Trailblaze & Grow Category: Marketing Operations

It’s Time to Rethink What Diversity Means for Your Business

When does a company achieve the “diverse” badge of honor? Is it simply when the staff photos on its website no longer favor one gender over another? When the photos show a wide variety of races?

Too many business leaders hang their hats on this physical definition of diversity, seeing it as a checkbox that will earn them good PR; paint them as a progressive, open-minded company; and wow potential investors.

Instead of a checkbox, I encourage people to think about diversity outside the box. Besides gender and race, diversity also refers to different socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. When your employees bring a variety of unique ideas and opinions to the table, you can learn so much more about your customers — and it is that intel that will help you stay ahead of the competition.


Diversity Is Not Just Skin Deep

When your perception of diversity is solely based on external characteristics, you miss out on its true power. In reality, diversity goes much deeper. Below the surface, people bring different backgrounds, values, and upbringings to the table that provide companies with unique, innovative problem-solving approaches and opinions that — when leveraged productively — make your company stronger, more creative, and more relevant.

The physical definition of diversity should be constantly in the back of your mind as you vet candidates, and your vetting process should be the same whether you are interviewing a man, a woman, a person of color, a younger person, an older person — the list goes on. But it should not necessarily be your top criterion when making hiring decisions.

Throughout the hiring process, your primary focus should be on skills, abilities, and how well the person will fit into the company culture. Hiring solely for physical diversity — checking that box — will not always give you the best person for the job. You also want to make sure that not everyone at your company is marching to the same drummer, so to speak. There should be conflicting opinions among your staff, and you want your team to collaboratively work through these conflicting opinions. It is when you have achieved this deeper level of diversity that creative solutions emerge that set companies apart.

It is like cooking a stew. If you keep adding salt and pepper as it cooks, the stew will not taste any better. But once you toss in the rosemary, thyme, basil, and paprika, the kitchen fills with glorious smells, and the stew ends up being delicious.


Three Attributes That Contribute to True Diversity

As you set out on your journey to foster true diversity in your company, challenge yourself when looking for the best candidates. Focus on these three characteristics to dig deep and find the perfect people for your team:

1.  Education

So many companies we have worked with are jam-packed with people with impressive alma maters. In some cases, the entire leadership team went to the same university. While that might look great on paper, once you walk into a room with these company leaders, they are all on the same page and agree on what needs to be done. But if you take a step back and really examine the situation, they lack external perspectives and conflicting viewpoints, so they find themselves stuck in neutral with no clue how to jumpstart their growth.

Of course you want people with impressive educational accolades from Ivy League schools, but you also need balance. You need to also hire people who went to public schools and received a completely different (yet still valid and useful) education and overall academic experience. They will have fresh ways of looking at things, which is exactly what your company needs.

2.  Socioeconomic Background

Before we dive into this characteristic, it is important to note that you should not ask job candidates about their household income when they were growing up, their current net worth, or other personal financial matters. However, you can read between the lines.

Did they work while they were in college? Did they rely on scholarships? Do they travel a lot? Or have they never been on an airplane? The ideal makeup is a mix of people who grew up bootstrapping their way to where they are today, as well as people who did not have to. Having a healthy balance of varying socioeconomic backgrounds will yield a mixed bag of opinions, work styles, and problem-solving approaches.

3.  Values and Beliefs

Again, before we dive into this one, remember that you cannot ask job candidates about their religious beliefs. However, you can analyze where they grew up and how they spend their free time. Do they volunteer? What are they passionate about? Did they grow up in a rural or urban area?

There is no question that rural and urban communities in America hold tight to vastly different beliefs and values. In order for your company to become a household name across all communities, make sure you have all communities represented on your team.

Also, while it might seem appealing to solely hire workaholics who pursue little to no passions and hobbies outside of work, you also need people who have lives and passion projects outside of work. They will bring in a broad spectrum of interests, leading to innovative approaches and ways of thinking.


While physical diversity is very important, it is not the end-all and be-all of company diversity. It goes far deeper below the surface. Hiring people from different backgrounds can help businesses thrive. It is time to rethink what diversity means for your business and how you can truly embrace it to your company’s advantage.


Photo by Untitled blue on / CC BY

Save Time

Analysis to Help You Stop Wasting Valuable Time

How useful would it be for you to know exactly where your time was best spent? How would it improve your productivity if you could quickly and reliably determine which customers were most lucrative for your business, and which ones were costing far more than they were worth holding on to? Fortunately, the ability to determine exactly that was established more than 100 years ago.

Back at the dawn of the 20th century, an Italian economist realized that he could mathematically calculate the fact that 20% of Italian citizens owned about 80% of the nation’s wealth. This equation proved to be valuable in analyzing far more than just the wealth distribution in Renaissance Revival-era Italy. In fact, the so-called “Pareto Principle” has been (and continues to be) used as an effective method of measuring distributions of wealth, effort, sales productivity, and countless other applications. This is because there is a fundamental truth — what some might call a philosophy — associated with the 80/20 equation discovered by Vilfredo Pareto.

What is the fundamental philosophy of Pareto?

At it’s core, the philosophy of the Pareto Analysis is based on an understanding of the fact that a relatively small percentage of input is responsible for a significant amount of the output. More specifically, that 80% of output can be attributed to 20% of input. This, of course, works when analyzing wealth distribution (as it was originally used by Pareto), but it also works in a number of other applications as well.

Perhaps the most compelling application — at least in our entrepreneurial and capitalistic society — is use of the Pareto Analysis when assessing productivity. More specifically, an entrepreneur, or salesperson, can usually attribute about 80% of their profit (or sales volume) to about 20% of customers. On the other hand, about 20% of customers often take up about 80% of the bandwidth available to an entrepreneur or a sales team.

The Pareto Analysis can be applied to any number of things:

  • Customers – both the time demands and their profitability
  • Daily tasks – where your time is spent productively and unproductively
  • Wealth – where the majority of your wealth is coming from, and where the majority of your expenses are derived
  • Anything else you can think of!

Using Pareto Analysis to become more productive

In order to use Pareto Analysis effectively, you must first be willing to accept a couple of facts: The first is the fact that some of your clients or customers may not be worth your time. Even if they are paying you what seems to be a valuable amount, the reality is that the opportunity costs associated with highly-demanding clients may be preventing you from gaining more worthwhile (in the long term) clients. The second thing you must be willing to accept is all work is not equal.

Not all clients are worth keeping. Many businesses, particularly those that are just starting out, are reluctant to turn down any work that comes their way. After all, money is money, right?

In fact, taking on a client that continues to be unprofitable or is demanding a disproportionate amount of your company’s time can ultimately prevent you from developing new, more profitable business elsewhere. You can use the Pareto Analysis to determine which clients are taking a disproportionate amount of your time (so you can try to phase them out) while also helping identify which clients are producing the vast majority of your revenue (so you can nurture and grow those clients as well).

Some of the work you do isn’t worth the effort. The bottom line is that you simply cannot do everything, and you certainly cannot do everything well. As such, you should use the Pareto Analysis to determine which specific aspects of your day are producing the majority of benefit, then work to eliminate or delegate/outsource anything that does not fall into that category.

Try using the Pareto Analysis yourself, and see if you can make your day more productive by eliminating the time consuming, unproductive tasks and focusing on the high-yield tasks.

Team Building

Six Ways to Help Your Marketing Team Deliver Results

Is a marketing team different than any other workgroup? Sort of.

Marketing is one of those disciplines that can look easier than it is. Those who are great at it are constantly updating their tactics to stay fresh and continually grab attention.  They stay on top of breaking news; customer feedback; new technologies and media; and the vast amount of first-, second- and third-party data.  The best marketers then consolidate all the ingredients into integrated, immersive programs to achieve the company’s goals.

Because marketing teams do not produce traditional widgets, a truly great marketing team will be extremely diverse.  Ideally, marketing teams leverage data to come up with concepts that deliver results — revenue, users, subscribers, customer experience and more. They use words and visuals in select mediums to encourage desired actions.  This requires that the team have strengths in analytics, creative design, content development, project management, marketing communications, product development and cross-functional leadership.  The one skill that cut across all functions is creativity.  (Yes, data scientists and project managers are just as creative as designers and writers.)

Managing such a diverse team can be a challenge, but surprisingly, it is not too different than managing other groups of people. According to R. Keith Sawyer, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, anyone can learn to be creative, and good creativity is further stimulated by working with other people. But for businesses trying to create a dynamic, productive atmosphere for their creative teams, here’s how to start:

  • Build a genuine culture. Whether your whole team is on site or some members are remote, you need to find ways to make the real and virtual environments positive, stimulating and organized. All three of these are easier said than done, but you have to start somewhere. Kevin Barber, author of “How to Build a High Performance Marketing Team”on HubSpot, said the ideal team culture contains a blend of integrity, character, love and loyalty. This helps create the foundation, but the shape of the building is up to everyone on the team.
  • Track whenever and wherever possible.  If you do not measure something, you can’t understand it. If you don’t understand something, you can’t improve it.  Set goals and measure the drivers and achievement against those goals. Armed with this data, you and the team can take the proper tactics to achieve them. These could be broad conceptual goals, such as “increase revenue,” or specific goals, such as “grow social media presence by X amount in a certain time period.”
  • Evaluate at your team. You may need to adjust your team and add more members as people move on or more resources become available or are needed. I agree with Joanna Lord, a contributor to Entrepreneur, who suggests that someone’s “fit” in the culture should be more of a consideration than professional skill sets.  Not everyone will have the interest or aptitude to continue based on the teams goals. Stack rank your team by aptitude, interest and skill level.  Always share feedback and put performance plans in place to help everyone adjust to the new standards.
  • Look for gaps. Where is your team’s performance falling short?  Do you have enough resources to achieve those goals?  Which skills does your team lacking? Do your internal partners share your goals? Do your processes support or hinder achieving your goals? Team members should be tasked with projects that overcome the roadblocks identified in this exercise should be prioritized with run-the-business activities.
  • Create a roadmap. Having different broad and specific goals established provides the team with a “destination.” Moreover, putting programs in place to engage everyone provides the team a sense of a bigger picture and how they personally help the team achieve its goals.
  • Make Progress.  Team members should be tasked with strategic projects that overcome the gaps identified in the exercise above.  Set deliverables and timelines with each project lead and share them with the entire team.  Strategic projects should be prioritized and tracked alongside run-the-business activities.  Remember to report progress of projects and acknowledge each person for their roles in making something good happen, which also helps foster camaraderie

Overall, optimizing a marketing team’s performance can be tricky. Good managers can find a way to do so, such as how people rank individually and collectively on department goals. Better managers will find ways to not only quantify everyone’s efforts but foster a dynamic culture — it’s going to take time and buy-in, but the results can create a solid, efficient team.

Photo credit: Create-Learning Team Building & Leadership / Foter / CC BY