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Lessons Learned: Applying Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits to Marketing

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by: Ellen Valentine (@EllenValentine)
20 July 2012

This week, we lost one of the most popular nonfiction authors of our time. Stephen Covey passed away on July 16, 2012. He wrote eight books, most notably The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages. If you’re one of the few who hasn’t read this important work, I urge you to pick up a copy.

The subtitle of the book is “Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.” It’s a concept that’s resonates strongly in the world of marketing, which, as I’ve written before, is undergoing massive change. Today, marketing is shifting from the era of one-size-fits-all, top-down marketing to the age of the social-media-empowered, research-savvy buyer.

In honor of Covey’s passing, then, I thought it would be appropriate to reframe his seven habits around our role as modern-day marketers.

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Now’s the time for you to be proactive about changing your go-to-market strategy and practices. Embrace the “silent surfer” who’s on your website evaluating your company and products. Be proactive about changing your approach from one-size-fits all marketing messages into behavior-driven marketing approaches and tactics.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Get crystal clear about where you want to take your role and your organization. Define the user experience you’d like for your prospective clients to have as they move through the buying cycle and transition to becoming one of your top customers. Only when you’ve documented these desired states can you activate the change you need.

Habit 3: Put First Things First
Covey emphasizes the differences between urgent and important, and this is perhaps one of the most important concepts for marketers to master. We’re constantly assigned top-priority, “gotta get it out” projects, so it’s critical to become efficient at the daily production side of your job so you have time to implement the important improvement projects that increase the effectiveness of your role and the marketing department. For every new fire drill, ask yourselves where it fits in the Urgent/Important matrix. Only then can you respond appropriately.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions and agreements in your relationships with sales, IT and other adjacent departments. Create new ways of understanding their roles, needs and duties so that you can collaborate to do more as an organization.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Listen closely to the needs of your customers and prospects. Consider using tools such as surveys, focus groups and buyer personas to develop a heart for the customer. Every marketer should make every effort to get involved in a few customer calls. Only when you fully understand your customers’ challenges and needs can you be effective at crafting the right marketing strategies, hosting the best events and creating the best automated processes.

Habit 6: Synergize
Don’t forget that marketing is a team effort. Look closely at how you work as a department to satisfy the needs of your company, your prospects and your existing clients. If you’re a marketing leader, look for opportunities to organize your department to ensure maximum teamwork.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Invest in your own development and education. As I discussed in “Building the Marketing Dream Team,” we must dramatically step up our commitment to training and educating marketers at every level of the organization. Without a firm foundation of education in the new marketing tools and techniques, marketing will remain a hit-or-miss, reactive, less-than-full-strength organization for your company.

While we’ll miss new contributions from Stephen Covey, we’re fortunate that we have the legacy of his outstanding body of work. In his honor, dust off your copy of 7 Habits and reread this important book, considering how his teachings apply to your role as a marketer and marketing leader.

Related Blogs:
1) “Don’t Be a Dinosaur: Marketing’s Four Biological Changes
2) “The New Normal
3) “15 Incremental Steps for Digital Marketing Success


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