SFM Consulting hosts a series of invitation-only business breakfasts at which there’s a presentation from a successful business person based on their experience of a specific issue facing many business. It’s followed by peer group discussion moderated by Sarah Matthews, Founder of SFM.
Lizz Clarke, of LCM Logical Creative Marketing was the speaker at our most recent breakfast. Lizz set up LCM in 1988 when she was offered the position of Marketing Director at a famous international training organisation and being a young, working mum she successfully negotiated to carry out the work as an outsource from home.
Lizz and her team provide marketing solutions for a wide range of clients, and central to everything she does, both for clients and for her business is the brand. She’s passionate about branding and she described how she’s developed her team to deliver a brand in 10 key points
Businesses can’t be excellent unless every member of the team knows and understands exactly what the brand is. By involving as many staff as possible in creating and defining the brand it becomes their brand and they will take ownership of it.
A complex mission statement that lives in a filing cabinet doesn’t even play lip service to branding. Once you’ve created and defined a brand it needs to be used, but it needs to be easy to use. A few words are memorable but a lengthy paragraph isn’t. Lizz stressed that a brand is so much more than the visual aspect so brand guidelines are essential to describe the tone of voice and behaviours which are the brand.
Lizz explained that some years ago she trained as a Dale Carnegie instructor, and their way of working was not to confront people. The lesson she subsequently learned by sticking to the Dale Carnegie approach was that things slip if you don’t confront the. It’s what she calls “brand creep” - standards gradually slipping resulting in reduced the brand strength and consistency. It made her realise that there is a time and place for confronting people so developed a pneumonic - DESCU - which she follows immediately someone displays anti-brand behaviour.
It stands for:
D - describe the anti-brand behaviour specifically
E - explain the effect of this behaviour on the business
S - specify the changes that are needed and that they have to happen from that moment onwards
C - consequences - explain the consequences of failing to make the changes
U - only if it’s appropriate. What do U think? Anti-brand behaviour isn’t up for discussion so Lizz only asks them if it’s appropriate
Everyone within the organisation has a responsibility for the brand and needs to know they have a duty to uphold it. Behaviour creates a brand but can equally damage or destroy a brand. Lizz referred to a type of individual that can damage a brand. They are the ones that blame everyone else for problems and moan and groan about anything. They get others to join in the moaning and groaning in what Lizz calls “pity parties.” Their negativity can affect others and spread like a cancer through organisations and her advice is that individuals that start, or drive, pity parties need to change or go.
Lizz stressed the importance of sending very strong messages out about the brand as they develop client expectations. If client don’t know what to expect then feedback is subjective. She then used an example of a client in the car servicing business to demonstrate how brand messages can be delivered effectively to staff. LCM had developed a “royalty” campaign for the car servicing business which promised that customers would be treated like “royalty” when they brought their car in for a service. Soon after the campaign was launched the client fed back to Lizz that the mechanics doing the servicing were complaining bitterly about the expectations of their customers. Lizz went over to the client’s premises and met with all the mechanics. She asked them if they liked getting really good service, which they did, then went on to ask what the problem was with treating their customers really well and making them feel like “royalty”. They didn’t think it was a problem!
A marketing agency needs energy and buzz and Lizz has found that having everyone sitting together creates the right atmosphere.
When she takes on a new member of staff Lizz spends time teaching them to do everyday things like how to word e-mails the LCM way, how to meet and greet anyone coming into the office as it’s everyone’s responsibility to meet and greet visitors. She teaches them how to layout the meeting room with a coaster for everyone’s drink. She teaches them all the systems and processes - even down to details about how to name and save a file. A consistent approach to everything is part of what creates a fabulous atmosphere and efficient working which is the LCM brand. No-one gets upset over trivial things such as not being able to find a file because someone has their own approach to file naming. It sounds simple but it’s really effective and something that so many organisations overlook.
Lizz is a firm believer in recruiting for attitude above knowledge and skills as you can train someone to develop their knowledge and skills but a bad attitude is a bad attitude and it affects everyone. LCM’s clients expect those working on their business to provide specific answers about their marketing so when interviewing Lizz asks well-structured, specific questions that require specific answers based on the individual’s experience. During the interview it’s important to see whether the candidate demonstrates the values and qualities of the brand. She also believes strongly in trial days - does it feel right with the potential employee in the building. Does it feel right for them?
As CEO Lizz is always prepared to take the blame, but if things aren’t right she says you have to deal with it - promptly. Everyone takes responsibility for the effect they have on others and Lizz makes her staff accountable. Her approach is not to blame people but to deal with any problems when they arise, in much the same way as she she jumps on anti-brand behaviour.
Taking time to recruit is essential if you’re looking for the right person with the right attitude. However if something is wrong she looks at the facts and listens to her instincts and if a member of staff is wrong for LCM she moves quickly using lawyers to expedite the exit. She believes there’s no such word as “can’t” - and that applies to getting rid of staff. Lizz mentioned that she’s a firm believer in bringing in the right expertise as and when the business needs it.
It’s important to have a mix of skills, as Lizz says, a mix of what she calls the “louds” and “quiets.” The “louds” are the drivers, the decision makers and the sunny creatives whilst the “quiets” are the systems and processes people and reliable “doers.” Whatever their persona it’s essential to Lizz, and the brand she’s created, that they all have fire in their bellies, drive, and a willingness to grow and widen their comfort zone.