Friday, May 02, 2008

Friend of Simplicity - Tom Asacker

It is my great pleasure to introduce another 'Friend of Simplicity' - Tom Asacker who lives in Exeter, New Hampshire in the US.

Tom and I first came across each other ‘virtually’ about 6 years ago when Tom kindly sent me copies of his first two books ‘Sandbox Wisdom’ and ‘The Four sides of Sandbox Wisdom.’ Tom subsequently published the equally successful book
‘A Clear Eye for Branding.’

We have kept in touch ever since those early days of virtual communication and Tom is one of my first 'virtual' friends. Tom has often provided me with the wisdom of his advice.

In his ground breaking book 'Re-Imagine!' Tom Peters described Tom Asacker as a ‘Marketing Guru.’ You can see more about Tom here

TREVOR: Tom, I really appreciate you taking time out of your very busy schedule Tom to pass on the benefit of your wisdom to me and the readers of my Simplicity Blog. Tell us a bit about your career to date.

TOM: Thanks for inviting me Trevor. So, how much time do you have? It’s been quite a twisted and bumpy road. :) Upon graduating with a degree in Economics, I began my career with Burger King Corporation in their children’s marketing division. After a few years of clowning around, I left to join a high tech division of General Electric. I spent ten years there, during which time Jack Welch became CEO. He began to rapidly discard businesses that weren’t going to be number 1 or 2 in their industries which was our business unit so I participated in a management buyout of that company from G.E.

I eventually left that business to join a start-up medical device company as President and Director of Marketing. While there, I received a few patents and awards for innovation and design. The business was also eventually recognized by Inc. Magazine, MIT and YEO as a fast growth, innovative company. Any way, I ultimately had a vision collision with my non-operating partners, and so, I left. Are you beginning to see a pattern emerge? :)

I then started a strategic brand consultancy; wrote and published a book; wrote and published three more books; was increasingly asked to speak to organizations about my concepts; and . . . here we are today. I guess I followed the advice of the great 20th century philosopher, Yogi Berra: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

TREVOR: Many people in the UK work as single handers and struggle with how to effectively ‘market’ their work. Can you provide a couple of pieces of golden nugget advice on self marketing?

TOM: There’s really no difference between successful product and service marketing and self marketing. The key is to be other-focused and provide compelling value to ones audience. It requires a shift in mindset away from worrying what people think about you and your business, to being obsessed with how you make others feel about themselves and their decisions in your presence.

I don't know why so many people and organizations get this wrong, but I have a guess. I think it's because being genuinely interested in others, and working to understand their feelings and motivations, is tough: it's imprecise, messy, and time consuming. It's much easier and faster to talk about something that we know a lot about . . . us and our stuff.

It's also easier to simply bury our heads and focus on getting things done, isn't it? "Five sales calls to make . . . better get hustling!" "Two ads to create, as well as a capability brochure and a direct mail piece. No time to think." But guess what? That's great news for single handers who get it! Because by being other-focused and truly interested in their audience, they’ll stand out. Simply because no one else is doing it.

TREVOR: What companies do you rate highly as role models in effective marketing and why?

TOM: There are a handful doing it right, but none as effectively as Apple. Their products, retail outlets and marketing communication are all culturally relevant, aesthetically appealing and entertaining, and they do a great job of focusing on the customer’s identity and experience and bringing it to life instead of focusing on their products.

TREVOR: You are also an internationally renowned business speaker Tom – what makes an effective speaker?

TOM: An “effective” speaker in what way? In ones ability to make a lot of money as a speaker? That’s simple: become a celebrity. :) On the other hand, if you’re asking me how to effectively convey ones ideas to an audience through the spoken word, it’s pretty much the same as it has always been: ethos, pathos and logos. Establish your moral character and credibility, appeal to people’s emotions by connecting to their beliefs and values, and back up your appeal with facts and data. The main difference today is that you have to be much more entertaining and engaging to hold an audience’s attention.

TREVOR: You have received great recognition for your entrepreneurial and innovator skills. What advice do you have for those who feel there is an entrepreneur inside them ready to change the world?

TOM: They don’t need my advice, because if they truly have a passion for improving people’s lives, nothing can stop them. Passion sells! It’s not what you know or who you know that determines breakthrough success. It’s how much you care about others, how much you believe in your idea, and how stubborn you are. As Goethe wrote, “In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm . . . in the real world all rests on perseverance.”

TREVOR: What do you see as the main challenges for leaders and managers in large organisations in the next few years?

TOM: The main challenge is the mental shift that’s required when thinking about the marketplace for products, services, causes, ideas, etc. The fundamental notion that customers are rational actors, who are simply trying to optimize their individual marketplace choices, is defunct. Value can no longer be reduced to a simple relationship between benefits and price.

Today’s modern marketplace is about subjective well-being, as opposed to material gain. People are not only trading their time and money for products and services, they are also expecting happiness as an integral part of their experiences. As such, customers are constantly on the lookout for better “value.” They not only want the brands they choose to be reliable and fair, they also want them to look good, be good, and do good. Yes, they want to save time and money, but they also want to be uniquely acknowledged, involved and engaged.

So to stay relevant, organizations must evolve with customers’ evolving concept of value. They must frequently reinvent themselves to stay fresh and uniquely add value to the brand experience. It requires vision, belief in collaborative innovation, empathy for the customer, and a passion for experimentation.

TREVOR: Finally Tom do you have any plans to come to England so that I can buy you that pint of real English beer I owe you?

TOM: I don’t have any near term plans to visit, so why don’t you come over to my side of the pond. I’ll buy you a pint of real New England maple syrup. :)

TREVOR: It's a deal my friend! - Thanks again for your time.


Charles Rapson said...

How right and how simple it is really. Being focused on the customer and how well you serve them is not only logical its biblical ... and it works,

Trevor Gay said...

Well said Charles - maybe when Tom comes over here we can both buy him a beer :-)

JOHN O'LEARY said...

Terrific interview, Trevor! I love the idea of "ethos," "pathos," and "logos." (Ancient Greek was my college major.) Geez, what's not to love about Tom's approach?

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks for that John.

Tom is one of the kindest people I’ve come across in cyberspace. He sent me his two books free of charge all those years ago and has always been a good advisor to me. Everything Tom says is rooted in simplicity and common sense.

By the way I had an e mail returned saying your e mail address was not able to receive my mail - can you let me know what your e mail address is in case I got it wrong!

Cheers John

Anonymous said...

Great interview Trevor. tom is a very nice guy. He has been quite successful, but remains very centered. I think his advice about remaining passionate and getting others to wrap their minds around change is excellent. He states "So to stay relevant, organizations must evolve with customers’" I think that is brilliant. so many times businesses think that the customer has to shape themselves to the business. the real truth is that the business needs to evolve with the client base. Good stuff. I expect to see an interview with Sir Alex at some point.

Anonymous said...

Great interview Trevor. Marketing is an area that I've not really had to deal with up to this point and Tom's perspective is interesting and clear. I certainly understand the point about business needing to evolve wih the customer base. The customer-centric focus of the past decades has clearly created a culture of consumers however whose needs are ever more difficult to satisfy and less profitable to try to meet...."I want it unlimited for free". Couple this with the "new and cool" trumps brand loyalty attitude of the millenials evident in some industries will make it interesting to see how business reacts to those Thanks again for a great interview!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Rocky – you are so right - Tom is one of the nicest guys I know. Thanks for the suggestion for an interview with Sir Alex – he was already on my list – I will do my best to get an interview with him but he is a busy man at the moment of course!

Dave – good to hear from you. One of the biggest challenges for all businesses is how to work WITH the new well informed customer. We have to try and find ways to develop a partnership with the customer. The world has changed from the days when the customer was just a passive recipient of services and goods. The customer is now in charge (in fact I believe that has always been the case!)