Culture

Team You.


Last week I posted some ideas about how to shake off the torpor and malaise of Q1-2019 in the digital ad/marketing business. Today I’m speaking to managers and sales leaders.  This is a moment where you can (and should!) reshape your relationship with your team. What looks like a rough patch is actually a garden of possibility.

Whether you’re a CRO, a regional manager, a vertical category lead or even a project captain, there are some immediate, tangible and highly effective moves to be made.

STAQ is generously underwriting this week’s Drift. STAQ’s Industry Benchmarks provides actionable insights into your programmatic performance compared to the broader marketplace. This week’s market level insight: Open auction hits 90% of total programmatic revenue in January and February of 2019, a level not crossed in any month in 2018. Join STAQ’s Industry Benchmarks today.

No Group is Too Small for a Culture. Those who wait for the company to define and establish a culture and values for their teams are inevitably frustrated. Think of the sales team you lead (and don’t forget the account managers and others who support!) as if it were a platoon. Unit cohesion is everything, and Team You is looking to you – their leader – for inspiration and guidance. Engage them (in a group and individually) with these questions: As a team, what do we believe? And How do we treat one another? It won’t all happen at once, but it will begin to happen immediately.

Manage the Moments. If you think management is about the reviews you conduct and the meetings you lead, think again. What you do – occasionally – in the big moments pales in importance beside what you do in all the little ones. Are you pausing and getting your team members to bring answers along with the problems? Are you leading conversations with optimism and patience? Are you summoning the discipline to be completely clear with your employees? Like parenting, management is not something you can schedule.

Reinvent the Meeting. When you do bring your team together, put some real thought and planning into it. Do in a team meeting what you can only do in a team meeting. Don’t waste time reviewing numbers and facts. Decide. Question. Plan. Prioritize. Collaborate. If there’s no strong verb associated with your meeting, it’s not serving your needs or your culture.

Don’t Scrimp on the Inspiration. Statistically, most of us don’t sit in the pews on Sunday anymore, but we are joining the Church of TED in record numbers. There has never been more thoughtful motivation available than there is right now, all with a mouse click. Real people are overcoming real adversity and re-framing business and leadership practices, and they’re giving it to us for free. Program a 5-minute video or short article into your team meetings, along with some discussion time. You may get an eye-roll or a cynical comment along the way, but stay with it. For strugglers, it’s hope; for performers, it’s fuel.

Team You won’t just happen. It takes work and discipline. But it’s your most impactful – and controllable – driver of success.

A customized sales strategy workshop for your team is easier and more cost-effective than you might think. And it may be the key to not only performance, but retention of your best people. Visit www.upstreamgroup.com/workshops or reach out directly to learn more.


The New Normal?


Understanding our business by following the recent headlines about digital publishers is like learning civics by binge-watching cable news.  Yes, there are real issues and struggles. But there is also a fair bit of handwaving, amplification and ginned-up drama.

Yes, it’s awful if your job was eliminated in your company’s recent RIF.  Yes, it sucks if the company’s recent pivot and reorg means you’re now doing a job you don’t like quite as much.  And yes, it’s lousy that your firm has gotten a big haircut in its valuation.

But no, this is not the beginning of the end.

STAQ is proudly underwriting this week’s Drift.  STAQ’s Industry Benchmarks provides insights into programmatic performance compared to the broader marketplace.  This week’s insight: video units are being sold at an average of 6x higher CPMs than display ($8.46 vs $1.26), while PMPs for video are 2.5x higher than Open Auction ($16.86 vs $6.93).  Join STAQ’s Industry Benchmarks today.

It will sound simplistic and reductive, but having spent a full quarter of a century in digital media has given me some perspective on our latest crisis of confidence.  And since perspective seems to be in short supply just now, let me share.

Hegemony is Not Forever.  We were once assured that winner in digital advertising was Netscape.  (I’ll pause while you look it up.)  Since then we’ve seen Infoseek, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and others come and go.  Consolidation is a fact of life – it has always been thus – but it’s also cyclical.  The biggest guys dominate everything for a while, and then the smaller, more specialized players make a comeback.

Don’t Think You Know.  Don’t compare your insides to everybody else’s outsides.  As we struggle with our own company’s glitches and limitations, we tend to romanticize the workings and success of others.  Having spent time in the backyards of close to 700 companies over the years, I can tell you that everybody has weeds and brown spots.

It’s About the Marketer, Stupid!  Put away your 2×2 competitive matrix and lose your copy of the latest analyst reports.  Obsessively pouring over The Racing Form won’t make your horse run any faster.  If you’re going to obsess, stay tightly focused on marketers and their immediate business problems.  There are audiences they can’t connect with and stories they can’t tell.  They’re confused and anxious and need your help.  Put your energy on them:  it’s their money.

People Matter.  Sure, great technology might win you some deals and make your company more valuable to investors and acquirers.  But the dirty little secret is that smart people paying attention to a quality process still matter.  A lot. Our customers are working with the lowest headcounts and brain-counts they’ve ever experienced.  Care enough and focus on the right things and you’ll earn far more than a spot on the plan… you’ll become an in-sourced department and you’ll be bulletproof.

Default to Action.   Every one of us has a finite amount of attention and energy.  Spend it worrying about your competitors or watching stock prices and industry headlines and see where it gets you.  Expect nothing…blame no one…do something.  You can’t control the outcome but you can control your own behavior and choices.  And feel great about the work you do…every day.


Death by the Half-Hour.


OK, so maybe it’s not actually one endless internal meeting that’s consuming your entire business day, draining your company’s resources and crushing the spirits of those around you.  But it can sure feel that way.

In most of the companies I work for, meeting culture is out of control.  Unnecessary meetings are needlessly scheduled, badly planned and horribly executed.  Instead of providing clarity and moving critical initiatives forward, meeting culture creates even more confusion and uncertainty.  Its principal outcome is more meetings.  As a public service, here are a few rules and questions to help you end the madness of meeting culture and make the meetings you do end up holding productive and empowering.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Voicera. Are your teams 100% focused?  Do you wish your teams had a 100% accurate Salesforce?  Sign up for Voicera and give them EVA; the Enterprise Voice AI.  Eva listens, takes notes and automatically updates Salesforce!  Act now and get special discounted pricing as a reader of The Drift.  Visit www.voicera.com/upstreamgroup.

Do We Even Need a Meeting?  The best meetings are sometimes the ones we don’t have at all.  Many of your meetings are automatic:  the weekly update, the kickoff meeting for the project and so on.  Before hitting send on that calendar invite, ask the question:  can we accomplish what we need to do without bringing everyone into the same physical or virtual space?  You’ll be surprised how often the answer is yes.

Don’t Use Meetings to Convey Factual Information.  If you can write it down briefly and clearly, don’t call a meeting to tell people the exact same stuff.  And here’s a tip:  if they won’t read your emails, they’re probably not going to really hear you in the meeting either.  The problem may be your own.

Answer “Why?” With a Verb.  Always ask “why are we having this meeting” (especially for the automatic ones) and challenge yourself to answer with an action verb.  Meetings should be about doing stuff.  Deciding.  Planning.  Prioritizing.  Choosing.  If the point of your meeting is to get everybody together or make sure everybody understands, then you’re setting up a pointless gathering.

Does It Have to Be a Half-Hour?  And Do We Need to Sit Down?  We always assume half-hour blocks for meetings, and we always book conference rooms.  A ten-minute stand up meeting can force clarity and action you won’t get around a conference table.

No Electronics.  If you simply have everyone leave their phones and laptops behind (or put them in a basket upon entering the meeting) you’ll have shorter, more productive meetings and breed a culture of respect and attention.  Knowing that no one else in the meeting is accessing their devices actually creates a sense of calm resignation.

No Hop-Ons.  There are almost always too many people in the meeting, and the reason they are there is too often political or based on fear of missing out.  Keep meetings as small and tight as possible.  And don’t be afraid to invite yourself to not attend a few of them.  You’ll be delighted by the new time you find on your own calendar.

This Drift was originally posted in May 2016.  For other ideas on how to reform your culture and recharge your organization, join us for The Seller Forum on Wednesday March 17th at the Viacom Building in New York. 


One Tiny Change.


If swapping out just a single word in your vocabulary would create enormous positive change in you and those around you – massively shift attitudes and perspective for the better – would you do it?  It will take discipline and consistency to normalize the new word, and it will feel awkward at first.  So…would you make the change?

You just need to start using the word for in place of other prepositions like in and to.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Voicera. Are your teams 100% focused?  Do you wish your teams had a 100% accurate Salesforce?  Sign up for Voicera and give them EVA; the Enterprise Voice AI.  Eva listens, takes notes and automatically updates Salesforce!  Act now and get special discounted pricing as a reader of The Drift.  Visit www.voicera.com/upstreamgroup.

For example, when composing your team or company mission, you might be tempted to write something like “Our goal is to be the best digital marketing company in the world.”  This may sound positive, but inherently it says there is a contest out there that we will win…we will be recognized…. we will be respected.  Being the best in the world….is about you.

But with one tiny change, your goal becomes being the best digital marketing company for the world.  It becomes about them.  It morphs from self-aggrandizement and recognition to generosity and service.

All day long, sales teams and the in-house marketing, technology and client service folks who support them focus on building and delivering the things that we can sell to the customer.  Small wonder that so many sellers feel a sense of creeping unease in their customer relationships; who wants to be thought of as a seller when selling seems to mean taking?

With the same tiny language change, we turn the whole thing around.  Instead of selling to the customer, we’re selling for the customer…. building for the customer… creating for the customer.  The relationship is no longer a transaction we hope to win, no longer a beauty contest in which we hope to end up with the crown.  It becomes about the work.  About deserving the client’s trust, respect and – ultimately — their investment.

In an age of ubiquitous video and visual overkill, this focus on words may seem dated. But words matter.  And in the culture you’re aiming to create and the career you are aspiring to enjoy, your words will either work against you…or they will work for you.

This Drift was inspired by my good friend Charlie Thomas, legendary seller and digital sales executive who has always been a great source of inspiration and ideas. 


Culture for Lunch.


Culture for LunchAs part of our Leadership agenda at next month’s Seller Forum, we’ll we hosting an interactive discussion called ‘Culture Doesn’t Just Happen.’ With that in mind, I’m reposting a few thoughts on culture from May 2010.

Organizational guru Peter Drucker famously wrote that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Our industry as a whole has a big job ahead when it comes to instilling an empowering culture – a task that’s equally critical to individual companies and teams.  Here are two quick suggestions for any business leader — agency, media owner, service provider, whatever — who’s looking to create a winning culture in the digital media, marketing and ad-tech world.

Engagement: When I look into the eyes of young people in our business, I too often see a weary detachment, a sense that this is all temporary.  Very few feel a real sense of engagement or belonging to their companies.  Read some of Gallup’s work in this area (“Engaged Leadership” is a good start) and pay attention:  the difference between “I’m a part of this!” and “I’m out of here!” is actually pretty subtle.

Compensation: Think creatively and holistically about compensation; it’s very rarely all about dollars and options.  Have a conversation with your employees — individually — about the things that would make their lives easier and more enriched.  Your support of a personal charity, a non-traditional work schedule, the pursuit of a personal ‘big idea’ or achievement can be worth far more than the additional cash the marketplace is using to woo your best people away.

Without great culture, great technology or ideas rarely succeed over the long term.  The active disruption of staff attrition and the quiet crisis of employee disengagement are too strong of an undertow.  Look up from the quarter you’re in the middle of and look into the eyes of your team members.  An empowering culture is not something that just happens.

If you lead a national or regional digital media sales organization request your invitation to the Fall Seller Forum – “Leadership is Not Optional” — or call us at 802.985.2500 for more details. Two thirds of our available spots are already taken, so save yours today.