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How digital agencies and consultants can use Discovery on digital marketing projects to improve the value they deliver to their customers

Over the last few years, I have seen an increasing focus amongst agencies on improving their client discovery projects. In this article, I describe a process I recommend to run effective discovery. It can be applied both for onboarding new customers, but also applied for prospects when pitching.

The post is aimed at marketing and in particular digital marketing agencies and consultants, but client-side marketing teams looking to review their position in the market may also find it useful.

More details on the questions to ask during discovery are available in this client discovery process checklist template I have developed for Business members. You may also find the brand audit in the Smart Insights Agency Toolkit useful.

The term “Discovery” is not used universally, so let’s start with the obvious “what?” and “why?” questions.

What is discovery?

The term discovery graces a lot of agency process charts on pitches but what do we mean by it and what is its value? My view is that the purpose of the discovery stage of a project and the insight that is delivered from it ensures we produce marketing assets and campaigns that are relevant, engaging and effective for our (or our clients) audience and eventual customers.

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This guide will help you create or review your process for learning about customer needs.

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Anthony Iannarino has a useful definition of agency client discovery :

“Discovery is about learning what your client needs, their strategic indicatives, their goals, and their outcomes. Discovery work is what allows you to neatly tie anything you propose to what your client needs and to tailor it to those specific needs”.

So, discovery is about collating and analyzing insights about brands, their competitors and most importantly, the characteristics, beliefs, behaviour and perceptions of their audiences. It should involve undertaking as thorough an investigation as possible (within real world constraints) of a range of research data that is pertinent to the engagement you are involved in.

By that I mean that if you have an open brief from a client (and subject to budget or your own pre-agreed time investment) you will look at ‘everything’, for example: the overall market, existing marketing initiatives and their efficacy, brand metrics, social network insights, existing customer, prospects or stakeholders and their personas

But more likely you will focus on discrete areas of discovery to serve a specific client brief or set of marketing objectives: ‘Market / marketplace discovery ‘, ‘social media landscape discovery’, ‘campaign effectiveness discovery’, ‘website /ecommerce efficacy discovery’ etc.

Why do discovery?

So, the aim of discovery is to eliminate hunches and subjective views and instead create sound, defensible rationale for the marketing approaches and proposals that will be subsequently discussed and implemented with clients.

The depth and breadth of activity undertaken within a discovery exercise should and will flex; depending on the requirement and timescales and budgets involved. But even if flex is involved you should always look to undertake discovery – even a ‘small’ site build or inbound marketing campaign requires some due diligence before launching.

Who should look after discovery?

The answer to “who?”, depends on the size and specialisation of the agency, but a Planner in larger agencies or a senior account handler will probably lead it with a good strategic (and organised!) head in smaller agencies. Their role is to act as the conductor of the orchestra, as it were, since will work with other team members to look at data / research sources, triangulate findings and ensure thinking is coordinated.

agree exactly what hypotheses or objectives are being addressed

manage who is looking at what within the team

triangulate the findings and resultant insight from the disparate research and data sources.

And are also keeping an eye on the timeframe and budget / resources that is being worked to, to create a robust, (and as mention earlier, defensible) rationale for the insights and proposals that will subsequently be discussed with client.

Charging and paying for discovery

Any discovery activity will take time (even if that may flex depending on the circumstances of the engagement), but even a shortened discovery phase should be costed out. The due diligence and thorough research that the agency will complete and the robust insights gained will only strengthen any campaigns or projects that are subsequently created. Agencies shouldn’t give away their thinking time for free in order to secure a ‘commodity’ service e.g. site builds, email production, SEO management etc.

That’s a perennial debate, up there with pitch fees of course, but one you should keep to when and where you can. Having said that, an amount of discovery will inevitably always be needed pre-sale e.g. at pitch stage or in order to recommend an overarching strategy. In that case you should invest a pre-agreed amount of time (normally agreed between the new business director and account director or board director etc.) for ‘discovery-lite’ – and stick to it. Demonstrating to your client or prospect that you have some robust initial insight based on due diligence / discovery will go a long way to selling in a solution. The level of investment you make (multiples of in-house time and / or any externally commissioned research) will depend on the potential long term worth of the client business to you.

Discovery workstreams

‘Discovery’ is a bit of a catch-all term for a range of separate research gathering and data assimilation workstreams and can involve things like desk research, face to face or distance interviews with client teams or customer groups and the use of different software platforms to mine information. Each piece of work can be substantial and in a larger agency may be completed by different team members, hence ‘workstreams’.

In the second part of this article, I will explain 9 activities that can form the workstreams for the discovery process.

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Fix: Client Server Runtime Process High Cpu Usage

FIX: Client Server Runtime Process High CPU Usage

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One of the rare ones that can occasionally take hold of your CPU in Windows 10 is Client Server Runtime Process better known as chúng tôi It usually takes minimal resources, but if it starts taking up at least 80% of the processing power, this means trouble.

There various possible reasons why chúng tôi starts hogging on your resources, especially CPU, but usually it’s due to a malware infection of some kind. So clearly, the first step is to scan your computer.

If suddenly, your computer gets very slow it might be the case for a process using too much CPU processing power. If that happens, go straight to our high CPU usage section for a solution.

Nobody is safe from Windows errors but if they occur, be sure that you will find a solution in our Windows 10 errors hub.

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Fortect is a tool that does not simply cleans up your PC, but has a repository with several millions of Windows System files stored in their initial version. When your PC encounters a problem, Fortect will fix it for you, by replacing bad files with fresh versions. To fix your current PC issue, here are the steps you need to take:

Download Fortect and install it on your PC.

Start the tool’s scanning process to look for corrupt files that are the source of your problem

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If you’re a longtime Windows user, you’ve probably bumped into one or more system processes that tilt CPU to sky limits.

Some are less common, some are almost automatically implemented with the system (Windows Update process in Windows 7).

One of the rare ones that can occasionally take hold of your CPU in Windows 10 is Client Server Runtime Process better known as chúng tôi .

This process is an essential piece of the Windows platform and it usually takes minimal resources. Well, not in this scenario.

Users reported that, upon inspection in Task Manager, they bump into a strange process that takes 80 – 100 % of CPU usage.

It’s fair to say that this is a grave issue, so you’ll need to address it as soon as possible. The solutions we provided below should be helpful, so make sure to check them out.

How can I resolve high CPU activity of chúng tôi in Windows 10? 1. Scan for viruses

Let’s start by addressing the sporadic cause of this inconvenience. It’s fairly rare for system processes to start misbehaving in this manner.

There are indeed various possible reasons why one of the essential Windows services starts hogging on your resources, especially CPU, but most of the time it’s due to an external factor. Or, to be exact, a malware infection of some kind.

Since the scanning procedure differs, taking into consideration all available software, we made sure to explain how to scan your system with Windows Defender.

It’s always there, even if you don’t want it to be, so make sure to check the steps below:

We also strongly recommend using professional antivirus software in order to be sure that any virus threat will be scanned, found, and deleted from your PC.

2. Delete current user profile

Expert tip:

Since Client Server Runtime Process is partially related to a user profile, CPU spikes are nothing uncommon.

Now, the reasons for this unwelcome occurrence are to be found in a malware infection, which tends to corrupt system files or even clones them.

So, even though your PC isn’t infected at the moment, the damage might be already done.

That should be a good enough reason to delete your user profile and try a new one.

Yes, you’ll need to backup your data and reconfigure some minor things, but the problem should be resolved. Here’s how to do it in a few simple steps:

3. Reset this PC

It completely restores Windows 10 to its initial values, while preserving your data in the process.

Of course, you should back up everything from the system partition to an alternative partition, cloud storage, or external storage.

Here’s how to do it and hopefully resolve the issue at hand:

Still experiencing issues?

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Are You A Good Client…Or A Bad Client?

You may be thinking “Why do I care if I am a good client or not? They don’t have to like me, but they do have to get me results”

That is true – and whether they like you or not should most definitely not impact the results you get (although we all see it, when someone is liked and easy to work with, they tend to get more favors – people are willing to go the extra mile for a grateful/easy client – not saying that’s right or wrong, just saying it’s a fact of life!)

BUT the kind of client you are can actually be a determining factor in your level of success!

Let’s break this all down a little bit…

A good client understands what they are getting and values the services.  If they aren’t clear they ask questions and make it their business to understand what is included and what is reasonable to expect in terms of results.

(Side note to SEO Firms: work with your client on this.  A good SEO firm will work with the client to ensure they understand this and ensure all questions are answered!)

A bad client thinks they are paying you something (whether it’s $5 or $50) and they expect the sun, the moon, all the stars and they want their cake to eat too.

Sure, you should get good value for every dollar you spend – there is no denying that.

BUT you can’t walk into a Ferrari store and say “I can’t really afford a Ferrari, so I am going to pay what I would for a Hyundai, but give me the Ferrari and throw in all the bells and whistles too”  You would be laughed out of the store.

You would never dream of doing that with a car, but it’s amazing how many people expect to name a lowball price and get everything that a higher paying client would get.

So, to be clear – yes, definitely demand value for your money.  Every hard earned dollar you spend should get you something solid in return – but be realistic about what you are getting for what you are paying and take the time to learn what else you could get if you spent just a little more.  You may decide not to spend more but the key here is understanding what you get at different price points and then accepting the results that you should expect for that money paid.

K, now that we covered that one, let’s keep going…

A good client will make themselves available and be willing to be an active participant.  OK, before anyone gets upset, let me explain – yes you are busy, yes you hired an expert to do the work BUT you need to give input, you need to approve work, you need to answer questions.  You know your business better than anyone and although most of the backend work can usually be done without too much of your input – getting your feedback is crucial at the start.  So, no, you don’t need to do the work for the SEO Firm, but yes, you need to make yourself available to support their efforts.

A bad client won’t take your calls, takes more than a couple days to reply to emails and then wonders why no progress has been made.

And I’m still not done…

A good client hires a consultant and actually implements their suggestions. 🙂

And still more…

A good client understands that there is no magic wand that can be waved to get top rankings.  They are committed to a long term process and are also committed to SEO as a long term approach that requires both time and money investments.

A bad client is desperate for rankings tomorrow, often doesn’t even worry about actual traffic, they just want to know they have rankings.  They also tend to jump from tactic to tactic and not give anything time to really mature.

A good client understands that there needs to be a balance of keywords – some broader terms with more traffic and some more specific terms with less traffic that will convert at a higher rate.

A bad client wants to get ranked number #1 on Google (by Friday) for single words like “scissors” and “cut” and “hair”

Almost done, just a couple more.

A good client knows they need a multifaceted marketing approach and they need to be willing to try different strategies to determine what works best for them.

A bad client doesn’t want to talk about Twitter or Facebook because they don’t personally like them or use them.  They don’t want PPC because Google charges way too much and they don’t want organic SEO because it takes too long.  They just want lots of traffic – quickly.  (My magic wand just broke – otherwise I’d be all over helping those clients!)

A good client knows that things like email subject lines and headlines on marketing copy need to be tested to improve results.

A bad client already knows that works (because naturally what they like or respond to will work for everyone) so there is no need to test.  (Actually, this is less work – maybe this is a good client after all??  Nah, I’d still rather do the work and get better results!)

A good client says “how often do you think I should post on my Blog?” or “do you think these tweets are really helping me or should I try another approach?” or “my open rates on emails are down, any ideas why?”

I think I will end it there because the last 2 examples say it all.  Internet Marketing doesn’t “work” or “not work”.  Just like offline marketing doesn’t “work” or “not work”.

Within marketing whether online or offline, things take trial and error, persistent, tweaking, testing, time, effort, money, patience and some good people to work together as a team.

Any given strategy may or may not work the first time you try it.  It’s a matter of applying “best practices” and giving it your best shot and then analyzing the data to tweak and try again.  At some point some strategies will be deemed unsuccessful and will be abandoned but only after due time and attention was paid to giving it a real shot.

I know small business struggle with time and money constraints and I know that impacts some of what you can do BUT with the right mindset, a willingness to work with people and an open mind, you’d be amazed at what you can accomplish!

Side note to bad clients: Being a bad client doesn’t mean you are a bad person.  It just means you may be standing in your own way and may need to rethink your approach!

Side note to good clients: You rock!!

How To Tactfully Drop A Client

The adage “the customer is always right” isn’t always true. Demanding and unreasonable clients can reach a point where they’re not worth your time.

Before letting clients go, try to resolve conflicts diplomatically, using tactful and open communication strategies.

If a client relationship is untenable, be honest, professional, and polite when parting ways.

This article is for service-based business owners grappling with a difficult client and considering severing the relationship.

Most service-based businesses have encountered a nightmare client at some point. This person makes outrageous demands of your team and expects them to be met immediately. They don’t respect the due date on the invoice and refuse to pay you on time. And when it comes to communication, this client either pesters you 24/7 or can’t be reached at all.

The old cliche may say the customer is always right, but some problematic clients may not be worth your time. Although you may be hesitant to drop (or “fire”) a client, the temporary loss of income could be in your business’s best interest in the long run.

Here’s a look at what to do when faced with a challenging client, when to know it’s time to part ways, and how to extricate yourself politely and professionally.

Key Takeaway

If you have a consumer-focused business, some strategies for dealing with difficult customers are simply listening, empathizing, lowering your voice and staying calm.

How to resolve conflicts with clients diplomatically

If you’re fed up with a client, it may be tempting to let them go immediately. However, while some clients may be annoying, you may not want to give up on the relationship so fast. Here are a few tips for working things out with your client.

1. Figure out what the problem is with your nightmare client.

Step back from the situation and figure out what the issue truly is with your problematic client. Are they really unbearable to work with or negatively impacting your company’s bottom line? Or is there just something about their personality that rubs you the wrong way?

If the problem comes down to clashing personalities, there may be other arrangements to make. Perhaps another team member could take over the lead role with that client – or maybe you can resolve to tolerate and deal with the individual until their contract runs out.

2. Set boundaries with your difficult client.

It’s always a good idea to reassess your client boundaries regularly. For instance, if you have a client who calls you at all hours of the day and night, you may need to reiterate when you’re willing to take calls and when you aren’t. As another example, if you have a client who regularly asks for revisions or tasks beyond the scope of your agreement, it may be helpful to review the terms of your initial contract.

Firmly but politely restating your boundaries may be enough to salvage the working relationship. If the client refuses to respect your boundaries, this can be a clear sign that it’s time to end the working relationship.

Tip

If you need help fielding client calls, consider using a call center or answering service. We’ll help you find the right one with our comparison of the best call centers and answering services for businesses.

3. Communicate openly with your client.

Your clients can’t read your mind; they won’t know if something they’re doing is bothering you unless you tell them. You’re not doing yourself or them a favor by pretending that everything is fine when it isn’t.

If something is bothering you about your working relationship, you owe it to your client to be honest about it. This is especially true if it’s a long-term client; in this case, you probably want to do everything you can to repair the relationship.

Tip

To improve communication with clients, respond to complaints immediately, implement a two-way communication channel, and monitor social media platforms to find out what others are saying about your business.

5 Elements To An Effective Email Link Pitch

Building real links that make sense requires human interaction.

I am a firm believer that websites don’t link to other websites, rather people link to other people. Worthwhile links are those placed as an editorial vote by a human being, not automatically generated by a robot.

You need to engage with other people to build these links, which makes effective outreach imperative.

Outreach is typically done via email. The most important portion in outreach link building is what I call the “link pitch” – the message you craft to convince another person to link to you; the build up to where you mention the link.

An effective link pitch is critical to link building success, so I want to cover what goes into a successful link pitch. Here are five key elements of an effective link pitch:

Clear subject line

Immediate demonstration of value

Call to action (CTA)

Secondary CTA

Follow up

Let’s take a look at each of these aspects individually.

1. Clear Subject Line

The first element you need to consider in a link pitch email is the subject line.

A clear subject line is imperative since it is the first thing the person you are pitching to will see. It will determine whether or not your email is even opened. Your subject line should be direct and focused, making it easy to quickly understand what your email is about.

Make your subject line as specific as possible and ensure it is appropriate for the site you are reaching out to. In fact, sites will often list exactly what type of subject line you should use for a given inquiry. It is always a good idea to look for specific instructions because using an incorrect subject line could doom your link pitch from the start.

After all, why would someone feel inclined to read your email if you can’t even take the time to follow directions?

An effective subject is:

Specific

Concise

Actionable

Straightforward

2. Immediate Demonstration of Value

While a clear subject line is important to have your emails opened, the ability to quickly establish the value of your outreach is what will get them to actually read your message.

Effectively communicating the benefit of the link is key to any link pitch. You must clearly demonstrate why your link would add value to the site in a way that is easy to understand.

In order to do this you must:

Be concise: Nobody wants to read a long-winded message, keep everything succinct and to the point

Understand the website: Be aware of what is important to the webmaster and their audience so you can explain why your link would be valuable

Be persuasive: You don’t have to be a salesperson, but understanding the psychology behind persuasion is helpful

Be personable: To find a way to stand out from other emails, you need a hook that will keep the person reading

An effective link pitch focuses on the person you are contacting and their site, rather than yourself or your company. You must consider how a link to your site would benefit your contact and then be able to clearly, and quickly, demonstrate that value to them.

3. Call to Action (CTA)

Once you have established why it’s worth their while to link to you, you’ll need to include a call to action (CTA).

Your primary CTA in a link pitch should absolutely be where you request the actual link. You have already explained why your link is valuable, and now you need to motivate the person you are contacting to take action.

One way to craft your CTA is to make it easy and straightforward for the person to add the link. Explicitly state where on their site a link to your site would fit best or provide the most value to their audience.

Also, you should include a link to the page you want them to link to so they can look at it themselves to further understand why it would be a good addition to their site.

The whole goal of your link pitch is to foster a relationship that can lead to a link. Make sure you include a direct and straightforward CTA that (politely) instructs the person you are contacting to perform a specific action.

4. Secondary CTA

Along with the initial CTA involving your link, you should also provide a secondary CTA within your link pitch.

The secondary CTA should involve some sort of supportive action that is not directly tied to linking to your site. For example, you can tell the person to email you back for more information or invite them to check out your site to get a better idea of the type of content you provide.

Even a simple “Look forward to hearing from you.” suggests you are expecting a response and prompts the person to take action.

Remember, you are dealing with another human being and who is likely very busy, sometimes they need a little nudge to get the ball rolling.

A secondary CTA is necessary because sometimes the first CTA alone won’t be successful. Also, by giving the person a second option they don’t have to choose between simply linking or not linking.

Even a “no” is better than nothing, because now you’ve established communication and can inquiry why the person is unwilling. Once you understand their objections you will be more effective in the future (or even the next time you pitch them).

5. Follow-Up

Lastly, you should always follow-up.

While the previous sections deal with the initial link pitch, which is hugely important, the ability to follow-up is equally important. You’re simply not doing your job as a link builder if you don’t follow up after an initial email.

Again, you’re reaching out to real people with real and busy lives. Often you won’t get a response on your first link pitch and you must be persistent in order to be successful.

There are a number of reasons why a person might not respond to your initial link pitch and you need to understand how to follow-up with them appropriately.

Some best practices for follow-up link pitches include:

Allow for three to four days before sending another pitch

Move on to another contact after three or four attempts to contact without a response

Change and tweak your message to create a unique pitch for each follow-up

Always point back to original link pitch to avoid confusion

Consider a different channel of communication (i.e. social media vs. email)

Response rates with link pitches can be frustrating sometimes, but always remember that you are representing a brand/business/website and to keep your messages polite and professional, even on your fourth follow-up with no response.

And always remember to emphasize the value you can offer. Even though you’d really like the link, it should be in their interest to link as well.

Recap

Human interaction is integral to building real links.

In order to build worthwhile links you must reach out to other people with worthwhile sites and convince them to link to you. The most common form this outreach takes is a link pitch via email.

An effective link pitch is crucial to the success of your link building efforts, because real links require human engagement. Every situation and every link pitch is going to be different and requires a custom approach. However, by keeping these five classic elements in mind, you can put yourself in a position to be more successful and effective with your link pitches.

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Top Traits Of An Effective Marketing Leader

4 behaviours that set top-performing marketers apart

Earlier this year the Harvard Business Review published a research paper that set out the top behaviors of the most successful CEOs. With many business leaders failing in their roles (from 2000 to 2013 25% of the Fortune 500 chief executives who left their firms were forced out) the authors conducted a study based on research conducted over 10 years with a database of 17,000 C-suite executives – including more than 2,000 CEOs – which covers all major industry sectors and a full range of company sizes.

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Within this post, I would like to highlight each of the behaviours that set successful CEOs apart and illustrate with examples how they can also apply to marketing leaders more specifically.

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The four behaviours

As the original HBR article explains, the behaviours identified sound deceptively simple, however, the key is to practice them with disciplined consistency, which happens to be a challenge for many leaders:

1. Deciding with speed and conviction

Effective leaders do not necessarily make great decisions all the time. Instead, they recognize that a wrong decision may be better than no decision at all and are therefore capable of making decisions earlier, faster and with conviction, often against a backdrop of incomplete information. This is something Amazon’s Jeff Bezos singled out in his 2024 letter to shareholders:

“If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow.”

Marketing leaders are faced with many important decisions on an almost daily basis that have the potential to impact brand and business performance. Sometimes the data we receive as marketers is inconclusive and contradictory, offering no clear case to go one way or another. However whilst we may want to get to the ‘perfect’ answer, in reality, this is rarely possible and therefore judging the right amount of time to assess options and then move on to make a quick decision is crucial.

Consider framing decisions by asking yourself two questions:

What’s the impact if I get it wrong?

How much will it hold other things up if I don’t move on this?

2. Engage for impact

Once a clear course of action has been set it’s essential to get buy-in from key stakeholders. Strong alignment across the board is a top trait of effective leaders and involves an astute understanding of others’ needs and motivations and engaging others around a common goal.

Bringing others with you is particularly important for marketers, especially those in more technical roles and disciplines. SEO, for example, is a process typically managed by marketing and yet may impact different areas of a business, including public relations, ecommerce, sales and consumer affairs. However, everyone may not agree on your SEO plan, especially if it affects their department directly (e.g. an off-page strategy involving influencer outreach, something PR may typically manage).

An effective leader recognizes that whilst not all decisions will be popular, the key is to gain support by instilling confidence that their plan will lead to a successful outcome and benefit everyone overall. Conflict management and the ability to tackle difficult situations positively are therefore important skills to master.

3. Adaptiveness

The HBR study found that CEOs who excel at adapting are 6.7 times more likely to succeed and points to the aftermath of Brexit and the 2024 US presidential election as events that showed how certain leaders were able to adjust to a rapidly changing environment.

Effective marketing leaders understand that to drive meaningful digital transformation at scale, businesses and brands must be open to change and a long-term perspective, all of which will enable marketers to optimise digital media activation, create first-class experiences and develop learning across the organization. Much of this will be dependent on each organization’s stage in the digital transformation journey:

4. Reliability

The ability to deliver results reliably over time is a trait admired by both senior leaders and employees alike, with predictability and a steady hand being preferred to dazzling one-off successes.

Whilst reliability may not sound like the most exciting of characteristics, the ability to deliver consistently over time is a very difficult skill to master, which explains why this is cited as possibly the most powerful of the four essential CEO behaviours in the original HBR study.

A key practice here is about setting realistic expectations early in a role and spending time understanding the situational environment. Form a marketing perspective this will involve evaluating all elements of the marketing mix as well as the company or brand’s plans, budgets, and forecasts. Assessing the business landscape and gaining a clear idea of key stakeholder and customer expectations (see stakeholder analysis above) will enable you to align these with your own point of view of what’s realistic.

Strong organization skills is linked to reliability and good leaders establish effective business management systems, including:

Clear cadence of meetings with relevant stakeholders

Dashboard of meaningful metrics, updated regularly to reflect marketing performance

Strong team of individuals, each excelling in their specific areas of expertise

Conclusion

There is not ‘perfect mix’ of the four behaviours and every marketing leader will need to dial up certain traits depending on his or her specific situational context. For example, those working in a fast-moving, entrepreneurial environment such as a startup or small business, will need to excel at adapting proactively, whilst those working in more stable, corporate organizations may need a stronger emphasis on engaging for impact where stakeholder alignment is much more crucial to success.

Nevertheless, although other qualities including integrity, work ethic, compassion, and confidence are all very important, as the HRB study has shown good leaders who focus on these four essential behaviours are much more likely to be chosen for leadership roles and ultimately succeed in their position.

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