This year Tuthill is embarking on a transformation, and myself along with it. We are daring to make better by calling upon every department to invest in our growth and understanding of our customer base. As I lead this pivotal project along with others throughout Tuthill, I find myself needing to heed my own calls, and invest in my learning. As we say at Tuthill, it starts with me, here, now.
From Salesforce.com to PIMs to the ever-expanding world of customer experience, there’s a great deal that admittedly I am not the expert on. Nor do I need to be. As a marketer at heart, I know how to reach our customers and provide them with valuable products and information. But our customers want a deeper relationship with brands. Technology also continues to evolve. With Salesforce recently acquiring Tableau, as one example, the landscape of analytics alone has been pummeled forward. How can we be ready, or better yet, a step ahead?
As a project manager of Tuthill’s digital transformation, the onus is on me to be at top of my game. Recently, I attended the Salesforce Connections conference and completed a “Digital Marketing Strategies: Data, Automation, AI & Analytics” course offered by Kellogg School of Management. Balancing the weight of leading major digital projects while dedicating time for learning was quite daunting for several weeks. And the goodness in all of this was the direct connection of “what I thought I knew” was confirmed by course content and conversations I had with other marketing professionals. Marketing is different today. Marketing is not a set of timed campaigns placed on a calendar at the start of each year. Marketing is agile. Marketing is also responsive and teams that excel know how to take what they hear from one customer and scale it to address the needs of a segment. This type of challenge excites me as I see a tremendous opportunity for not only me, but for my team to learn, grow, and become even better at what they do. We will all stretch to new heights and I guarantee that one year from now, we will all utilize new skills sets that we have not even considered today.
With a baseline under my belt, the curiosity begins to take hold. I ask questions, and ask them again, and again. I dig deeper, and seek out the root of an issue. I map out the spiderweb of connections throughout all systems. Here I am, mapping data and growing closer to our IT team members with a large amount of respect for their expertise. It takes time, it tries my patience, but I now easily lean into the knowledge pool of our experienced team members who are deeply invested in our processes.
I need their help, and I must be willing to ask for it. I call on them to think differently and to take on more as our roles expand. Job descriptions are evolving. New roles are being inserted. Ecommerce? Wow! Everyone on the team has represented our brand – from the shop floor to the sales team. Today, every team member is now part of our marketing process – they are all the eyes and ears that connect and build relationships with our customers. To truly transform to suit this digital landscape, it starts with each team member’s personal and emotional journey, which everyone processes uniquely. Many are honored to be asked questions, and some fear my intentions. Are we changing processes? Are we introducing new tools? There are those who have more questions than answers. A few begin running forward at the speed of light. Others find comfort in the way things are. None of them are wrong.
However, our task as an organization, and my prerogative as a project lead is to meet people where they are at. I must discern the respective tools they need to propel us forward as one. That could involve slowing some down, and speeding others up to create a synchronous unit. It means being very clear on the direction we’re headed, and how each person plays an integral part.
Our job as leaders is to humanize this digital project in its entirely. We must bring our employees closer to the end users to establish that relationship. Often that customer connection can seem distant and muddied in a digital landscape where customers discover and purchase products from their phones. As we strive to understand who our customers are, a litany of tags and metadata help shape them into the physical and emotionally driven buyers they are. We strive to reconnect our teams to the customers’ personal stories and our goal— to build a relationship with our customers and to solve their greatest challenges.
Just recently we hosted the kick-off for a data cleanup project. In such a workshop, it is easy for team members to be stuck in a very analytical mindset. As we drilled through customer account fields I kept hearing attributes that are the norm, that are basic demographic characteristics used for years and years by marketers. It was at this point that I realized we were not interjecting the human element. There are two wants here for me. First, I want our team members to have efficient digital tools that make their jobs easier and allow them to really know who they are talking to when conversing with a customer. Secondly, I want customers to enjoy doing business with us and to make a strong connection with our brand. This means going beyond a name, a market segment, or what product a customer just bought. We are now establishing customer personas so we understand a customer’s goals, motivations, pain points when doing business with us, and what we must deliver to them. If we have that level of understanding and know how to address those needs, we can create the very best customer experience and build brand loyalty to new levels. So why not add a customer persona to a customer account profile? Simple, right?
I alone cannot make this transformation come to fruition. It’s a journey that has no end, but rather checkpoints for reinvention. Certainly, my job is to get us to each checkpoint together. The key is to stoke the flame and passion for growth, learning, and a stronger connection to our customers at every turn. It is to answer our employees’ questions, and never shy away from the hard truths. In doing so, we will carve out a path, unique and uncommon, together as one.