How to spread ideas in a networked organization

Way back in the 1990s, the Nortel brand touted “A World of Networks.”

That world is obviously here now.

B2B services companies are doing all they can to become more flexible, autonomous and responsive. They want to be more like networks.

As a result, marketing ideas proven in local markets now can be plucked from relative obscurity and adapted for global use faster and more effectively than ever before. As we work with one such global network, a few lessons from the front line:

Be clear about brand behavior: Have a clear brand proposition that suggests expected behavior: Imagination, Fun, Efficiency are good examples. Quality, Service, Trusted Advisor are not because they are too broadly generic: Quality how? Trust me why?

Appeal to profits: Dispersed operations all have one thing in common: The desire and drive to make money. Marketing is not Sales, of course, but in trying to get a network to adopt a particular initiative it is helpful to be clear how the strategy or tactic will help those in the field to improve their chance to close a sale. Then internally broadcast successes.

Boldness as a beacon: As in a corporate environment, great ideas often start small and build momentum. The key in a network is to activate those with the skills and drive to take an idea and champion it. You’ll be appealing to their self-interest and entrepreneurial zeal. So, make bold challenges: “We’re going to create a global training program with one of the top 3 international business schools and put 20% of our staff through it in the first year and do it without a budget.” (On a recent project, 3 partners from around the world immediately volunteered).

Provide a forum: Always look for excuses to bring people together. We used this technique during a recent positioning engagement to help build consensus for a final brand decision. Their input was invaluable but perhaps even more so the creation of an infrastructure of partner-champions who were a critical to guide the implementation that followed.

Guideline: Ideas may work well in one locality or region but not another. If there is value to the concept , boil it down to its most critical elements. Provide a template or guideline (instructions) on how to create those elements and allow other local markets to adapt to their markets.

The “world of networks?” It is all based on clear communications.

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