I’ve recently been privileged to teach content marketing workshops at a few large, Fortune 500, enterprise organizations. As it turns out – because content marketing is a new process that many organizations are trying to implement, I often start with a piece on building a business case for “innovation” that Joe and I wrote at the beginning of our book Managing Content Marketing.
Innovation is a topic that, quite frankly, I really love – and was glad to put into the workshop – but I thought it would go largely unnoticed in the larger scheme of assembling a repeatable, scalable and measurable process to put content marketing into the organization.
Well – as it turns out – it seems to be one of the most popular parts of the workshop and it seems to be really resonating with people. So.. okay…. if that’s the way it’s gonna be – let’s rock and roll…
“New” Comes From Your Imagination – Not Analytics
There’s an old saying of Peter Drucker and made popular by any number of management consulting firms that says “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” I’ve also heard this get bastardized into “if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t count” – and other types of nonsense.
Yup – I said it. Nonsense. With a capital NON.
Now, don’t get me wrong… I love Peter Drucker – and quote him with great frequency. But I can’t get behind that one at all.
Myopic management by measurement is comforting indeed – and (especially these days) it’s what allows us to look into our past and grade ourselves to hopefully PROVE to the world/our boss/our board/our colleagues (pick your poison) that what we’re doing NOW is somehow more valuable than what we did yesterday. Here’s a helpful safety tip: with that strategy it doesn’t matter who you are - you eventually hit a ceiling.
Now, let me be very clear: I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t measure our marketing efforts (more on this in a minute). But I am suggesting that in order for us to remain innovative and build new and innovative practices like content marketing into our businesses – that we should not solely rely on previous measurements as our way to manage our efforts and predict the future.
In one very large, Fortune 500 organization I worked with recently – they were entirely limited to mapping their marketing planning future by looking at their previous success and failures (and they were heavy into metrics) – and creating predictive forecasts based on those numbers. In other words – the only thing they could EVER hope for was a future that was the same as (or perhaps incrementally better) than the past.
I asked “what happens if unexpected forces” completely “F UP” your forecast. The response: “well that’s unpredictable isn’t it?”.
Yes it is – and it locks you into a future that will never be anything different than your past.
Now, again, I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t measure our marketing efforts. Measuring what’s important is critical to creating insight that helps us iteratively improve our processes and get better at what we do.
That’s the critical and important point. If we use measurement/analytics to help us optimize our process – and that gives us the freedom to imagine a much different future – and make changes – then measurement is helpful. On the other hand – if its only use is to prove that we’re continually moving “up and to the right” – then it’s nonsense. Again, with a capital NON.
If You Can Dream It You Can Make It Real
If you’ve read this blog, or heard me speak, you’ve often heard me say that differentiation is telling a different story – not the same one incrementally better.
In order to successfully implement a NEW content marketing process – we have to look well beyond our past – and imagine the future and bring it into our present. It’s about telling a different story – or a unique story – and it’s often one that will be radically different than what we’ve done before.
New ideas are inherently based on our future – not on the past. When we dream up an innovative – or new idea or process – as much as we’d like to think it came from the past – it didn’t. It came from our imagination looking into the future – the “what could be” – and pulling into our present.
Let’s say you have that amazing new idea for a campaign, or a blog post, or a content marketing program – or even a new business idea. Certainly it’s informed by your history, your experience, your knowledge – but the new idea COMES from the future. You imagine the world with that new idea as a reality – and that’s what ultimately convinces you that it’s a good idea to begin with.
And, if and when you decide that this new idea is good – you have NO data to support that idea – because it’s not from your past. Now, you may immediately think to yourself “oh, yes it is”. But it’s not. If it’s truly new – there is nothing in your past measurement that will inform you that this is a good idea. The care and feeding that you give to this idea (the excitement you feel in your belly) comes purely from you bringing the future success of this idea into the present.
Crafting A Future Into Your Present
In many marketing organizations – such as the ones that I’ve been privileged to visit over the last few months – I realize that this is hard. It’s easy to sit back and say – let’s just dream up some stuff and make it happen. Management of a large group is hard – and turning a ship that has the “we’ve always done it that way” mentality is difficult. I understand that.
But as we come into Spring – and many of us are working to do new year marketing planning – and implement NEW content marketing and other types of digital, social and other processes into our marketing departments – let’s look at how we can bring the future into our present. Instead of looking at our metrics as the only way to manage our future – maybe we can pick one thing to completely break – and try something new.
As content marketing grows, we will naturally start to change our marketing department into a storytelling department. As such – I believe it will be increasingly important for us to continually craft new, innovative ideas that help us differentiate our story against ALL the competitors we have to deal with.
Einstein said it well when he said “not everything that counts can be measured, and not everything that can be measured counts”.
I ask you: how can you love your wife more than you do on your wedding day? Well, I’ve somehow managed to love my wife more and more every single year that I’ve been married to her, –Every year I discover some new weird reason to love her more. It’s way beyond measurement at this point. And I’ve been married 20 years this year.
But who’s counting….