When England’s Lionesses beat Germany 2-1 with a dramatic extra-time winner to lift the Euro 2022 trophy, the nation witnessed a joyous scene – images that will live on. But most viewers will be unaware of the years of hard work which went into securing the title.
Such a moment embodies high performance, but while we might remember 20% of visible success such as this, what really matters is the 80% of work done day in, day out beforehand. For employees in any field of work, the same principle holds true.
In the world of marketing, 80% of effort might be manifested in understanding what moves the audience, harnessing data, bringing a creative brief to life, and mitigating risks to create a campaign which makes an impact and moves the needle. The audience might respond positively to the resulting primetime TV spot – the impressive 20% which captures their attention – but they will have no idea of the work that has gone into ensuring that it is emotive, engaging and timely.
Sarah Chatterton, director of marketing EMEA at enterprise work management platform Smartsheet, says the less glamorous 80% of effort in marketing is rooted in tools and processes. “It’s true that only 20% ends up being seen by the audience but making that work fly relies on having that slick back end, such as reporting dashboards and real-time insights, enabling marketers to understand how that is affecting their brand.”
She adds that having that immediate visibility around performance also empowers marketers to have meaningful conversations with different internal audiences, whether with the senior leadership team, the CFO or the creative team, to demonstrate and communicate success. “Marketers need all of that information at their fingertips to ensure that the resulting 20% makes an impression, and to achieve – and sustain – high performance.”
Being top of your game
But first, companies must recognise what high performance means – and what it looks like within their organisation. Stuart Ramsey, who has worked with the Football Association and with the British team in three Olympic Games, and is now head of brand partnerships at Socios, believes high performance is about getting the best out of people in every part of their life. “It’s about empowering and enabling individuals to be their best selves,” he says in a new report by Smartsheet entitled ‘What It Takes to Win’.
British yachtswoman Pip Hare, also quoted in the report, adds that “it means achieving the absolute best results you can with the resources you have”.
These features hold true as much in marketing as they do in the sporting arena, and Chatterton says being able to see the big picture is key. “Training yourself to become a high-performing marketer means setting yourself up for success by really understanding your brand narrative, your competition, what your product profit margins are, where the biggest gains are to be had, the company’s revenue goals, and what sales leaders are trying to achieve so you can collaborate. It means learning about the wider organisation and understanding how marketing can best support that.”
Having access to quality data is critical but, as Chatterton points out, data is useless without understanding exactly what you are trying to achieve.
“You need very clear campaign objectives, and that should link very closely to the business strategy. You must also ensure that the CFO and sales leaders understand why you are running those campaigns. Being able to access up to date data to support and verify this gives you confidence that you are making the right decisions.”
Data is also pivotal to enabling marketers to keep improving incrementally, which is key to high performance. As Ramsey says: “High performers care about every detail.”
Data empowers marketers to learn quickly and pay attention to every element, Chatterton adds. “Technology allows us to pivot quickly, identify trends quickly and rectify mistakes quickly; we can use it to recognise a problem, understand the solution and implement it faster.”
Playing home and away
At a time when businesses are under pressure from economic uncertainty, companies need to ensure that employees are performing at their optimum. The hangover from the pandemic is also still in evidence, as companies grapple with flexible working and changing requirements from employees. Understanding and creating the right working conditions – and ultimately culture – to drive high performance is a much-debated issue, and one in which technology plays a central role.
Ramsey says he has seen athletes up their game on the field of play because they are part of a team. “Some of those sports can feel lonely, but as soon as [the athlete] puts on the jersey, they are teammates who train together and socialise together.” That shared vision and sense of working towards a common goal also underpins a successful corporate culture.
Technology allows us to pivot quickly, identify trends quickly and rectify mistakes quickly.
At a recent roundtable during Marketing Week’s Leadership Summit, held under the Chatham House rule, one marketer made the point that culture could be a positive spiral: “Culture is something you create when people are in the office, but it’s also a reason for people to come to the office. It’s reinforcing.”
Another marketer raised the issue of the challenges of remote and hybrid working on company culture: “When you haven’t ever met people face to face, how do you build that culture and get people [invested in] your mission and your vision?”
As many companies are discovering, technology is key to enabling and sustaining a strong and distinctive culture at a time when many employees continue to work on a hybrid basis. If you’ve got an hour’s Zoom call with someone, try to “carve out five or 10 minutes to find out about them as a person” and “recreate the kind of coffee moment chat to build a relationship with someone virtually”, one roundtable participant advised.
As younger generations enter the workplace, different communications styles are also evident, particularly as some new recruits have never experienced office life. Chatterton says building a successful modern culture means marrying both ends of the spectrum. “It goes back to embracing different tools and technologies to bridge that gap.”
As another marketer at the Leadership Summit acknowledged, organisations must find ways of making culture work virtually: “Some of us might not enjoy chatting on Google or Teams, but actually, [for] the junior members, that’s their preferred method of communication. They’d much rather send chats and Hangouts than ever pick up the phone. They’re creating communities and connections – they’re just not doing it in the way we used to do it.”
In a fractured workplace, tools are central to creating a positive culture and, in turn, driving high performance. Companies who are recognising and harnessing this to embrace a diverse range of employees across different ages and preferences are thriving.
As Ramsey says: “If you’re stuck on Zoom all day, more informal tools like Slack can help bring those ‘watercooler moments’ back, even across different time zones.”
The world is changing, times are tough, and the pressure is on. As Smartsheet’s report demonstrates, bringing out the best in yourself and your team relies on recognising how work management technology can drive high performance every day, supercharging the 80% to make the 20% that much sweeter.