When I’m not speaking at conferences, I sometimes teach masterclasses to help marketers raise their boardroom profile.

Not long ago, a technology firm asked me to extend one of my marketing leadership keynotes into a class for 30 of their senior marketing clients. The firm had come to realise that the best marketing software goes nowhere unless marketers get buy-in internally. I couldn’t agree more.

Why waste money on artificial intelligence in online campaigning when your sales team keeps filling your customers’ inboxes with uncoordinated parallel emails? Why install fancy customer experience software when your front-line staff are demotivated and treat people accordingly?

Success as a marketing leader is mostly about mobilising others – but many marketers find mobilising difficult.

What I didn’t know was this marketing leadership masterclass would become one of my most memorable ever.

We kicked off with some group therapy, complaining about how difficult things are in marketing. “We’re currently going through a massive transformation” was the most commonly heard sentence. Change, it seems, is the new normal in marketing.

After shifting into productive mode, we analysed marketing’s zone of influence and tested powerful marketing leadership techniques like storytelling, walking the halls, and co-creation.

The highlight of this masterclass, however, came at the end when participants got up one at a time in front of the whole group to give a ‘change’ speech for all staff. These were very personal talks about where people wanted their organisation to go: why, how, and what’s next.

The first two speeches went well, earning friendly applause. The third talk stopped everybody in their tracks. A young B2B hardware marketer stepped to the front. An introvert, she hadn’t been too visible during the class, and people didn’t know what to expect. How exciting could B2B hardware be?

For a moment she collected her thoughts, and then she stunned everybody. In a short speech, she appealed to her company’s staff to bring back what she believed mattered most for their customers: pride.

She shared the story of a customer who talked with enthusiasm about his new toolkit. “I didn’t realise how personally important our tools are for customers – how proud they can make them.”

She concluded with a series of initiatives that would add to the customers’ sense of pride: more confident packaging, bolder design, aspirational sales catalogues, supportive call centre dialogues, and a new customer-exchange network. “We must always remember: when our tools make people proud, we’re unbeatable.”

You could hear a pin drop when she ended. And then enthusiastic applause broke out. When I asked for feedback, one participant hit the nail on the head: “It seemed like you really mean it.”

How to inspire others

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