Got Ideas?

If not, don't worry! Your workers do, so make them your marketing team.

Want to know who's really responsible for marketing your company? Think beyond your ad agency or marketing department, because every employee contributes to the achievement of your company's sales goals, from your executives and advisory committee, to your receptionist, office staff and plant workers. Everyone plays an important and specific role-and it all begins with you.

Successful entrepreneurs communicate goals, give their people a clear vision of the future and make everyone in the company aware of their marketing promises. You're chiefly responsible for motivating your entire staff to work as a marketing team by promoting both your vision and the benefits employees will earn by helping you achieve it.

Where Good Ideas Begin

The best way to start is by setting up multiple idea channels within your company. Allowing people to submit ideas only in circumscribed ways-such as through a suggestion box-will sorely limit their contributions. Instead, make it clear that you're open to ideas on any topic, at any time. Also, institute formal idea-generation practices, such as brainstorming sessions comprising diverse teams drawn from all areas of your organization-not just marketing and sales. When evaluating ideas, consider potential results first, then examine them for feasibility. Einstein once said, "If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it." And who are we to argue?

Acknowledge and reward all ideas, reserving the biggest rewards-including financial incentives-for those employees who generate ideas that pay off. Not all rewards, however, should be monetary. A private thank you note or conversation will often suffice, or you can give an employee a new and exciting project or more responsibility in his or her existing job.

Public celebrations and symbols of success also motivate employees and keep morale high. Years ago, when I served as the director of development for a marketing communications agency, I kept a pair of indoor roller skates under my credenza and donned them whenever we won a new account. The sight of me skating through the halls, suit and all, signaled that our team's ideas had rolled over the competition. That would, in turn, set off celebrations and congratulations throughout the firm. Together, we grew the agency from a staff of 18 to about 120 employees in a little more than four years.

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Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.

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This article was originally published in the October 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Got Ideas?.

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