The public safety market isn’t all that big. Spotting the organizations that find marketing success in this sector is easy if you have enough experience.
RedFlash has been helping clients understand and reach public safety leaders for more than two decades. We’ve seen our share of fast risers and equally swift disappearance acts. Having the benefit of observing this sector evolve with the times, we’ve got a pretty good idea of how marketing principles help organizations achieve staying power in the industry.
What do successful organizations do to stay connected to their public safety audiences and optimize the effectiveness of their marketing efforts? Here are six key insights.
1. Break Through Your Silos
Every large organization has silos. They’re not ideal. But that’s just the nature of the corporate world.
Whether these organizational silos are operational/functional (sales, marketing, product, customer service) or industry/audience (public safety, healthcare, transportation), they all exhibit the same symptoms and cause the same problems.
The main symptom of organizational silos is a lack of communication. Product people mostly talk to other product people, sales folks talk to other sales folks. The same goes for most other divisions and teams. In siloed organizational environments, people rarely cross boundaries or share ideas across departments.
This lack of communication and information sharing often manifests itself in a host of redundancies and inefficiencies.
Imagine two sister product teams trying to register for the same conference or trade show. If they don’t coordinate, they’re likely to step all over each other’s toes. They may end up paying more in sponsorship fees or miss opportunities for more exposure and greater benefits that pooling their resources would allow. Plus, that’s two separate people working to book the same conference — one person can easily get the job done for both teams.
In public safety, the various branches collaborate all the time when responding to emergencies. They are separate. But they’re able to work together seamlessly. They’re siloed. But they train to act together in pursuit of a common goal.
Successful marketing organizations often follow the same approach. They don’t necessarily dismantle their silos. They chip away at the walls by pursuing better systems of information sharing, encouraging collaboration and creating better awareness.
2. Welcome Input, but Be Decisive
Collaboration is good. But you can have too much of a good thing.
When it comes to effective decision making, it pays to know when to stop talking and start taking action. Great marketing teams know they don’t need to build consensus for every decision. They just need to make sure they have input and feedback from all relevant stakeholders.
At RedFlash, we encourage our clients to collaborate internally, get lots of people to the table and have the debate — but not waste too much time getting everyone to agree. The debate is the important part.
We’re partial to the advice offered by Patrick Lencioni, President of The Table Group and author of The Advantage. Healthy conflict is how companies stay healthy. You want those diverging ideas and differing opinions.
Get all options on the table, discuss the pros and cons of each, then move quickly to make the best decision.
It’s also important to note that in good marketing organizations, those decisions are being made as close to the operational level as possible. Smart executives hire good marketing talent and let them do what they do best.
And that’s related to our next key to success.
3. Invite and Listen to Feedback
Having as much information as possible is not only useful in making marketing decisions, it’s also critical to form an accurate picture of your marketing capabilities and competencies. Great marketing organizations strive to know themselves as much as they know their customers.
Customers are an important source of information. And you want to stay as close as possible to them. But scouting yourself requires more than just talking to this very important group. You have to explore the perspectives of everyone who is impacted by your business.
To gain a 360-degree view of your marketing organization, you need to talk to all stakeholders — partners, distributors, consultants — and anyone else who knows your business well. And you may want to make this a regular habit.
All these perspectives will help you to identify the skill sets you need but might be missing from your team. Experienced marketing leaders aim to identify emerging needs early and move fast to acquire the right expertise. They also value the objectivity that outside perspectives provide and don’t hesitate to bring in consultants or an agency to help fill a gap.
Some organizations believe in doing everything in house. That’s not an unreasonable approach. But it’s not the most effective or efficient way to meet marketing goals. We advise our clients to focus on doing what they do well and find experts to help with the rest.
4. Know Your Purpose and Stick to It
We counsel our clients to avoid recency bias — what we call “the last conversation” phenomenon. It’s tempting to take the last thing you hear from a customer or a partner and assign it the most value. Suddenly, that’s the thing that you absolutely have to do.
Knowing yourself should help your organization achieve its goals. But recency bias tends to skew your perspective and take you off-course. Sometimes it leads to wild swings in what an organization cares about and the goals it pursues.
The purpose of your organization shouldn’t change. Your marketing strategy and tactics need to stay flexible. While technology and the way your customers access information will change constantly, your overall company mission has to stay the same.
How do you determine your organizational goals? You can usethese five questions to help orient your thinking:
- Why do we exist?
- What do we do?
- How do we do it?
- How do we succeed?
- What’s most important now?
Too often we see companies steer away from their vision in pursuit of change. Moving too far away from your company’s purpose is both challenging for your staff and confusing for your customers.
5. Take Appropriate Risks
A clear understanding of your organizational purpose empowers marketing teams to understand what changes are worth making. This allows them to respond to a shifting marketplace and take appropriate risk in applying new strategies and tactics.
Many companies move on inertia. They run the same marketing plays over and over, year after year. Typically, that’s not because the marketing team doesn’t have any fresh ideas. This is often a result of corporate leaders being afraid to take risks and make a mistake.
This is reflected in how organizations approach budgeting. If you over-prioritize stability, planning for next year is simple — just dust off last year’s plan, rinse, repeat. The more successful organizations, however, take a more intensive and purposeful approach to building an annual budget. These companies force themselves to debate nearly every aspect of their operation with a zero-based approach to budgeting.
They prioritize what we call change agility.
Starting from scratch every year makes you re-examine your assumptions and justifications for your current tactics and strategies. This also helps you to spot weaknesses and find new opportunities to serve your customers better. Companies that embrace a zero-based approach to budgeting tend to be more innovative and better able to manage risk. These companies tend to have more staying power and make more impact for their customers.
Public safety leaders — police chiefs, fire chiefs, EMS chiefs and 911 directors — all want to minimize risk. They prefer sticking to what they know. Understanding why your company is justified in taking a risk to develop a new product or service helps to explain why that product or service is actually a safe choice for your public safety customers.
6. Harness the Sales and Marketing Friction
We said a bit earlier that successful organizations embrace healthy conflict. A certain amount of tension is good for driving innovation, as competition tends to bring the best ideas to the surface.
Obviously, conflict can be destructive as well. And sometimes that’s a result of that siloed organizational mindset. A lack of communication can create unnecessary friction between sales and marketing. Sales teams feel like they’re not heard or supported properly by their marketing counterparts. And marketing teams feel like their data insights are ignored and their strategies and tactics misapplied in the field. Unmanaged tension sabotages the success of both teams and takes a bite out of your bottom line.
How do successful organizations navigate this friction better? By channeling that tension into more productive results.
Salespeople are indeed closer to the customer. They see their customers’ emerging needs and understand their pain points better. Often, that leads to impromptu sales techniques and unexpected ways of utilizing marketing resources. These insights may be based on anecdotal evidence but that doesn’t mean they’re not actionable.
Marketing teams have the means to test and model the sales teams’ field approaches. They can validate those hunches with data and, when appropriate, iterate a new set of resources to support new field methods.
Working together helps both teams adjust and optimize their tactics. But that requires building trust and another skill we mentioned previously — listening.
Effective Marketing Is Being Good at Communication
What’s the common thread that helps effective public safety marketing organizations be great at what they do? Good communication.
It’s always the simple things.
Good communication helps overcome the isolation and misunderstandings of organizational silos. Communication skills are critical in helping your company define its purpose, understand when and what risks are appropriate to take and be more efficient at making decisions. And they definitely help you be a better listener, which is necessary for cross-team collaboration and innovation.
If you want to be good at the things that make marketing great, be sure to prioritize communication throughout your marketing organization.
Need help applying these insights to your public safety marketing efforts? RedFlash Group can help you better leverage your communication expertise to reach public safety leaders.Let’s talk.