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Embrace Change Management as a Marketing Capability

Debbie Qaqish

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It’s time to take control. Marketers can take charge of change in their organization with the following techniques.

One of the best things about attending conferences is gaining a sense for how marketing as a function continues to transform. I recently attended the MarTech West Conference, at which a key theme was change management.

For too long, marketers have shied away from developing a change management capability. As a result, marketers act reactively rather than control their own destiny. What was so striking about the MarTech Conference this year were the stories of how marketing teams are fully embracing proactive and practical change management.

Here are five elements of change mentioned by more than one speaker, as well as techniques I have personally used when leading change.

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Begin with a Vision

If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? This is one of my favorite quotes and a reason for beginning your change initiative. Set and socialize a vision—it should be highly descriptive of the ultimate desired state and should motivate people to embark on the journey with you.

If your vision only lives on a PowerPoint slide, no change will happen. Think of your vision like a political stump speech. By the time your race has finished, you will have given that stump speech to a wide and diverse audience countless times. You are now known for the future you painted and, hopefully, you will have won your election.

Brand the Change

An often overlooked change management tactic is to brand the change. A few years ago, I worked with a large financial services organization. The group that ran its marketing automation system was frustrated that its members were seen as button-pushers who did not add any strategic value. Because this group held an astounding amount of talent and knowledge for campaign best practices, we conducted a branding exercise to give them a new identity. We created a new name for the group, a charter and an elevator pitch. Every person on the team practiced the pitch and gave it as many times as possible in the next 30 days.

As part of the re-branding, we included the benefits to using the group as a consultant for campaign performance and set up monthly forums highlighting best practices and results. We even created a “Would you like fries with that?” type of up-sell dialogue with groups using their services.

Another way to reinforce the change is to copy political campaign best practices. From a practical perspective, you should write a stump speech and present it at every meeting and event possible.

A few years ago, I worked with a technology company whose marketing team was experiencing tremendous change. To help inform this large company of the changes, we wrote a positioning paper (a stump speech) which was the vision for marketing, produced a video and created a PowerPoint deck so others could articulate the vision. We also identified peer influencers who helped spread the message. Promoting the vision in this way helped the marketing teams and other affected groups to more readily engage, work with and validate the changes.

Build the Roadmap

To put substance behind the vision, you must have a roadmap. It should include a high-level view of how change will incrementally happen over time. This is an extraordinarily effective tool to help people feel like they are participating in the change. It also gives team members a sense of direction and a way to provide invaluable input on the journey.

I recently worked with a newly formed marketing operations team that set its 90-day goals and created a roadmap for the next 24 months. The roadmap included a list of required marketing operations capabilities, roles, responsibilities and technologies. They chose to measure progress in six-month increments against goals in each of these categories.

The four stages of the roadmap involved:

  • Analyzing campaign performance
  • Identifying prospect and customer behavior specific to campaigns and web visits
  • Parsing a larger set of customer data to help inform cross-sell and upsell opportunities
  • Evolving to provide customer insights to sales and executives

The roadmap made sense for the company, with its resources and goals at that point in time. Team members could see the evolution of the data analysis capability and participate in achieving the future vision. Rather than being exclusive, the roadmap was inclusive and encouraged participation.

Execute a Communications Plan

Inherent in this discussion so far is the importance of communication to help drive change. This particular change tactic involves building an intentional, multi-channel communication plan that is based on the stakeholder persona. It sounds like how you build a campaign, and it is! 

Begin by identifying all the key stakeholders that will be affected by the change. This will include stakeholders both in and out of marketing. Create value statements for each persona that you can use in messaging the change. Also consider the channels of communication—this can be internal company sites; email; and company, sales or water cooler meetings. As much as possible, try to use your marketing automation system as one of your channels of communication so you can see and track engagement with your messages. As practical as this change management tactic seems, it is very underused by marketing.

Implement Training

I recently worked with a U.S.-based company that was moving to a new organizational structure in marketing so it could better implement the Agile Method. This was a company-wide initiative and one that marketing struggled to execute. While the reporting structure remained similar, the work structure differed. To address this change, the company created a series of “A Day in the Life” scenarios for the broad marketing teams and more specific daily situations for specialized teams. Everyone was required to navigate the scenarios, take a series of tests and get certified in the new work approach. While it was difficult to take the time for this training, the end result was improved cross-functional team interactions and higher productivity.

The message is to not forget about training, not just for technology but in other softer areas affected by the change. It might be improved communication skills, how to work on a cross-functional team or how to act like a consultant to other parts of the business.

Conclusion

Change is no longer a dirty word for marketers and is now becoming a more common capability. By taking a practical approach, being intentional and by learning a few techniques, marketers are driving change in new ways in their organizations. So, don’t let change happen to you. It’s time to take control.

Debbie Qaqish, Ph.D., is principal partner and chief strategy officer of The Pedowitz Group. She manages global client relationships and leads the firm’s thought leadership initiatives. She has been helping B2B companies drive revenue growth for more than 35 years.