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The Demand Creator Blog

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5 Actions for Sales and Marketing to Succeed Through Scary Times

succeed-through-scary-timesThings change quickly. Just six weeks ago, the economic conversations focused on the record-high balances of Americans’ 401Ks. While there certainly has been speculation about the possible (inevitable) market downturn/recession, the dominant questions were about how mild such a recession would be and whether it would even meet the technical definition of a recession.

Then in the proverbial blink of an eye, everything we thought we knew changed…radically. In a 24-hour period, America began to get serious about the pandemic that dominates news coverage today. Oil prices plummeted. Gary Cohn, past Director of the National Economic Council, referred to it as, "Where we were last month has nothing to do with where we are now... We are now dealing with an economy where there has been massive demand destruction in the oil market." 

We all entered a new world on Friday, March 13th and it’s important that everyone accepts this. I do not believe for a moment we won’t get through this crisis. I am also confident (as I’ve always been) that better times lie ahead. 

stockdale-paradoxIn times like this, I’m reminded of The Stockdale Paradox. Admiral James Stockdale was a Vietnam War POW for seven years. During this horrific period, Stockdale was repeatedly tortured. He found a way to stay alive by embracing both the grim reality of his situation and healthy optimism.

Stockdale explained: "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

This paradox holds a great lesson on how to achieve success and overcome difficult obstacles. It also flies right in the face of the unbridled optimists and positivity peddlers whose advice pervades nearly every Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook stream today.

Stockdale discussed this paradox with author Jim Collins in the book Good to Great, where he spoke about how the optimists fared:

Collins: Who didn't make it out?

Stockdale: Oh, that's easy. The optimists.

C: The optimists? 

S: The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.

There is good news. Difficult times are your opportunity to stand out and be rewarded for taking strong action and making good decisions. It is in difficult times that good companies separate themselves from their peers and become great.

Difficult times, properly managed, are called defining moments in hindsight. Here are 5 actions to take on the go-to-market side of your business to make this a defining moment for you and your company. By the way, I’ll be sharing more details on this Wednesday in our upcoming webinar. (If you’re reading this after April 8th, you can watch the recording of the webinar.)

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Overcoming Your Biggest Barrier to Generating New Business Opportunities: Prospect Problem Blindness

prospect-problem-blindnessWhen the invite from Toyota came in, Ford’s senior executive team was skeptical. 

We invite you to visit our newest manufacturing plant. Send your top engineers and bring all your questions. We’re anxious to share our methods.

When the engineers came back from their visit, they confirmed the skepticism. “It wasn’t a real auto manufacturing facility,” the plant engineers explained. “Sure they had chassis and tools, and people, but spare parts and components were virtually nonexistent. The warehouse was too small to support the level of schedule activity. It was staged, like a movie.”¹

With the benefit of history, we know that it was not staged. The “experts” from Ford saw the real thing before it displaced Detroit’s auto leadership position.

You’ve likely heard the story of Steve Jobs’ inspiration for what became the Mac. In exchange for a pre-IPO allocation for Apple stock, Xerox invited Job and some of his engineers to get an inside peek into their PARC facility. While there, the Xerox engineers shared some of the innovations they’d added to their Alto machine like the “what you see is what you get” graphic user interface, bitmapping and a mouse. 

One part of the story that is often told wrong is that Xerox didn’t know what they had and as a result they let Jobs “steal” it. This isn’t true. They knew the Alto was powerful. They introduced the Alto in a 1972 commercial as the first desktop computer with a graphic user interface, showed how it could revolutionize your office life by using things like email, word processing and reminders “all controlled by a cursor.” Why have most people never heard of the Alto, and today Apple is the most valuable company in history? Because Xerox thought that the Alto would simply be too expensive to put on sale commercially. The reality is that the failure of Xerox to capitalize on their invention was a technology or vision failure, it was really a product marketing failure.

Think about this for a moment. If the expert engineers from Ford couldn’t see the value of the just-in-time, LEAN manufacturing process and the product marketing experts at Xerox couldn’t see a path to viability with something as powerful as the Alto, what’s the likelihood that a great demo, or presentation will be enough for the companies in your target market to change their course/speed to embrace your solution? These are two powerful examples of a barrier that faces all humans and has a profound impact on your ability to position your products and services to generate new opportunities by highlighting the amazing outcomes you create and the problems you solve. The barrier is called “problem blindness.”

What Is Problem Blindness

In his most recent book Upstream: The Quest To Solve Problems Before They Happen, Dan Heath shares this description: the belief that negative outcomes are natural, inevitable, or simply out of our control. When we’re blind to a problem, we treat it like the weather. We may know it’s bad, but ultimately, we just shrug our shoulders. “What am I supposed to do about it? It’s the weather.” Problem blindness creates passivity, even in the face of enormous harm. Problem blindness explains why extraordinarily smart people do extraordinarily dumb things or make bad decisions.

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7 Tips to Having an Effective Remote Work Experience

Editor’s Note: As the world of business continues to evolve at an increasingly rapid pace, one often overlooked area for growth-focused companies is the changing nature of the workforce. Millenials are now entering their prime working years and are increasingly taking on executive positions. Generation Z is quickly becoming a force and the nature of work is changing. To help companies maintain alignment and reduce friction we’re adding to the focus of The Demand Creator Blog. Today’s blog is written by our Marketing Manager, Hannah Rose. She and others will be sharing their perspectives on growth, working and making their mark.

remote-workAbout a year ago, I was in the market for a full-time position right out of college. As exciting as that may sound, I was very stressed about it. You see, I was in a very different situation than most people; I didn’t have a lot of flexibility in terms of what I could do since my husband is in the military and I would be moving every few years. I wanted a marketing position, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be a fit for any job I applied for because I would have to tell them I’d be able to stick around for a little while and then have to pick up and move every couple of years. What good was I to any business with that logic? No one would want me. I had accepted my fate as not having a good job. Then I came across Imagine. Granted I’m not here with Imagine solely because of my need for flexibility; I’m here for a lot more than that. 

Remote work is up-and-coming as a highly searched term for job hunters, no doubt due to the benefits it offers. While I’m a huge fan of remote work, it isn’t easy. It takes a lot to make sure you’re excelling in your own space which is why it isn’t for everyone. It can be super-fun, flexible and exactly what you need, but it can also feel intimidating and lonely at times. It really comes down to what you decide to make out of it. 

Remote work is especially difficult for someone who is just entering the business world. The nature of college creates a structure and nudges (or forces) you into a flow. It’s rare that you don’t know what you need to do next, and when you’re in that position you just reach out to one of your classmates to find out.

If you’re currently in the market for a new job, you might want to consider working remotely. And for those of you who currently are remote workers, I’m sure you’ve struggled with getting adjusted at some point. 

So, if it isn’t as easy as it seems, why would you choose to work remotely?  

Why Choose Remote Work?

For Employees

There are a lot of reasons why you would choose to work remotely. It’s way more flexible because, in most cases, you can set up whatever hours work for you. You can also leave and come back when you need to. The biggest thing is as long as you’re getting your work done, you’re able to have that flexibility to go in early, leave late, etc. This helps if you have kids and need to be on a different schedule, and it helps with traveling because you can take it with you. That’s exactly what I did when I went on trips with my family. I just worked from wherever I was for a few days. So it’s great if you’re a traveler at heart but also want to work. And as a disclaimer, I am by no means saying solely take a remote position for these reasons, but it’s a good option if that’s your lifestyle. 

The other reason you might choose to work remotely is if that’s just how you function best. I’ve had in-office positions where people would go seclude themselves because they couldn’t get anything done if they were around others. Sometimes that environment just doesn’t work for some people and they need to have their own zen place to sit down and crank shit out. And that’s okay!

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The Core Benefits of Creating and Nurturing a B2B Online Community

B2B-online-communityOne of the biggest challenges businesses face in growing is generating attention and engagement from companies (and people) in their target markets who are not currently looking to buy something. 

They also know that generating word of mouth is the best form of marketing there is, but if you don’t have thousands of customers who regularly use your product, or your product isn’t “buzzworthy,” word-of-mouth can often feel like a distant dream. Today, especially, with the hustle and bustle of the always “on” world, it can be that much more challenging to find time to be present outside your business bubble. 

If you’re dealing with these challenges, then implementing a community marketing program may be just the recipe you need. Joining or creating an online community might just be the extra spark you need to get connected with others. If you aren’t already a part of one, you’re missing out on so many opportunities to expand who you’re talking to, reach out to a whole new audience, and expand how you help others. You’re able to add a whole new perspective to your knowledge base! And just like the saying goes, “two minds are better than one,” you too can reach a better outcome through joining or creating an online community.

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Why We're Leaving Facebook

walking awayWhen I started Imagine more than 15 years ago, I had four principles that I used to define what success is. 

  • It had to enable me to grow - professionally, financially and personally.
  • It had to be a place where its employees could grow - professionally, financially and personally.
  • It had to make a mark by impacting the businesses we worked with, enabling them to become better by positively impacting their investors, employees and customers.
  • The community around us must become better off because we were there.

I’ve used these principles to guide just about every decision I’ve made since we started. While certainly there have been days (and weeks and months) where I’m sure I could have done better, it is directly responsible for many of the non-typical things we’ve done:

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What Inbound17 Means for the Future of Sales and Marketing

Inbound17.jpg

This post also appeared on LinkedIn

What a week! I think I'm still recovering from, yet another, magnificent Inbound festival (I have got to call it something more than a conference). A week filled with catching up with old friends, making new ones, learning from peers and seeing and hearing what the future will bring was as exciting as always.

This year's conference had a different feel to it. Once again there were no significant product announcements. (While HubSpot did announce their new Customer Success Hub, it is not released yet, and I have not seen it.)

However, unlike last year (where the focus was on important, internal product improvements) this conference had much more of a meta-trend feel to it. You had to pay attention to notice the key takeaways, but they were there, and their impact will most likely be big.

The following are my three key takeaways, and why I think they’re important and meaningful for any growth-focused executive:

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3 Things B2B Marketers Can Learn from Pokemon Go

squirtle.pngSo on Sunday, my son asked me to take him to a park that he hasn’t been to since he went there on a kindergarten field trip nine years ago. It’s a nice park but I wasn’t sure why my 15-year-old decided, out of the blue, that he needed to go to this park which is about 20 miles from our house.

I asked some questions about who was going to be there and what they were planning to do. He told me some of his friends were going to hang out there. I was still puzzled…the park has playground equipment for little kids…nothing really for teenagers to do. Unless, of course, you’re hunting for Pokemon.

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