MCI was a powerful company in the 1990s. And while MCI was known for producing very cool advertising – unfortunately, the business results never seemed to match the messaging “creativity.” This is just one example – how about the many $1 million plus Super Bowl ads that have produced a lot of attention but virtually no results.  Some of these advertisers were start-up companies that wasted their entire promotional budgets on just one advertisement.  Clever yes… effective, no.  Good marketing…hardly.

Perhaps the most famous example of the difference between driving action and generating accolades comes from the civilizations of ancient Rome and Greece.  There were two contemporary orators: Cicero the Roman and Demosthenes the Greek. When Cicero spoke, the crowd exclaimed, “Great message. Awesome speech. Powerful oratory. We agree with everything you said.” Cicero was known, adored and acclaimed far and wide.

Demosthenes did not receive similar accolades when he gave a speech.  However, when Demosthenes spoke, the people shouted, “Let us march!” Therein lies the difference.  While one orator generated tons of accolades, the other caused people to act (march).

Your version of motivating prospects to march can be getting them to register for an offer, buy your produce, send you referrals, etc.  But in all cases, the action should be measurable and based on solid marketing and sales metrics. To improve your ability to motivate action, start by asking these three important questions:

  1. Is your CEO a rock star, where the attention is focused more on his or her magnetic personality than the company?  There are some notable exceptions (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Jack Welch) where the focus on the individual translates to a tremendous benefit to the company.  But make sure your goal is new business, not building a cult of personality of the CEO.
  2. Is your messaging and communication strategy aimed more at pleasing the executive suite or your potential prospects?  Only the latter matters to the bottom line.
  3. Are you letting your search for perfection stop you from delivering a steady stream of consistent and compelling messages?    If so, remember the Voltaire quote: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Don’t try to be perfect; rather, put all your focus on driving action.

I hope you enjoyed our brief walk through the past and how it applies to the modern art of marketing.  May the fruit of your labors (and your marketing budget) bring you plenty of action — not just accolades.