Do you aspire to be a successful marketer, or do you want to be a market maker?
You can be a successful marketer by executing all the marketing fundamentals professionally--launching websites that reflect your brand, responding to your customers, and being present on all the right social spaces. Market makers do all those activities, but they strive to do something else: inspire people to act, to believe, and to live their lives differently. Marketers sell things; market makers change the world. One type of market maker, known as a creator, inspires action by developing products and services that reflect a personal vision, as Steve Jobs and Body Shop founder Anita Roddick did. A second type, known as a catalyst, inspires by curating and sharing ideas of other people, as exemplified by the careers of venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki and Ahmet Ertegun, who founded Atlantic Records. But you don't need to unleash the iPad or be a best-selling author to be a market maker. You just need to develop traits such as having passion and a willingness to take some risk in your life.
You can inject the spirit of the market maker in your own job, every day, by finding ways to challenge people to think differently and, as Guy Kawasaki implores, make their lives better. Here are four ways:
1. Get involved in product development
Inserting yourself in product (or service) development means more than creating the right message or marketing program to execute. I mean actually getting involved in the process of developing the product or service: doing the research into the wants and needs of the customer and asking bold questions such as, How can we truly make a difference in our customer's life?
Tools exist to help you do so--for instance, user personas, popularized by Forrester Research to help you create customer profiles, or linguistic profiles (which my company, iCrossing, creates) to understand consumer wants and needs based on their search needs. Becoming the owner of audience insight inside your organization (or business unit, or department) is key. It does not matter whether you sell ice cream cones or professional services: You can find a way to influence people--to really have an impact on their lives--starting with understanding your audience and figuring out how to make their lives better.
2. Be a thought leader
Another effective way to be a market maker is to become a publisher of your own vision, which is what thought leadership is all about.
The explosion of social publishing platforms lilke WordPress and Tumblr make it possible for you to create your own imprint with practically zero barrier to entry. If you don't fancy yourself a writer, then express your vision with sight and sound--that's why Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube exist.
You can also work through your employer's own social media and thought leadership programs, and I assume any enlightened company has one now. Contribute to your company blog and let your community manager handle the heavy lifting. Nominate yourself as a speaker for SXSW and other events.
Embracing the role of thought leader means being bold enough to leave a personal imprint on everything you do through your vision and ideas, even when you are not publishing white papers or delivering speeches. For instance, years ago, I was in charge of creating the agenda and managing a meeting of creative account teams for a services firm. Running an event is a hard job, but you can wield enormous influence through the role. For me, exerting influence meant shaking up the agenda by bringing in successful producer and musician Dave Stewart to appear. The choice of Dave Stewart reflected my personal belief that creativity and fresh ideas were shaping the future of digital advertising. In a session that was jarring, shocking, and never boring, Stewart showed everyone in the audience what the creative process looks like from the inside out and challenged everyone in the room to think differently about their jobs.
A market maker should provide an experience that makes you think.
3. Be a social catalyst
If you flat-out lack the time and energy to be a thought leader, then you can still play the role of catalyst by empowering other people--your fellow employees--to inject fresh ideas in your company. Social media has given rise to a new era of employee empowerment. You can become a powerful catalyst by helping your employees to unleash their ideas.
Even with the advent of social media, most major companies view branding as the province of the top executives and the marketing team, never to be really trusted in the hands of rank-and-file employees. But as Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research wrote in his book Empowered, companies like Best Buy are waking up to the power of their own employees to represent their brands and are giving them tools to do it. Among the best corporate social catalysts are Intel's Ekaterina Walter and Ford's Scott Monty, who have used their positions as social evangelists to open up the cultures of the companies they represent.
Being a social catalyst is not a mysterious process. Again, tools exist to help you--such as social media guidelines and strategies (which you should assign yourself to create). Many of those tools can be found for free across the social world. For instance, here is a link to iCrossing's. And here are 200 more from other organizations. Go ahead. Download and adapt them for your needs.
4. Have a north star
What do you stand for--better yet, what do you want to stand for personally? Great leadership? Innovation? The most creative idea person anyone has ever seen? Having a north star is often known as personal branding.
My personal brand comes down to the power of writing. My job has many facets--developing relationships with influencers, social media, managing a relationship with one of the world's great music moguls, and creating thought leadership among them--but when I die, I want to be remembered for being passionate about writing. I live for writing like no other part of my job. And I make it a priority to help everyone I work with become better writers. If I can help you be a better writer, I'm having an impact on you that goes beyond selling a product or service.
Having a personal north star is not the same as being a social catalyst or thought leader. Steve Jobs believed in the power of elegant, simple design. He imposed his beliefs by building and running companies, not by publishing books or writing social media guidelines. But not everyone is Steve Jobs. You and I can make our north stars shine more brightly when we embrace thought leadership and empower others to unleash their ideas.
Your personal brand can be aligned with your corporate brand. iCrossing CMO Tari Haro embraces "connectedness" (developing close relationships with others) as both her personal mission and iCrossing's. "I believe in the power of connectedness," she says.
What is your north star?
You can be an outstanding professional and remain squarely in the realm of the superficial for the rest of your life. Or you can develop a personal vision and commitment to change other people. You can be a market maker. The choice is yours.
--David Deal is vice president of marketing at iCrossing. Follow him @davidjdeal.
[Image: Flickr user Carl Jones]