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Why aren’t you telling your boss what to do?

I have been my own boss for seven years starting this week, but before that I had a lot of great bosses. But one thing that I realized my bosses needed from me, no matter how good they were, was for me to tell them what to do.

Now, I know that sounds wrong. Your boss is supposed to order you around, not the other way. But that isn’t how successful organizations work. In fact, the more you do what your boss wants, the less necessary you are. It’s only if you can redirect your boss that you’re actually needed.

This really hit home for me recently when I was cleaning out some old files. I came across the package that I submitted to become a Distinguished Engineer at IBM. Making DE was a big thing for me–it’s an executive position at IBM–and that package was my attempt to really show my value to IBM. As I leafed through it one last time before tossing it into the downsizing bin, I was struck as I read this glowing list of accomplishments–none of these things were actually my job when I did them.

That’s not to say that I did not do the things that were considered my job. It’s just to point out that what made the biggest difference was all of the times that I told my boss what to do. (And, luckily for me, they listened.)

I am of the firm belief that there is no field where this is more true today than in marketing.

Marketers must tell their bosses what to do. The reason for that is simple. Marketing is becoming more and more data-driven, which means it isn’t about opinions or experience or the way we have always done things. It’s about data–data that your boss doesn’t have.

You must be unearthing every insight, calculating every edge, segmenting every group–teasing apart the data–so that you can advise your boss as to what the best approach is in every situation.

Tell your boss what to do and you’ll be appreciated for it.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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