Switching Sides


This past Monday, author, consultant, and friend Peter Shankman, the man  who found himself on the receiving end of Morton's Steakhouse greatest customer experience, invited me to the experience the 3D IMAX Theater premiere of Star Trek in New York City.

That's for the man behind the connection.

As for the man behind the reboot of the Star Trek franchise, J.J. Abrams, he succeeded in creating a compelling story. I'm not normally too much into 3D, and IMAX can make me dizzy. However, this movie was well done. It was like being part of the action.

The best scenes are those of connection between characters. When they communicate the need to be understood, and in turn try to understand the other. The filming techniques made the connection with the characters feel authentic.

I recommend you go see the movie in 3D.

Empathy a key ingredient to developing compelling experiences for others

That to me means putting yourself into their shoes (or chairs, as the case may be) to support the job they're trying to do.

Before directing, Abrams wrote, produced, and co-created television series. Contributing a refreshed point of view to an already successful franchise is no small feat. Audiences get attached to successful story lines and popular characters.

Which is why making it work means gaining a deeper understanding of the people who will see it — being understood is a need deeply nested in the human condition.

Tap into that and you can make lasting connections.

To put yourself in their shoes

Means gaining an appreciation of what they are experiencing from their vantage point. This is one of the most useful skills to transfer from life into business (or to develop, should you feel the need).

The rapid pace at which technologies are rewiring how we process information, in addition to how we work and communicate, requires increased levels of empathy (as well as tolerance for risk).

Every single industry is being disrupted by these changing patterns in how we as customers access information, research products and services, and complete transactions. Selling today is more complicated than it used to be.

And it starts with selling the idea itself.

Dan Pink put his finger on it when he talked about information asymmetry, and how the scale is now tipping to the side of buyers. Expectations have gone way up. Which makes the retail business exponentially exciting and complicated at the same time.

Switching sides

A more complex business environment challenges marketers and technologists, analysts and practitioners, agencies and clients, to go to even greater lengths in seeking opportunities to learn from each other.

Agency folks seldom have a full picture of the many hats a marketer needs to wear inside an organization. Switching from analytics to brand strategy to communication channels to mentoring and back to process in the course of a day.

See what three top agency-side marketers who switched to corporate CMO jobs have to say about that.

Then you have the power that has shifted to consumers who can choose any combination of digital channels to get their job done.

The agency business helps you understand what it means to serve and partner with others, says Jeff Jones, CMO, Target.

From where one sits

The client perspective helps you empathize with the challenges internal teams face as they, increasingly, look to establish Centers of Excellence to execute in multiple channels, including digital and social.

I see it clearly as I went the other way — from years of working inside Fortune 500 and fast growth corporate organizations — to the agency side of business.

I enjoy working with a really diverse group of people, from creatives to developers and information architects.

Having been embedded in different industries, flexing my mind across different topics and clients in the course of a day winds me up nicely to be even more receptive to their challenges and come up with appropriate approaches and executions to connect them to their customers.

This increasingly means being comfortable with experimenting and adjusting based upon the right set of queries and data. And it means a blending of roles between CMOs, CIOs, and in some cases Chief Digital Officers. Social networks have added a whole new set of considerations to how to organize a team.

A fresh perspective

We often talk about innovation as the ability to bring forth a fresh perspective, to combine assets and ideas in new ways. Switching sides allows you to experience greater empathy for those who operate on the other side.

Which in turns makes you more effective at connecting with them.



Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.

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