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The Barnacle

Like to Get to Know You Well

“Like to get to know you well.”

It’s like dating. Sales, that is. You are building a relationship and sharing a bit about yourself in the hope they’ll share something, too. A little give and take. Sometimes, the effort you put into the process doesn’t pay off. There could be something that doesn’t work between the two of you. An awkwardness you just can’t get around or a way of interacting that doesn’t sit well with you. It’s not that the effort and energy put into the process isn’t worth it or appreciated; it’s just not reciprocated. It’s not you; it’s me!

You get it.

Starting a relationship is hard work and often feels like a chore. Can’t this be any easier?

“Just want to get to the real you inside.”

We’ve previously discussed some early relationship tools that 2 Fish Company uses to develop a solid understanding between our clients and ourselves. We so strongly believe in the AcuMax Index that we refuse to work without it. While this tool helps us understand each other individually and gives us insights into how our group dynamics may work, it doesn’t tell us anything about the goals and aspirations of the client organization. And that information is often just as important as understanding how we think.

There’s another tool for that.

A few years back, Shelly and I attended an agency management retreat that helped us better understand how to set and express our own goals as agency owners. One of the presentations that created a lasting, positive change in our practices was about utilizing S.O.A.R. It was a game-changer! What’s S.O.A.R.? You’re all likely familiar with S.W.O.T. analysis. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats are assessed to help determine how an organization might move forward by naming, observing, and prioritizing the named items to address them in the coming year. S.W.O.T. is great! S.W.O.T. is easy! It is, however, designed to reflect upon what has happened. In other words, it’s a diagnostic tool based on lived experience that helps us understand what we’re good at, what our weaknesses are, what opportunities lie ahead, and what threats could stop our forward movement. It’s as focused on negative experiences and outcomes as it is positive.

S.O.A.R., however, is forward-thinking. It asks similar questions but accentuates the positive to create a future of possibilities. This tool invites us to assess our strengths, ruminate on our opportunities, name our aspirations, and determine what the results of our work could be. This tool is based on the practice of Appreciative Inquiry, so we’re not spending time on what went wrong. Instead, we’re spending time on what could go oh-so, right! S.O.A.R. is often used to help positively affect organizational change management, but its scope is easily adapted to scale.

2FC uses S.O.A.R. to jumpstart our client discovery process. Focusing solely on marketing activities, S.O.A.R. helps us get into the heads of our client partners and establish a basis of shared knowledge and goals to build our marketing efforts.

“So we can be one, together.”

We pair our S.O.A.R. analysis with another exercise we’ve come to call Self-Identity, and folks, this one is deceptively simple. It is so simple that clients are often confused, frustrated, and sometimes hostile to it at first. Of course, in the end, without fail, folks approach Shelly and me after the meeting to express how surprised they are about how effective and engaging the exercise is. I mean, we have a 100% conversion rate on this one, so you know it’s good.

Self-identity asks three questions: Who am I? Who is my customer? Who is my competition? Asking these three questions in this order almost always results in reams of those giant Post-It notes posted on the meeting room’s walls. The results are often surprising because—surprise—people within organizations start to form their ideas as to the identity of the organization they’re in, and those ideas often differ from their co-workers. Teams can wrestle with this new knowledge only by getting the information out in the air and on the page.

Then, we force rank the results. That’s right, out of all the responses, we ask our clients to determine—as a group—what the top three results will be focused on as we develop our marketing strategy moving forward.

The results? Often, organization-changing. They are always utilized in a marketing plan. The effort of the work helps us understand our clients, and in turn, the clients understand themselves better.

“People want to talk about the future, don’t want to linger on the past.”

So, now that we know each other better, what will we do about it? Spending time in the past perseverating over “what went wrong” is off the agenda. Now that we know each other and ourselves, we can move forward together, developing marketing strategies that positively impact our client’s bottom lines. Another side benefit is the development of trust. The client, you, can trust that we have your best interests at heart, and we trust that you’re fully engaged in the marketing process.

Sure, we’re big fans of market research, too, which often plays a critical role in developing marketing strategies that work. But investing in the outset of the relationship in exercises that have measurable benefits to the bottom line and our working relationship is worth the effort.

Special thanks to Howard Jones for the musical inspiration.