Rallying Up for Success

BraveheartOver this past weekend, I went into a store that’s part of a 15-20 location chain, and upon entering, this place made sure that I understood that for them “It’s all About Exceeding Expectations!”  Now as a line, it’s pretty pedestrian but it set the tone for what I was going to experience. And they were true to their word. But you see, it wasn’t just 5 words strung together. Instead this was, after speaking with the staff, their rallying cry for the first quarter of the year.

That got me thinking that not enough companies use rallying cries (or sometimes referred to as “battle cries”).  After all, these rallying cries have been used for thousands of years to unite individuals into a collective identity and to emotionally charge them up before rushing forward to accomplish their mission.  So let me ask, has your company instituted a rallying cry? And I don’t mean for a second a “mission statement,” which most companies have; because of group think, these mission statements lack originality, they’re as uninspiring as possible, and which 99.99% of employees couldn’t recite it to win a million dollars.  Instead, what I mean is a short and catchy phrase that can inspire a company and fascinate your marketplace. A rallying cry will tell employees how to act and consumers what to expect.

When you institute a rallying cry, everyone knows what it means. Rallying cries are huge. They’re single themes that everyone connects to and rallies around. That theme ends up creating this “mini-vision” for individuals to focus on… a clear direction for the entire organization for a specified period of time which speaks to “this is what’s important to our organization right now!” And so this doesn’t come across as a theme line or slogan but rather an understandable call-to-action to employees and customers, one needs to define what the goals to be met will be. It can be your big goal for the year or your most important annual metric. Regardless, the rallying cry should be specific and measurable. This could take the form of something like “3x in 2y” (Tripling business in 2 years) or “500 in 2015” (500 new accounts in 2015) or “Quick Start 50” (making contact and setting presentation appointments with your Top 50 dream clients). You get the idea.

For some clients I’ve worked with, this rallying cry provides a reason for the organization to start working as a team rather than in siloed departments.  There’s a tremendous power in this kind of focus as it helps the company achieve better results faster and gets them ready for the next team effort.  It also keeps the people in the organization engaged because they know what their company’s goals are and how they fit in.  Some companies have annual and quarterly and monthly rallying cries. I’m more of an annual/semi-annual guy.

To get started, here are a five elements to creating your own rallying cry:

  1. Keep it short…in the 5-8 word range. No long 10-12 word sentence. It isn’t supposed to summarize your entire strategic plan but rather reflect your aspirational future.
  2. Try and make it memorable or “sticky.” Use words or acronyms that make it easy to remember and interpret. Nothing sucks the life out of a rallying cry more than when people can’t recall it.
  3. It’s to be about ONE goal. ONE priority. Don’t dilute it by adding more objectives.
  4. If communicated externally to customers, make sure that it’s believable and relevant so that the customer says, “That’s something I know they can deliver on and it’s what I want.”
  5. It’s fresh, original and  imaginative. Think creatively, not something uninspiring like “Increase sales by 10% this summer.” We’re looking for a rallying cry not a ho-hum announcement.
  6. BONUS: Get people within the organization (or your marketing agency) involved in coming up with some options to consider. And get 20-30 ideas from which to look at. If you end up not being satisfied, get some more.

Once the rallying cry is chosen, pledge eternal allegiance to it. The new rallying cry should be continually infused into sales meetings, customer presentations, press releases, collateral, the company website and all other marketing communications. And if appropriate and possible, its spirit, if not the actual words, should be communicated in your advertising activities. And then if or when the goal is achieved, it should be celebrated with the same enthusiasm as it was when first initiated as it’s important to show people that their hard work is much appreciated.

Think about this: If everyone in your company were to rally around a single inspiring theme, what kind of wonderful magic would be achieved? What kind of game-changing results could be achieved?  A rallying cry is an amazing way to get people aligned. Whether your company’s goal is one that applies to all departments or relates to one specific department, a strong rallying cry can serve to unite the entire company to eagerly move toward the new destination created by that vision.

So, as the marketing champion within your organization, what better way to have people unite under an inspiring marketing message and create excitement throughout the ranks rather than with a rallying cry? “Onward and Upward!”…oh, I think that one has been used before.


Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.


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