn’t Jennifer Garner-level famous and interact with them on social media or attend an event where they’re present, you come to feel as if you actually know them. Many authors, podcasters, researchers, subject matter experts, etc. enjoy that level of intimacy with an audience that values what they have to say or what they create.

These influential people actually build a community of fans and followers. Suppose you can find someone who has gathered the same type of people that matters to your brand. In that case, there’s a significant opportunity for you to borrow from the esteem and respect that already exists among the community members.

There’s incredible power when you can become part of an existing community and earn the community leader’s endorsement who has already proved him/herself to everyone else.

So how do you find one of these very targeted micro-influencers?

Online tools: There are online tools like BuzzSumo.com and Followerwonk.com that have search tools to help you identify blogging or social media micro-influencers by topic. There is no end to these tools, so pick two or three and see who shows up on multiple platforms.

Conferences and trade shows: Pay attention to the speaker lineup and don’t just focus on the keynotes. Breakout and roundtable-level speakers may be exactly what you’re looking for in a partner.

Authors and podcasters: This is a treasure trove of potential. Not only will their book or podcast declare their subject matter expertise, but odds are they’ve been building a following for a while and are used to promoting their own show or book.

Social channels: Who do you follow? Depending on what your company sells, it might just be an enthusiastic amateur who talks to your kind of people.

Use hashtags to ferret them out: Make a list of 10 keywords that drive traffic to your website. Identify a handful of hashtags that play off of or support that keyword list. Look for frequent posters who regularly use those hashtags.

Once you’ve built a potential list of partners, you need to start following them. Listen to their podcast. Read their book. Connect with them on social channels. Pay attention to the content they create and share. Do you agree with it? Did you learn something? How do they interact with commenters? What signs do you see that they’re actively building a community?

After you’ve narrowed down your list, you still need to approach them to see if they’d be interested in partnering with your brand. Ideally, you want someone to partner with you for more than the money. The best influencers only endorse the products, services and brands they genuinely believe in.

In next week’s column, we’ll talk about what that approach looks like and how to increase the odds of a mutually beneficial long-term partnership. It may not be as complicated or as expensive as you think.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Influential versus influencer

July 6, 2021

Over the past few years, the rise of influencer marketing has changed the landscape of endorsement or testimonial advertising. Twenty-plus years ago, celebrities endorsed products and services, but it was usually in a TV spot or print ad, and we immediately understood that they were being paid for that endorsement.

Today, YouTube or Instagram “celebrities” weave their endorsements into their lifestyle photos, and even if they mark their video or post with one of the approved hashtags, things get a little murky. Many influencers make millions in exchange for conspicuously using their supporters’ products.

There are a few challenges with today’s version of influencer marketing.

  • It’s out of the price range of most brands. If you want the endorsement of one of the top-performing influencers, you’re looking at a seven-figure budget.
  • There’s liability in the association. Most of these influencers are young, and they have access to a ridiculous amount of money. That combination often leads to very bad and very public mistakes that often splash upon their sponsors.
  • Most professional influencers endorse many products and services. So you’ll never be their sole focus.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about influencer marketing for your company, product or service. You just need to broaden your viewpoint.

Somewhere along the way, many marketers forgot the objective of working with an influencer. It’s not just about getting Instagram or YouTube celebrities to post about them. The real goal is to influence an audience to increase their interest in your brand and, ideally, become a customer. That is what smart marketers hope to accomplish.

Given that goal, let’s think about who a potential customer would trust enough to make a purchase based on their recommendation.

Most of us are more likely to listen to someone we know or trust — family, friends, co-workers or other people in our world. This is word-of-mouth marketing at its finest. But WOM is just another form of influence marketing. We are easily influenced by those we know in real life.

Beyond that, we trust people whom we have deemed an expert because they consistently produce information that we find valuable. Think of your favorite YouTube amateur chef or an author whose nonfiction book became your guide and who still creates content you enjoy.

As we listen to the podcasts or read the books produced by these subject matter experts, we come to know and trust them. They weave bits of their life story into their content, and pretty soon we know if they have any kids or love Hershey’s Kisses. They feel very familiar to us.

One of the other reasons we trust them is that they don’t make their income by being internet-famous. They’re experts at their craft, and as a part of their own marketing, they’ve built an audience that appreciates their expertise.

And it’s audiences like that where you can flex your influence marketing muscle. There are experts out there who have built an audience that directly aligns with your marketing goals. These experts are influential, but they aren’t influencers in the current definition of the word.

There are some significant advantages to spending your influencer dollars with these subject matter experts who often fly under the radar because they don’t aspire to wear the influencer label.

In next week’s column, we’ll explore some ways you can ferret out these micro-influencers who have already gathered the exact audience you hope to connect with and have already built a trusted relationship with them. We’ll explore how you can partner with them to benefit your brand, their audience and even the influencers themselves!

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Are all of your clients the same?

June 29, 2021

I can’t imagine a business that would answer yes to that question. Even if they all come from the same industry, our clients are still quite different and are looking to us to solve specific challenges that matter deeply to them.

Which is why it’s interesting, and in many cases, a little short-sighted that we often pursue all of our prospects in the same way, with the same message. While there is value in mass marketing at the top of the funnel, you should be talking to them about precisely what they want to know as you learn more about a potential customer.

This is easier to accomplish when you’re chatting with the potential client on the sales floor or in a sales conversation, where you can ask questions and determine where they’re at in the sales cycle and what is explicitly on their mind.

But, you don’t have to be actually speaking to your prospect to know what product or service they’re interested in. If your website is more than a brochureware site and has some helpful content, detailed product or service information, and simple FAQ or a blog that is active and focused on answering the kinds of questions your prospects are asking – you can get a pretty good sense of what’s on their mind.

If you’re using a marketing automation tool, you can identify and track those web visitors.

You can see:

  • Which pages captured their attention and for how long.
  • How many different pages they visited.
  • How often they keep coming back to your site.
  • Which pages they returned to multiple times.
  • The length of time they spent on the site and the pattern of pages they visited.
  • Their email address or, at the very least, the domain (often the company name) of their email address.

Much like following them around a showroom floor, this data allows you to get a sense of what is on their mind and what they’re finding valuable.

Most marketing automation tools will also give you a lead score based on the visitor’s behavior that will help you identify which of your site visitors are further along the sales funnel and might be ready to engage in a sales conversation.

Many of your web visitors will not be in the market to buy on that very day. But, if you started an email drip campaign or served up digital ads related to their interests, you could nurture that lead for as long as you needed to and be ready to engage in a sales conversation when they’re ready. With each new visit from a specific prospect, the software will adjust the messaging you’re putting in front of that person. Much like you would in a face-to-face conversation, the tool is “listening” to the prospect and then aligning your next response based on what they heard.

No more generic messaging that is the same for everyone. Your marketing can now be responsive on a visitor-by-visitor basis and allow you to focus on the issues that are top of mind for that prospect.

That same marketing automation tool will be able to tell if that particular prospect opened the email you sent or engaged in one of your digital ads. All of that data continues to influence the lead score, so you can see which of your prospects are getting closer to making a buying decision.

One of the first steps to making someone know you care is acknowledging them as a person. For most businesses, the data is there that will help you speak to every web visitor like the individual that they are. But you need to know how to mine and use that data to create a valuable and helpful interaction.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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The most important rebrand conversations

June 22, 2021

In last week’s column, we acknowledged that when most organizations think about announcing a rebrand, they often emphasize the wrong place. We worry about the public unveiling and often underestimate the importance of the internal conversations that need to happen first.

If you’re a publicly traded consumer goods company like Coca-Cola, then that’s a different story. But for most companies, what will make or break your rebrand is the people closest to you: your employees, key customers, board members and, if you’re a nonprofit, donors. You can’t afford to get those conversations wrong.

The first step is identifying your talking points. Remember that your internal audiences have a connection to the old name. No organization goes through a rebrand without some very good reasons. It’s time-consuming and expensive. If you’ve embarked on this journey, you have ample reason to take it on. Now you need to convey that to your organization’s most prominent advocates. Help them understand why the name change is best for everyone, including them.

Odds are your new name honors your company’s past as well as looks into the future. That’s part of the story you need to tell. Communicate your enthusiasm and confidence in the new name, and then give them some time to absorb the news.

For employees, depending on the size of your organization or the role each person plays, you’ll want to have several different levels of conversation. In some cases, it really needs to be one-on-one. In other cases, it may be department by department or an all-company meeting.

Key customers or donors also deserve to hear it face-to-face or, at the very least, with a Zoom meeting or phone call. They’ll appreciate that you’re acknowledging their importance to the company by extending that courtesy to them.

Hopefully, it goes without saying that these internal conversations should always happen before the official, public announcement. You don’t want it to feel like it was an afterthought to share the news with them.

In most cases, a company’s senior leadership or board has been dealing with the rebrand discussion and decision for a year or more before they’re ready to reveal it to the rest of the organization. Depending on the reason behind the change, it may have been sudden for you, or you might have had months to ruminate on the idea. Be patient and give your team a little bit of time to get used to the idea if this is the first they’re hearing of it.

You also want to involve your employees in the public announcement and in promoting and protecting the new brand. Invite them to act as brand advocates. Odds are they’re more likely to interact with clients and vendors, so it’s critical that they also internalize the talking points about the change and are prepared to tell your story.

Your internal audiences are also your eyes and ears as you begin to roll out the rebrand. They’ll hear what customers are saying about the change. Be sure you create ways for them to share that information with you. They’ll also notice all of the places where the old logo still exists and needs to be swapped out. The more aligned you are as a team, the fewer bumps your rebrand will experience.

Long after the general public has moved on from your rebrand, your internal audiences will still care about it and be carrying the torch for you. You want them to celebrate the change in a loud and proud way.

To create that reaction, be sure you invest the proper amount of attention and time in this mission-critical audience.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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We’re changing our name – why isn’t everyone cheering?

June 15, 2021

There are many reasons why an organization would change itself over the course of its history.

There might be a merger (think FedEx Office, formerly known as Kinkos), or the name may be outdated or even offensive (think Aunt Jemima). In most cases, the organization has evolved enough that their original name just doesn’t quite fit anymore.

This is a huge deal for the organization. It can take a year or two to identify the right name and execute the legal due diligence to protect the name. From there, the company needs to communicate with all of the internal stakeholders and help them not only to understand the need for the change but to be excited by it. Depending on the organization’s structure, internal stakeholders will be the entire employee base, the board of directors, the customers, and, if you’re a nonprofit, the donors and volunteers.

After all of that work is done, the organization needs to decide how to unveil the new name to the general public.

And this is where it can go awry very quickly.

Unfortunately, most organizations invest 90% of their time and attention on the public unveiling when really it shouldn’t be more than 10-15% of the total effort.

Why? Because the truth is, the general public is not the critical audience for this news. They don’t have a vested interest. They’ve probably never engaged with the company, and the name change isn’t something they care about, other than as a point of temporary interest.

To an outsider, this is like a young man who is heading off to college declaring that he doesn’t want to be called Bobby anymore. He wants to go by Robert because it feels more grown-up.

Bobby’s family and friends will do their best to change how they address him, but underneath it all, he’s still the same person and the name change is just another reminder that he’s becoming an adult. It’s a surface change to them.

It’s not that the company’s name change isn’t important. It’s just not that important to them.

Who it really matters to are the people who know and love the organization.

The cost of getting that time and attention equation backward is pretty significant. When you have a group of people who are very invested in the organization, who have strong feelings for the brand, and who care very much about how the brand serves its customers, you don’t want to under-communicate with them.

You also want to orchestrate those conversations carefully. This is not a mass email sort of announcement. The people who have proved their loyalty to the company deserve better. Depending on your organization’s size, you might hold in-person department meetings or, at the very least, a company town hall to share that you are changing the name. More important than the fact that you’re changing the name is why you are changing the name.

The timing on this is critical. You can’t tell your internal audiences about the rebrand on Monday and announce it to the world on Tuesday. In most cases, you need to give them a week or so to process.

But if this is a top-secret rebrand with market implications, you need to change your strategy. Have those internal conversations, tell them that a name change is coming and the reasons behind it. But don’t tell them the name. You have to assume that the day your internal audiences hear the name, it is now public knowledge.

Next week, we’ll cover how to structure those internal conversations and how to articulate the reasons for the change in a way that will have everyone on the same page.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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