Clueless Marketing Needs Grassroots Leadership

Seth's Blog

Clueless, that’s what you may well be if you’re not dipping in to Seth’s Blog from time to time. If you don’t, you’re missing a great opportunity to challenge your ideas on business and marketing. It’s written by Seth Godin, who describes himself as Author, Agent of Change. He published his ‘Permission Marketing‘ in 1999 and that’s one of the great fundamental principles of successful business.

He usually holds a mirror up to the business scene and points out the absurdities of what goes on around us. Certainly he’s a thought-provoking writer. My only criticism would be that we should hear more often Why he thinks something happens, as opposed to just having his description of what he sees. That’s a case with a recent post entitled, Clueless. In that he states, “We’re all clueless. That’s the best word I can use to describe the state of the art of marketing.” Two of the three examples he quotes are about crazy examples of customer service. You can’t imagine any individual committing these acts on customers they care about. Yet organizations do this to people. So why do organizations do clueless things?

Well here’s a possible chain of events that could explain it.

1. A policy manual is created to explain how things should be handled.
2. Individuals are not given enough training but are told they must follow policies.
3. A climate of fear or inertia is prevalent so individuals go by the book.
4. Instances arise where the book doesn’t make sense.

It’s like that old 2 rule way of running things:

1. The boss is always right.
2. If he (or she) isn’t, then Rule 1 applies.

Sometimes organizations do what 95% of the individuals within the organization would think is stupid. The solution to that is what Shell and others labelled as Grassroots Leadership. Encourage individuals to do what they judge to be right and use their heads. Don’t punish people for minor errors in judgement but leave a degree of responsibility in their hands. Train them.

Individuals or any given department such as Marketing are rarely clueless. However organizations may end up acting in a clueless way. With transparency, some freedom to act, encouragement and recognition, it’s amazing how that situation can be corrected. So let’s give more grassroots leaders the space to do their job.

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