Saturday, February 13, 2010

McKee Comes Back for AMAHouston SIG and Dirkes Reviews His Book.

Laying pipe. It’s what this post does. Laying pipe for our February 26 Healthcare SIG seminar. Attendees will get plenty of advice and examples about “outside the box” marketing and ad campaigns – some from Steve McKee. Who has a book that’s more about management than marketing. Let’s start with this. (A later post will highlight the seminar itself.)

Aubrey Dirkes, who recommended McKee for this event, provided this review for Signalwriter.

Typically when the president of an advertising agency writes a book, the pages are filled with tales of glory about their special pixie dust. Hire their agency and you too will have memorable television ads. When Growth Stalls by Steve McKee, the president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland, isn’t that book. In fact he doesn’t mention a single ad by his agency, and the promotion “P” isn’t mentioned until the last 15 pages of the book. Luckily, he’ll be sharing his agency’s work at the Houston AMA Healthcare SIG meeting on February 26.

When Growth Stalls is really more like a series of executive coaching sessions for your management team. It is part “Good to Great,” part “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” and part personal diary all intertwined with recent editions of The Wall Street Journal. The result is a well-researched book that is timely and not only gives us the solace of knowing that every company stalls, but the hope that accompanies a step-by-step method to get growing again. Reading it reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from “The West Wing,” about the support a friend can provide.

The book acknowledges the reasons we blame for our company’s stall – the economic downturn, disasters, and other market forces that, in truth, our competitors face too. It then dives in to the real reasons that organizations of all sizes stall. This is a fitting discussion for the Healthcare SIG because of its direct correlation to the treatment of symptoms v. curing the patient’s problem. Both business and healthcare practice evidence-based approaches, and just as patient #1’s cancer is different from patient #2’s, the growth challenges of GE are different from those of Home Depot or Chrysler, and their treatment must take into account the individual or the result is disastrous.

The book identifies four reasons for stalling: A lack of consensus from leadership; a lack of focus; a loss of nerve; and inconsistent marketing. When the ground shakes, any one of these can cause an organization to stall. Worse, the failure of one can lead to the slippery slope that results in the failure of all four.

In the book there are great, real-world examples from different industries on how each can lead to stall. In your very real-world environment, where every aspect of the healthcare world is up for debate, I encourage you to give careful consideration to these factors before it is too late. (In my own experience I have had clients suffering from one or all with expensive repercussions.)

The subtitle of the book is How it happens, Why you’re stuck, and What to do about it. About half the book is dedicated to the last of these. It goes beyond the Mission/Vision/Values you all hang in your lobbies to define what success looks like, providing a measurable objective and a timetable that leadership can agree on, get behind and operationalize. After all, business, and healthcare, is about the acquisition and retention of customers. This will lead you to discussions about the importance of your people as the delivery devices for your brand and the compounding impact of your customers’ opinions and experiences. Then you are off to the races.

In reading this, you may say “obvious.”

I say “revolutionarily obvious” because the book will reaffirm the impact you can, and may need to, make within arms’ reach that will make all the difference.

Aubrey is a Philadelphia-based marketing consultant who creates successful customer acquisition and retention programs, brand experiences and award winning creative for hospitals and retailers nationwide. He plays 3x3 basketball in a barn built in the 1700s and refurbished in the 1870s. He interrupted shoveling 2,300 cubic feet of snow and helping four cars stuck in the snow on his street to send this book review to me. Steve, I hope you appreciate his sacrifice.


Aubrey Dirkes said...

Looks good. I like the expanded bio too, though I'm not sure the picture captures my best side ;-)

I hope the event is a big success.

Steve McKee said...

Thanks so much, Richard and Aubrey. Looks great!