#LookUp: The most important view for high-impact B2B marketers (with inspiration from Stephen Hawking)
Contributor Scott Vaughan explores some lessons taught by the influential cosmologist and explains how these ideas can be applied to your work in marketing.
I’m going beyond B2B marketing tactics in this column to challenge all of us, including myself, who can easily get stuck in the day-to-day grind, heads down.
Physicist, cosmologist and author Stephen Hawking died last month. There are so many lessons we can take from his legendary life and impact on society. Upon reflection, a major piece of advice that sticks with me in life and business is his advice to “remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.”
“Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist,” he encouraged. “Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”
These words couldn’t be more fitting for the times in which we now live and work. We’re a society that has our heads down. Lost in our technological devices, overserved with information and bamboozled with the pace of life, we’re not only missing what’s going on in the real world right in front of us, we’re stifling our potential.
To compound things, the “heads down, immersed in our tech” epidemic is creating significant health ramifications. Anatomical studies of kids – and adults – show our necks and backs are being re-shaped as a result of spending hours a day looking down at our phones. Further, I’d argue, with all this information at our fingertips, it’s substantially limiting our view of the world and what’s possible.
The same parallel in life can be made to business and marketing, specifically. Our success as marketers relies on the ability to forecast the future based on market trends and customer needs. We’re so busy caught up in the minutia – analyzing data, following and posting social media, executing programs and mastering tech – we’re losing our ability to get out in front of the markets we serve, products we develop and solutions we bring to market.
It’s time for a new view. We marketers need to lead by looking up and out to shape the future of our companies, even as the pace of change in life and business continues to accelerate.
Here are a few ideas and some inspiration to re-prioritize and re-wire for more impact and a more satisfying lifestyle (holding the mirror up).
Get out of the office and spend time in your customers’ world
There’s nothing more impactful than face-to-face interaction: listening, learning and experiencing your customer’s world, needs and aspirations. When you do this you can work to not only solve short-term needs, but also partner to help customers look out and build a smarter business, apply better, more scalable, processes, and unearth new opportunities using your solution.
Better yet, go experience the worlds inhabited by your customer’s customers and understand how your products and services can help your customer drive more value to their customer. This ability to look beyond the day-to-day differentiates your company, your solution and you and your colleagues as professionals. This is where transformation can happen.
Conduct a “future mapping” effort with your peers, execs and partners
One of the most valuable processes I’ve implemented is future mapping. This effort looks out 3, 5 or even 10 years with end state scenarios. These scenarios are developed by imagining what society, business and the world look like at a specific time in the future, and then determining what events, needs, products and trends are likely to arise, given this environment. This exercise opens the minds of the team members that participate in this effort.
Future mapping also can re-shape your go-to-market strategy, the way you target customers, the products and solutions you develop and which markets you do and don’t do business in. This is game-changer kind of stuff that complements the exemplary work you and your team do every day to drive the business forward.
Take time off to go explore something brand new
Inspirations come from many things – people, places, other markets, to name a few. Some of my best, breakthrough moments have come:
- After I’ve stepped off the day-to-day hamster wheel and cleared my head.
- When I’ve visited a city or country with different mores, values and lifestyles, where we get to see, hear, taste and experience different things.
If you’re inspired by Hawking, go on a mountain or desert retreat where you can literally view other galaxies, stars and planets. Or simply go visit and immerse yourself in other industries and markets that you can learn from. For example, many B2B marketers have shared that sitting down with B2C companies have energized them to adopt a more human-centric marketing approach.
One of the most effective things I’ve seen, which takes little effort, is tapping into “outside voices.” I worked for a CEO who mandated we bring in or visit at least ten companies a year to learn how they do things and the way they think. Workshops, visits and dinner sessions are all valid ways to exchange ideas and information we simply can’t get via the web, reading documents or clearing email.
Look up and out
We’re at our best when we’re thinking ahead, mining the future for potential and navigating dangerous waters that lie ahead.
While we typically are, and need to be, data-driven in business, we have so much more to be by looking up and out to what’s possible. Hawking was a brilliant scientist and thinker, but an even more inspirational person. “Look up at the stars” is grand advice to inspire us to reach the full potential for our companies, our teams and our lives!