An Interview with Michael Mathias, CEO of Wheroware
Michael Mathias, Chief Executive Officer at Whereoware, Inc. joined KLIK in a discussion centered on how to successfully manage teams and stakeholders, and how marketing agencies must adapt and thrive amidst a constantly changing landscape.
The conversation below has been lightly edited for readability.
KLIK: Thanks for joining us today. What elements do you think build a strong Agency culture? And how do you motivate your team?
Shortly after I joined Whereoware, we were selling a part of the business and the founder was moving to a Chairman role. These two scenarios made it very easy to justify being distracted. We were going through a period where our company as a whole wasn’t able to get things done as effectively as we wanted. As a result, we needed to shift into a more accountable environment and create new processes that keep us focused.
One of the first things I did was to work on creating a culture of feedback and continuous improvement. A simple tool we adopted across the company was a structure for coaching conversations that work in nearly every case, and starts with: “What I appreciate about you is…” followed closely up by: “…and you could be even more effective if…”
Approaching feedback in this way paved the way for more positive, effective and motivational dialogue between colleagues. In order to build a really strong team, I believe that you must be having these types of interactions with employees, which sets the foundation for accountability. We feel so strongly about this at Whereoware that it is also the first part of everyone’s review.
“What I appreciate about you is…” and you could be even more effective if…” – Michael Mathias on giving constructive feedback.
KLIK: How do you successfully manage client relationships?
By being authentic. I can’t stress enough how important this attribute is for businesses to have in order to build a strong rapport with their customers. For example, if you say to someone, “Hey, I am going to get this done by five p.m. on Thursday…” It doesn’t matter if it’s your team, your boss, or your client, it better be there by five p.m. on Thursday.
To me the idea that you let someone down around you is all about having integrity. It’s okay to say “I don’t know, but I will do the work to find the answer.” In my mind, that’s not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. Doing this will allow you to develop a deeper, stronger relationship with your client and avoid wasting time – the most precious asset for any business.
Another way to show authenticity is by owning mistakes and confronting it before it festers. Of course, you must note that there are exceptions to this. For example, if you can identify the problem and manufacture a solution, this gives you the opportunity to tell the client what is going on, as well as present the things that you’ve done to remedy the issue.
We have a saying that we use here at Whereoware for when things go south. The saying is: “What could I have done differently?” There are always going to be mistakes, and each time one occurs, there is always something that each one of us could have done better in order to avoid that mistake. Asking this question directly will help take the temperature of the conversation down, and it keeps the finger pointing to a minimum.
When something goes wrong, ask yourself: “What could I have done differently?” This question helps keep finger pointing at a minimum.
KLIK: Where is the digital marketing industry heading and what kinds of trends do you notice?
I have had the great fortune of being on the technology, marketing, and data side of my entire career. I have seen all sorts of fads come and go, like “new media” or the next “Facebook killer.” There have been so many bad decisions made because someone has read the column in AdAge where it talks about how marketing on TikTok (or whatever is next) is exploding, and if we don’t get in on it now then we are missing out.
When something becomes the latest new thing, everyone tends to charge after it and spend all of their money on it. After a time, someone needs to ask, “did that actually work?” Because the channel is so new, and often teams don’t have any time to provide any data feedback loop, many choose to simply update their attribution models to please whoever is holding the budget, and overlook this simple question.
The prevailing trend is to let the data do the talking. Every time I have a conversation with someone who suggests we should jump into this [fill in the blank] media platform, I say “Well okay, maybe.” But we need to come up with a very measurable testing strategy first.
Another interesting trend I’m seeing is what’s old is what’s new again. There seems to be a renewed appreciation for things that people thought were dead – like catalogs, direct media, radio and newspapers.
I’ve got news for you, all of it works. The trick is to determine in what combination. After 25 years of one-to-one marketing, the data is actually starting to unlock our ability to make the right decisions on how to advertise by effectively combining new and old types of media.
When your team or agency is testing the latest new channel or trend, before going all in, remember to ask the simple question: “does it actually work?”
Finally, there’s an acknowledgement of the benefits of not rushing into things. Instead, let’s all take the time and have a plan for a more sophisticated, integrated style of marketing. We’ll all benefit if we deliberately slow down, most of all our clients and their customers.