This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
The simplest way to define marketing is "putting the right product in the right place at the right price at the right time." It sounds simple enough, and while the four Ps – product, place, price and promotion – are definitely important, they don't quite tell the whole story. There are other factors that help spell success or failure. These other factors, conveniently enough, fit into their own four Ps. So let's take a closer look at the oft-overlooked importance of people, personality, passion and play.
Any organization is, at its core, a collection of people and not products. It seems obvious, but is often forgotten, that people are the driving force behind every business. People develop the products, create the packaging, craft the catchy slogans and sell in the stores. Knowing this, it's baffling to see how many companies don't bother to create an environment where their employees can thrive. That could mean something as big as providing great compensation and benefits, or something small but significant, like the free food some technology companies provide to keep their employees content.
Happy employees can even help the bottom line in a very direct way. Good word-of-mouth is the best advertisement a company can get, while unhappy employees can torpedo a company's reputation like nothing else.
As a consumer, if you love a product and identify with a brand, you're likely to be a loyal and valuable customer. It's one of my firmest beliefs that people like to deal with companies that show a human side and have some personality. You don't have to look very hard for examples of brands that have enjoyed wild success because they feel so human. In the long run, authenticity can't be faked. If you want to create a human brand, you can't just throw a bunch of personality into your marketing. It needs to be real, it needs to come from within, from the people at all levels of your organization. For me, personality is one of the most important factors I look for when building a team. Qualifications and great grades are meaningless if they don't come with some interesting experiences and an amazing attitude.
Nobody wants employees who are just working for a paycheque. Like authenticity, passion can't be faked, or bought. A company has to foster passion by giving employees a purpose higher than just sales. Perhaps the best way to do that is to make people part of something bigger than the company. Use business as a force for good. Don't measure success solely on sales figures on a spreadsheet, but also on positive impact within the community.
At Virgin Mobile, we've created the RE*Generation movement to help fight youth homelessness in Canada. It's a cause we know our employees are passionate about – they've told us – and they're an important voice in this fight. We don't hire third-party street teams to raise awareness about the movement – our employees volunteer their own time to promote this initiative within the community.
The great thing about passion is that it shows. It starts internally with employees and flows out to customers. It's an amazing way to keep a brand strong, especially in markets where the brand is the only way to stand out in a sea of similar products and offerings.
There are times to be serious in business – quarterly numbers are no laughing matter – but you should also make time for play. Nothing is worse than going into an office and working silently all day. Encourage laughter! Take off the headphones and play the music loud, take a break for a game of ping pong and connect with your colleagues. Science agrees with this approach, with studies suggesting that laughter plays a crucial role in social bonding.
In the words of Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, "In this world, there is no reason to do something you don't like, so do what you like. There are possibilities everywhere. Find something which is near to your heart and go for it. Work is more than earning money, just as a company is more than just making money. It's the best of both worlds. Don't earn money to live, but earn money while you live the best life you can."
I see a lot of companies with one purpose: to maximize profit. What they sometimes forget is that the best way to do so is to have a passionate, dedicated and happy team who are doing business with the highest possible ethical standards. Achieving success in business is a tricky thing. The original four Ps, while tried and true, don't include every secret. Taking the time to nurture a well-balanced and happy team can not only make for a happier office life, but can also result in the kind of continued success you can see on a spreadsheet.