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The Three Lessons Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith can teach us about Effective Marketing

It’s the stories you tell, the increased time you devote to planning and your ability to pull together a team with different perspectives that will enable you to win the battle of consumer market share next year. Throw in some creativity, humility and strong leadership and you never know; your marketing efforts might be recognised for their bravery.

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Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens

....leading authority on marketing, 2018 Speaker of the Year

Andrew Bogut

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Bev Brock

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Cathy Freeman

Cathy Freeman OAM

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Colin D Ellis

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Gihan Perera

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Urzila Carlson

Urzila Carlson

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< Back

By Amanda Stevens

On Saturday night I was fortunate enough to attend a client dinner at the iconic Australian War Museum in Canberra. As the daughter of a highly decorated brigadier in the Australian Army, I’m a little ashamed to admit it was my first time there.

 

It was also the first time I’d heard a keynote address from Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, the recent recipient of the Victoria Cross medal for bravery. Despite our paths crossing many times, this was the first time I’d had the opportunity to hear him. Ben has been on the program of nearly every conference I’ve spoken at recently and now I know why.

 

I’ve seen and heard a lot of speakers. I’ve heard inspirational stories of athletes who have defied the odds to win Olympic Gold. I’ve been moved by the tales of disabled and injured individuals who refuse to let their setbacks define them and go on to achieve more in their lifetime than any of us ever aspire to. I’ve heard Mao’s Last Dancer Li Cunxin speak seven times. I never tire of his story and I’m still moved to tears every time.

 

But Benjamin Roberts-Smith is something else again. Beyond being an inspirational war hero who deserves recognition for his selfless bravery, he is a gifted speaker and masterful storyteller. His recollection of his tours of duty in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan were so powerful and detailed, it was as if you were there, experiencing the harsh terrain, the sniper bullets whizzing around you and the intense pressure of maintaining focused leadership in the face of unimaginable danger.

 

This storytelling ability has maximum impact on the audience. His vivid depictions of the many situations he found himself in where he cheated certain death by millimetres were truly mesmerizing. He took his audience on a journey of emotions and he had them in the palm of his hand from the moment he stepped on stage.

 

Lesson One – Your message is only as memorable as the stories attached to them.

 

He peppered his experiences with powerful leadership lessons that were unique and insightful but it’s the stories attached to those lessons that make them memorable.

 

Scientists have recently discovered that when we hear stories that we can either relate to or picture vividly, it strengthens the connectors between the brain cells that store those thoughts. If you want someone to remember a message, wrap it up in a powerful story.

 

Lesson Two – The Importance of Planning

 

In sharing his many insights into high-level SAS battle strategy, Ben revealed that in any mission, no matter how much time there is to execute — be it three minutes or three hours — the team will always spend a third of that time planning. It’s a disciplined approach that ensures that the remaining two thirds of available time spent on execution is as effective as possible. He also explained that it meant that the plan allowed for every available contingency for the range of scenarios and deviations that could play out in any given situation.

 

Imagine how much more effective your marketing, sales and customer service strategies would be if you always devoted a third of the available time planning and devising the strategy and plans for different scenarios, rather than wasting time reacting to changes or, worse still, not having a pre-set plan to leverage opportunities as they arise.

 

Lesson Three – Teamwork and Perspective

 

One of the more intriguing insights into special services combat that Ben shared was the clearly-defined roles of each of the components of an SAS unit. In any mission, there are a number of very different, complex roles that are needed to deploy snipers into a target — all positioned in various angles to feed intelligence to the team commander.

 

While these roles are all individually critical, it’s the holistic view of the sum total that provides the picture needed to devise the most appropriate tactical response.

 

Is it any wonder that in every mission Ben Roberts-Smith took part in in Afghanistan, some lasting 13 hours and being outnumbered by Taliban insurgents three to one, that they didn’t have a single coalition casualty?

 

He says their success came down to planning, teamwork and the ability to see a situation from every possible angle.

 For those of us in planning for next year, this begs the question: Is your 2014 marketing plan being developed with a range of different perspectives … even those outside of your marketing department?

 

It’s the stories you tell, the increased time you devote to planning and your ability to pull together a team with different perspectives that will enable you to win the battle of consumer market share next year. Throw in some creativity, humility and strong leadership and you never know; your marketing efforts might be recognised for their bravery.