Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, cites in his book Winning a comment made by an appliance worker in which he stated, “For twenty five years, you paid me for my hands when you could have had my brain as well – for nothing.” The worker stated this to Welch during one of the Work-Out sessions, where top performers from all facets of the company were encouraged to share ideas and best practices in a candid and open fashion with members of the executive team at GE. Welch, a man of great intelligence and innovation, saw long before the advent of social media the fact that those who comprise a company were not just laborers, but also a pool of talent that, when treated with respect and dignity, could unleash a powerful force within a company.
Welch coined this as “boundarylessness”, a brainstorming in which a no-holds-barred discussion was not just encouraged, but rewarded. Although this was part and parcel throughout the company all year long, its foundation culminated at the Work-Out sessions which Welch describes as responsible for “the most profound changes in GE during [his] time.”
Today, most companies on the cutting edge of go-to-market strategies that take advantage of Web 2.0 elements to drive product sales and awareness, take a similar approach. At Hubspot, the leader in inbound marketing, everyone at the company is encouraged, but not compelled, to blog. In the modern world where content is king and strict adherence to grammatical structure is less of a concern, small to medium size companies will benefit greatly by having the same policy in place.
Yet large companies with so much human capital available, it may not be wise or even manageable to encourage all members to contribute in such a way. This practice would likely result in so much information that duplication was inevitable and content quality would suffer. If such a situation arose, it would hurt the company’s ability to create quality content customers and prospects would value, which is the foundation of SEO and inbound marketing.
With a hybrid of Welch’s Work-Outs and the modern marketing need for high quality and large quantities of online content, a fantastic opportunity is available for every company on levels Welch may never have imagined. Such a hybrid is called Competitive Content Creation. This strategy will take the most knowledgeable and innovative minds within a company and encourage as well as reward any efforts they are willing to put forth to share their insights with the world.
This is how it is done:
- Segment a company’s best performers based upon objective and clear criteria.
- Reward top performers in a public and meaningful way.
- Create a corporate environment in which candid and honest discussion of products, services, and policies is commonplace.
- Encourage the top performers to blog regarding what they do to fulfill their customers’ needs, address gaps in their markets, product improvements, explain why customers’ value their insights, and any other facets of their expertise they are willing to share.
- Make the path to publishing this content as easy and efficient for the writer as possible.
The key to this strategy is in the culture of candid and honest discussion about a company’s products and services as well as the need to make the process easy and efficient for the writer to publish his or her ideas.
This process would not work without a culture of honesty and the sincere knowledge that an employee’s candid feedback will not result in punishment or backlash. In this new Age of Knowledge, inevitably there are no secrets in customer relations. Embrace this fact and conduct business accordingly. Those that do will thrive. Those that do not will perish.
This must be engrained into the fabric of corporate culture or efforts to truly think innovatively, grow, and adapt to the ever changing business environment of today will be stunted. As stated by Welch, “[T]he more polite and bureaucratic or formal your organization, the more your candor will scare and upset people, and, yes, it could kill you.” This will be reflected in the content created and severely damage a company’s ability to appear as the authority.
One must also remember that salesmen, line workers, product managers, and others are often not refined writers, and in fact may be intimidated by the idea of blogging. Do not let this happen. Modern marketers in the new Web 2.0 world must create tools that propel top performers and make them comfortable with sharing their knowledge and insights.
The new content driven go-to-market strategy in a large corporate environment will be driven by Competitive Content Creation. By combining the genius of Jack Welch with the realities of modern marketing, organizations can maximize their marketing efforts and win.
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