Self-help guru Stephen Covey passed away on July 16th, leaving a legacy in leadership teaching which began with “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, published in 1989. The book has had a lasting world-wide success with more than 25 million copies sold and translation into 38 languages. It has been particularly popular in business circles; last year Time Magazine named it to its list of the 25 most influential business management books, describing it as “one of the best-selling business books of all time [even though] there is very little in it about business or management.”
At least in terms of marketing, 1989 belongs to a different era. The passing of Professor Covey gives us cause to reflect on the seven habits which he identified and consider their relevance to internet marketing, an activity which it would have been impossible to conceive of at the time the book was penned.
Covey’s first habit is to “Be Proactive”, which he contrasts with being “reactive”. Reactive people don’t initiate actions and don’t take responsibility- everything is to be blamed on external factors. The distinction between being reactive or proactive is clear with social networking technology- some people wait until they are forced to use the latest technology while others are on the forefront of the action, discovering and creating.
The second habit is “Begin with the End in Mind.” Covey says that we should “begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.” Being proactive is not enough- you have to know what it is you want to achieve. Having a strong idea of your goals is crucial to keeping a digital marketing campaign on track and preventing it from slipping into the background of online scenery.
Habit number three, “Put First Things First”, is a time-honored principle of time-management and is important for any marketer who feels like he or she is overwhelmed by the number of things to be done. It is okay to say “no” to some things in order to focus on those which have the highest priority. This can be particularly important to keep in mind when you are juggling a blog, several social media platforms and a company website. Of all the actions which you take online every day, which are the most important and which should be left for a second moment?
The fourth habit encourages us to “Think Win-Win”, that is to imagine operating in the midst of a “cooperative arena, not a competitive one.” This is true even for interactions with rivals, who were probably easier to ignore 20 years ago; however the proximity of everything on the internet means that you likely rub digital shoulders with many of your sworn enemies. If you are able to interact cooperatively with these other companies you may be surprised at how everyone involved will benefit; on the other hand bickering usually leads to negative results for the whole group.
Habit 5, which tells us “Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood”, is an admonition of essential importance to internet marketers. Our entire digital marketing strategy should be based on the fact that we can listen to what people are saying.
The sixth habit, “Synergize”, is also quite important, although it has become ingrained in business talk to the point of becoming a platitude.
“Sharpen the Saw” is the final habit. As Covey says, it means “preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you.” Taking proper care of your mind and body is important for working effectively in any job, but going a step further and focusing on enriching yourself through reading, learning and teaching can be crucial to developing the strong cultural and social background which will give you that extra edge in marketing tasks.
As Time magazine noted, Professor Covey’s book doesn’t really talk about business, and this is perhaps the key to the universality which has allowed it to transcend more than two decades of drastic changes in the world of internet marketing. 23 years later, it is still a good read.
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