Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” has provided wonderful insight to me, because I am an introvert. Cain’s core premise is that western culture overvalues extroverts and under-utilizes introverts. Introverts prefer less stimulation and quiet concentration. We listen more than we talk, think before we speak, and focus on relationships. Introverts focus on the meaning of events around us, while extroverts focus on the events themselves.
If I had to bet, the best marketers of tomorrow will likely be far more introverted than the average marketer is today. I would even argue that marketing needs more introverts—people who will spend more time listening than talking, reflecting deeply on meaning, and building fewer, deeper relationships.
Three fundamental trends will drive this.
First, as power continues to shift to the consumer, listening becomes a more valuable asset. Consumers have more products, brands, and retailers to choose from than ever. Pricing is much more transparent. And it is far easier to complain and talk back to brands, thanks to social media. According to Nielsen, nearly half of U.S. consumers use social media for that purpose. How leaders react to feedback is now paramount. The authors of a 2010 HBR article shared two test situations with introverted or extroverted leaders and tested how they reacted to proactive suggestions from employees. The introverted leaders performed much more strongly and yielded better business results—14% higher profits and 28% higher productivity in the two test situations. In a world where consumers are increasingly proactive, introverted marketers may have the edge.
Second, advertising will continue to shift from advertiser monologues to dialogues–and even reverse monologues—as highly engaged consumers showcase their creativity and love for certain brands. Since introverts listen more than extroverts, it makes sense that introverted marketers will be more willing to loosen their control of their brands and listen to consumers for inspiration. As Cain recently noted, “An extrovert can quite unwittingly get so excited about things that they’re putting their own stamp on things and other people’s ideas may not bubble up to the surface.”
Finally, superconsumers—the top 10% of highly engaged consumers who can drive 50% of category profit—will continue to increase in importance and determine which brands win and which don’t. Superconsumers have always been important, but finding them is easier than ever via traditional marketing, digital marketing, and geographic/local marketing. This creates more time to engage in a deeper conversation with a few key consumers, something that introverts by nature prefer. Reflecting on fewer, deeper discussions increases the likelihood of uncovering emotional and life aspirational insights—the ones that create real pricing power.
Time will tell if I am right. But the more I’ve considered Cain’s praise for introverts, the more I’ve realized that during my career, some of the best marketers I’ve worked with have been introverts. One marketing vice president at a former client launched a new product quietly in a few select markets that came up as a result of quiet reflection as he listened to superconsumers, retailers, and his R&D staff. It grew to nearly $100 million in sales with minimal advertising support. This marketer eventually left the corporate world because he couldn’t stand the pontificating, posturing, and politics that are sometimes required in corporate America—behaviors that are probably due to the prevalence of extroverts in that world. He’s now a happy, thriving, and self-employed options trader—a profession that better suits his personality.
I also know of a crew of very talented marketers with a strong track record of success who left traditional marketing jobs for new roles within retail. They’ve found it to be an introvert’s paradise. They spend more time launching new brands and products than lobbying for resources. They spend more time listening and responding to their shoppers’ and consumers’ feedback about their new products in real time than telling them about the products in the first place. One of the telltale signs of success is that they built a $300 million new brand in a fraction of the time it would have taken elsewhere.
Of course, the conclusion is not that extroverts can’t be great marketers or that all introvert marketers will succeed. But hopefully the marketing departments of corporate America will become increasingly introvert-friendly. Introverts have traits that will be even more valuable for success in tomorrow’s world—and I, for one, am tired of seeing them leave marketing.Go to Source