While we were at DMA 2012, we asked Craig Wood, current Chairman of DMEF, to share his thoughts with our readers. Craig is the founder and CEO of Clarity Group, a strategic consulting firm serving the customer relationship management and data-based marketing needs of non-profit and faith-based organizations. We have been impressed with Craig’s leadership contributions to DMEF, and we thought readers would be interested in his point of view.
EC: After a 20-year career providing marketing services to industry-leading companies, what sparked you to found Clarity Group and focus on serving non-profit organizations?
CW: There were actually two motivations for this decision – one personal and one professional.
On the professional front, I had been carefully watching the nonprofit sector and observing that many wonderful organizations did not appear to utilize some of the best practices and techniques that my current for-profit, industry-leading companies were leveraging for brand success. Upon further examination, I found that many nonprofits relied heavily on stakeholders being drawn to their brand solely on the basis of their worthy causes and missions rather than as a result of leveraging industry best practices to attract, grow and retain their constituents.
I also noticed that marketing service companies – including the one I was working for at the time – did not fully appreciate the nuances of the nonprofit sector and therefore were unable to craft solutions that were relevant and affordable to nonprofits. The combination of seeing the need in the market and not enough adequate resources to serve the need provided a strong impetus to branching out on my own.
On the personal side, I also encountered a life-changing event through the death of my best friend that dramatically changed my priorities and focus. I was struck with an overwhelming sense of how short life is and was compelled to do all that I could to serve others and “make the world a better place” while I was still around…and relatively young. I was overcome with a sense that I was being called to do something else in my life.
It was at that point that I decided to merge my personal passion for nonprofits with my professional vocation and skills – and thus, Clarity Group was spawned. In fact, the name Clarity Group actually stems from my own personal “clarity” around what I should be doing in my life. So there’s a tremendous amount of personal connection and conviction around my work based on the genesis of the firm.
EC: What challenges have you faced in transitioning from running divisions of large enterprises (i.e., Yankelovich, KBM Group) to building a start-up company from scratch? What advice would you give would-be entrepreneurs thinking about starting their own business?
CW: The challenges have been too numerous to enumerate here. I have encountered many obstacles I had faced in previous jobs in addition to new trials that were foreign and intimidating. And yet, every single challenge was invigorating rather than paralyzing. I think that’s because the responsibility of addressing the challenge rested solely on my shoulders. There was no one else who had responsibility to move things forward. So I charged ahead, knowing that I had the skills, experience and persistence to succeed. And the rewards far outweighed any stress or trials that I have faced along the way.
I will offer that one of the more frustrating aspects early on in the transition was the realization that there’s no “Here’s How to Start Your Own Company” manual with a sure-fire recipe for success. I was hoping to find something akin to a color-by-numbers formula for entrepreneurial success and fame! Alas, that manual does not exist. Sure, a TON of resources exist out there addressing particular aspects of the entrepreneurial process…but not one, definitive resource to turn to. So you cobble together the information through reading, conversations, mentors and lots of mistakes. That’s part of the beauty of the transition – much of it involves experimentation and lessons learned.
EC: Many of our senior executive readers are interested in serving on boards and committees related to their area of expertise. What would you say your service to the DMA and DMEF has brought to your personal brand?
CW: Serving on a nonprofit board is truly a privilege. It’s a tangible way to give back to an industry or community. For me, I only serve on boards where I have a personal affinity for the cause or mission. I want to serve places that are an extension of who I am and what I care about.
By serving on the DMEF and DMA Board of Directors, I am connected with organizations that care about what I care about – and that’s the future of the marketing industry and educating the next generation of marketers. My service to these organizations has enabled me to make an impact, both on a macro level as well as a micro level with individuals and young professionals coming out of college. These board appointments have allowed me to give back to the industry that groomed me and produced tangible benefits to the perception of my personal brand and my company’s philanthropy.
EC: As an authority on leveraging data and consumer insights, you regularly speak at conferences, author articles, and serve as a media resource. How much time each week would you say you devote to these personal brand communications activities? How have newer PR and communication platforms (i.e., social media, BLOGs) contributed to enhancing the power of your brand voice?
CW: I wish I were able to spend more time on these types of activities. Right now, I would say that only 3-5 hours per week are devoted to personal brand communication activities; the rest of my time is used for serving our clients and managing my team.
Right now, almost all of that time is spent on social media platforms including our blog. I regularly update LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook – all which help to build a strong brand voice, both personally and professionally. This takes both time and discipline, but the benefits far outweigh the effort.
EC: What advice do you have for executives who are looking to raise the visibility of their personal brands, but are concerned about the return on their investment of time?
CW: My advice is quite simple:
(1) Figure out what your personal brand goals are. Are you trying to create a new opportunity in your career? Are you trying to generate business for your firm? Are you trying to attract new people to your company? For me, the goals are primarily around the growth of my consulting firm – and the ROI has been tremendous.
(2) Be disciplined about your approach. Building a personal brand is no different than building a corporate brand. It takes time, patience, discipline, rigor and repetition. Once you build the plan, execute it with excellence. Make course corrections when needed. But stay the course and the results will follow.
(3) Track your results. If you know what your goals are and you are disciplined about your approach, then you should be able to easily track your results and measure your ROI. The outcomes may be more qualitative than quantitative, but they likely can be measured. And make sure the measurements are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. If you are tracking the right measures, you will quickly know which activities are working and which are not.
EC: What tips do you have for others who are looking to get started with establishing themselves as a speaker and media resource in their area of expertise?
CW: The best thing you can do is to make sure your name is out there. In today’s world of social media, there are many ways to interact and connect with others. As an example, you should become an active contributor to LinkedIn groups. The forums have created and validated many industry experts and continue to be a source for subject matter experts. But remember – your job is NOT to sell yourself or your services on these sites. Rather, to establish yourself as an expert with thoughtful opinions from which others can benefit.
Blogging is another effective way to establish credibility and reputation. Not just creating and publishing your own blog, but also commenting on and interacting with other blogs. Building authority and followers using a blog takes time but eventually, a well-established blog can produce the same significance as a well-respected book.
Finally, there are still the more traditional methods of building awareness as a speaker and media resource – things like authoring bylined articles for industry magazines and building personal relationships with industry reporters. The more people see and read you, the more likely they are to reach out to you as a resource. So find a way to connect and link yourself with other folks who write and publish and have them help get your name in the marketplace.