Fear and Marketing in Business Growth

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Fear and Marketing in Business Growth

In this evergreen article, Johannes Hoech explains why managing fear connects to marketing effectiveness.

Emotions are powerful and the biggest emotional motivator of all is fear. There are two types of fear. The first is real. It gets triggered when facing actual, life threatening situations. The second is psychological—these are things we make up in our own minds because we’re afraid of failure, losing a job or missing an opportunity.

Regardless of what we might tell ourselves our businesses, jobs and teams are not immune to self-induced fear. For example, you could argue that much of the power struggle between organizations such as sales and marketing, executive politicking, or low team morale originate from fear-driven thoughts, which color our perception of reality and the way we treat each other. Our fears affect both our individual well-being as well as the businesses we are a part of, often resulting in poor decisions and strategies.

In leadership, figuring out how to drive growth isn’t only about MBA-school topics such as go-to-market strategies, pipeline management, or differentiation and messaging. It’s also about managing fear—fear and anxieties in your own mind and the minds of your friends and colleagues.

Strategic Thinking Derailed by Fear

Many organizations continue to treat marketing as if it’s only role is tactical, short-term and to generate immediate leads for their sales teams. A study performed by Accenture found that 37% of the 535 global-company CEOs who responded to the survey said that their CMOs would be the first fired if corporate growth targets weren’t met.

This type of short-term thinking is detrimental to marketing effectiveness. It emanates from fear and it creates fear, killing the creativity and innovative problem solving mindset required to drive growth. It can increase a marketing team’s anxiety about losing jobs, making them tactical and reactive. In other words, the fear created by the short-termism culture manifests into the poor results the business is hoping to avoid. It introduces a vicious cycle of underfunded and poorly planned marketing initiatives resulting in lead-starved sales teams and missed growth expectations, which lead to more budget cuts and so on.

“I blame it more on a business culture,” says Peter Field, author of an IPA report that analyzes campaign creativity and effectiveness. “Marketers often [understand the need for long-term thinking] but their problem is they cannot convince the CFO, who is saying ‘I don’t give a damn about the long term, I just want a good quarter’. It is unreasonable to expect marketers to address the long term when their jobs and livelihoods are on the line.”

Instead, business leaders need to understand that marketing is both a marathon and a sprint, and to deliver results needs a steady hand at the tiller with enough runway to succeed. It takes strategic thinking and long-term planning, as well as attention to short and medium-term lead generation. It doesn’t always produce overnight success, especially for startups who do not have brand recognition or more than a handful of customers. And so organizations have to be realistic about how much money it takes to generate $1 of new growth.

Key points include:

  • Strategic thinking derailed by fear
  • Understanding fear as an inhibitor to growth

  • Self-Awareness is key to confident leadership

Read the full article, What does Managing Fear Have to do with Marketing Effectiveness?, on LinkedIn.