Motivational Marketing

Reprinted from Potentials In Marketing Magazine

By Brent Filson -

Just as we're supposed to use only a fraction of our brains' capabilities, so I'm convinced, working with businesses in major industries, that people get just a fraction of the results they're capable of.

Few businesses come close to achieving their potential results.
That's because businesses are not marketing from the heart.  When I speak of the heart, I speak of that intuitive, emotional, feeling aspect of all of us.

No question: Emotion drives business success.  Clearly, people in business have to be skilled and knowledgable about products, processes, and programs.   But simply having rational knowledge is not enough to get big increases in results.  We must have emotional knowledge too.

A fundamental truth of human motivation is that we define ourselves in terms of our emotions.  Descartes didn't quite have it right: it's not, "I think therefore I am; it's really, "I feel therefore I am".

Yet most marketing strategies and programs focus on the rational — market share, target identification and validation, and customer needs analysis — and ignore the emotional.  In doing so, such strategies ignore great opportunities.

To achieve quantum leaps in results that most businesses are capable of,  let's recognize that marketing as we know it has come to an end.

Such marketing served companies in relatively stable economies when businesses were like large ships, with captains giving orders to the mates, the mates to crews.  But today businesses are in white-water canoeing races.

In rapidly changing markets, exclusively rational marketing can't compete well.

What will replace marketing?  To answer that, let's understand what marketing is all about.  It's about one thing, growth.  Growth happens through strategy and action.

Today's marketing activities are superficially linked to strategy and have little to do with action.  The result: businesses rattle along not hitting on all cylinders.

Strategy: We grow in business or ultimately die.  So it behooves each business to have a strategy for growth.

We might develop a growth strategy.  It might seem convincing on paper.  It might interest security analysts.  It might brighten an annual report.  But unless people believe it passionately, wake up in the morning motivated by it, spend each day exciting others about it, see it as a key stimulant of their life, and zealously realize it in their work activities, then it is merely a recitation of dry postulates.  It can only realize partial results.

When strategies resonate with people's heartfelt needs,  great things happen.  History is replete with such strategies:  Themistocles' naval strategy for defeating the Persians; the Pilgrim's strategy of attaining religious freedom by sailing to the New World;  Jefferson's strategy for realizing an America bounded by the Atlantic and Pacific; NASA's strategy for putting a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s, etc.
And the history of business has its examples too:  Ford Motor Company of the second decade of this century; IBM of the 1950s, Apple of the early 1980s.

There are three ways to get a motivational growth-strategy.
First, link it to what people feel strongly about.

Many leaders wrongly believe that just because they have taken the trouble to develop a marketing strategy, that strategy automatically excites others.

If you don't root your strategy in the fervent convictions of employees and customers, you don't have a motivational growth-strategy.

Steve Jobs' strategy for providing bringing a powerful, versatile computer into the hands of average people around the world, fired the imaginations and the ardent actions of his colleagues and, ultimately, customers.

Second, raise the stakes.  Follow Emerson's dictum: "Hitch your wagon to a star."  Distinguish between vision and motivational growth-strategy.  A vision is the star.  The strategy is how you will hitch your wagon to it.  When people's vision and strategy provide a higher purpose in their lives, their motivation is of a higher order.

Jobs convinced John Scully to leave a high-level, fast-track position at PepsiCo and commit himself to the uncertainties of working at Apple by asking: "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or  do you want to change the world?"
Third, make the strategy simple and short.  Growth can be complicated, but people's needs are simple.

Bill Gates wrote a strategy in longhand on a single sheet of paper when he founded Microsoft.  He still has possession of that paper and is still following that strategy.

The processes of putting that strategy into action may take comprehensive descriptions.  Still, those descriptions should flow from simple, brief motivational elements.

Action:  Motivational growth-strategies aren't plans, they're action.  Without people taking action, results can't happen.

Rational marketing stumbles because leaders often view such marketing as some kind of magic dust that, sprinkled out, changes behavior.  But only motivated people change their behavior. 

In trying to realize marketing plans, top leaders often get jammed up in middle-manager meatgrinders.  Those leaders can usually persuade their direct reports to participate in the changes.

However, the far more important task is to persuade middle-managers to lead change.  Because traditional marketing ignores the emotional needs of middle-managers, needs that frequently illuminate ways to increase results, those managers can and will make mincemeat of even the best-intended, rationally consistent, and brilliantly-conceived marketing strategy.

Hey, this ain't Black Hole physics!  Getting  results is simply about strategy and action: making a simple, powerful motivational growth-strategy happen in the many, little actions taken daily by skilled, motivated people.

Because motivational growth-strategies flow out of the hearts of people, rather than rain down from above, those strategies get those people championing actions that get big results.

The end of marketing is the beginning of success that can only now be dimly imagined.


© The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. – Celebrating 25 years of helping leaders of top companies worldwide achieve outstanding results every day. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get his FREE report "7 Steps To Leadership Mastery"