No matter where your business lives in its life cycle, establishing Core Values has enormous benefits both in how you operate internally and how you provide your services externally to clients and customers.
If you’ve read some of our content, you’ll know I’ve discussed that Market My Market adopted the principles of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), so the definition of Core Values can be outlined here: Identifying Your Core Values | PureDirection, LLC
Also, Lencioni has some insight on the subject, which is typically clear and concise (especially from ‘The Advantage,’ which has been a source of plenty of inspiration for MMM this year so far):
“Think of your core values as a few behavior traits that are inherent in the organization. They lie at the heart of the organization’s identity, do not change over time and must already exist. In other words, they cannot be contrived.”
This Core Value Exercise Shouldn’t Be Seen as a Generic Business Development Exercise
Before we get too far ahead, let me preface that I had a strong aversion just up to about 5 years ago to anything considered “Business 101” or anything perceived as generic business tools. It seemed like I’d find myself rolling my eyes and saying “duh” out loud to a never-ending cascade of obvious insight. That is absolutely still the case for much-purported business acumen out there.
It’s just a matter of getting through the overgeneralized and finding the ample-while-still-finite wisdom that exists. This information below is among the limited I’ve come across (for now), yet I can say what has been provided has been very valuable. I suppose it is valuable enough to dedicate time that departs SEO and Content Market to discuss Business Development and Operations.
In mostly my own words, the Core Values of our business are guiding principles that help us determine what ideas, actions, and behaviors we should pursue. Core Values, when solidified, aid us in everything from the methodology of navigating tough business decisions and situations, who is a good fit for our team, and even what kind of client is a good fit for our company. It may seem like a too-good-to-be-true solution for all the gaps in our business, and while that’d be too convenient, it wouldn’t be too far off from some real first steps you can take to get there.
If you want to get an idea of some Core Values (associated with companies that we’d all imagine spend plenty of time developing the perfect messaging for them), here are some examples:
I prefer more than one word Core Values since an adjective wouldn’t communicate enough for me, but hey, I’m no Core Value expert.
The most important thing about Core Values, in my opinion, is to be extremely deliberate with them. They shouldn’t come to mind in a matter of minutes and immediately be adopted. They are to be analyzed, met with plenty of reflection, and compiled continuously until narrowed down to a handful the team feels strongly about. The Core Value process may take a couple of weeks, maybe even a month or two. When they are confirmed, they should seem natural and obvious to the point that when you look back on them a year or two later, they haven’t changed at all.
How to Identify Core Values From Other Qualities You Simply Value
Lencioni introduces a multitude of values each business possesses in the book ‘The Advantage’ in addition to the Core Values. You will run through all of the values you’ve compiled and determine if they end up falling under any of the following categories:
These are values that the business recognizes as being of value to the organization but hasn’t quite adopted in earnest. For example, ‘Collaborative and Communicative’ is something that a company values but doesn’t get to observe too often. The team decides that they’re going to have quarterly 2-day retreats and have a weekly Monday huddle to kick off the week in an effort to retain the value with time.
These are values that aren’t so much needing a statement internally or externally, more than they’re a prerequisite for even being on the team. The way I view these values is that if you were having an interview with a new potential team member, they would have to possess these values to receive an offer.
For example, if you were a law firm and you valued creativity for how you may think outside of the box when constructing a legal defense or something of that nature, that may be a Core Value. However, if you were a graphic design agency, being creative would more than likely be required to even have an initial interview.
These are values that have passively fallen into place over time and are consistently observed, though they may be positive or negative when you step back and observe them. For example, if everyone at your firm works 70+ hours a week, you may not have a value called “Hard Working.” It may just be an absence of work/life balance, which may not be appealing to the team when phrased that way, would not be appealing to many people outside of the organization and is likely something you’d want to address in the long run.
After you’ve taken into consideration these three types of values, whatever you’re left with could set you well on your way to your official list of Core Values!
Walking Through MMM’s Core Values
Without diving into another separate concept, it is important to ask yourself a fun philosophical question: “Why do we exist as a company?”
I’ll leave more of this for you in the following article:
From an agency standpoint, it is an important question to ask ourselves and to consider regarding our marketing partners (Spoiler: the answer isn’t “to make money”). And back to Core Values…
After plenty of sessions analyzing what MMM stood for, we established the following back in May of 2019:
- Do What You Say
- Be Honest and Transparent
- Proactive, Not Reactive
- Be Thought-Leading
- Instill Trust Through Consistent Accountability
- Always Do Better, Always Be Better
- Do the Right Thing for Clients and MMM
In 3 years, we’ve only added one core value, the last one, “Do the Right Thing for Clients and MMM.” I’ll go through examples of how these values have transformed the way we consider new team members, how we work to operate harmoniously internally, and how we behave and act while working with clients.
Do What You Say
Though it is typically easy to simply say yes to a client inquiry or a colleague we’d like to assist, sometimes the client request is far outside of scope, or we’re too strapped for time for a proper follow-through for our teammate. It’s okay to say no because we want to always do what we say. A yes is a commitment to follow through—if we don’t have the means to do so, we need to find an alternate solution. If a client wants us to do an e-blast when we don’t have the immediate expertise or capacity, we should provide a solution, even if it’s an outside team. If we don’t have availability to assist our co-workers, we should be direct.
Be Honest and Transparent
While honesty does fall under Permission-To-Play for our team (lying is an outright dismissal from the team), I believe that honesty still falls under varying degrees for many people in our industry. For us, honesty isn’t just being truthful, but it’s also being forthcoming about unfavorable information that many other teams may readily withhold.
One of the main examples I can give is reporting and progress for clients. I’ve seen hundreds of reports over the years from agencies, and by far, the majority either omit negative information or heavily spin the negative to be neutral, or even positive. The progress of a campaign is only as strong as its weakest link. In other words, if you fail to identify and provide transparency on the shortcomings of the campaign, the campaign will always be held back from its full potential. It is always important to focus, discuss, and have a plan of action for the gaps in strategy in order to overcome them.
Proactive, Not Reactive
We really picked quite the niche of marketing and industry with Digital Marketing and legal. Not only does SEO and Content Marketing change constantly, but legal is one of the most competitive sectors for marketing in the entire world. Either way, that should never be an excuse for a failure of proactivity.
Being proactive may be somewhat innate, but when expectations are clear, it can be a skill that’s acquired over time. Proactivity for us is a peripheral awareness of where opportunities and gaps are internally and externally, and a conscientious effort to pause for a moment and reflect on the steps and actions that could be taken to fill the gap or capture the opportunity. Seemingly zen-like, this mindset is almost comparable to maybe a game of chess, but when you just have to think a step or two ahead instead of a dozen as some of the world’s grandmasters are wont to do.
If that sounds over the top, it’s because it has to be. The value of being even 2-3 months ahead of the competition in certain aspects of marketing creates an influx of potential new clients. If you start to do this consistently, the competitive advantage becomes enormous and transformative in nature for a business.
In some ways, being a marketing partner requires you to do more than just marketing. Hopefully, not IT, cybersecurity, and emails (if any other CEOs and agency owners are reading this, we’ve all been there). Thought Leadership comes into play when considering how marketing will impact the business and the other intricacies that tie into what makes outstanding marketing.
Reaching out to other industries and fields of study (outside of business) helps influence the ideas that can make a difference here. For example, Organizational Theory, Behavioral Economics, Sociology, and Computer Science are a handful of studies that have made their way into our content and internal operations. It takes plenty of effort in the form of blogs, articles, webinars, videos, guides, and podcasts, but it is well worth it.
Instill Trust Through Consistent Accountability
This Core Value, along with the next two, is among the more straightforward of our Core Values, though still equally important. Through strong accountability, we look internally for solutions to client issues instead of immediately thinking about how to displace responsibility for an issue. I’ve worked in agencies and have interacted with dozens, if not hundreds of them. I’ve seen a reaction to an issue look almost like a natural reflex to look elsewhere. Many agencies look around the room and immediately think, “Okay, was it Google, was it a client, was it a competitor, was it something totally out of our hands?” 4 out of 5 times, the origin of the issue was from the agency, and even if it wasn’t, the solution could be found there either way. It is best to uphold a high level of accountability and look internally first.
Always Do Better, Always Be Better
Along with being thought-leading, we don’t want to be the same person we were a year ago—a growth-oriented mindset is paramount for being able to provide at a high level in this industry.
Do the Right Thing for Clients and MMM
Though accountability pushes us to look internally for answers to issues and do right by our clients, we also want to do the right thing for ourselves and for our team. Demanding clients will always exist, but abusive clients cross the line. We stand by our team when the client experience becomes volatile, and we work to do the right thing when it comes to employee experience as well.
Hopefully, this provided some insight on the value of establishing Core Values, or reevaluating the ones you have in place, to bring more clarity to your company’s most esteemed behaviors, actions, and goals.
Let Market My Market Help You Reach Your Important Objectives
If you’re looking to partner with a company with well-established core values, look no further than Market My Market. Our digital marketing experts have years of experience putting together online content for our clients to engage and maintain their audiences so you can increase your customer base. To discover more about our effective approach that will help your company attain leads, contact the top-of-the-line SEO and content professionals at Market My Market for a free consultation today.