For better or worse, a new year inevitably brings change. And this one will be no different. As marketers, we have the choice to either fight change or embrace it with open arms. I would argue that the latter is by far the smarter choice for both you and your organization.
David Cooperstein is an accomplished marketing strategist, entrepreneur, and former Vice President at Forrester Research. As David often points out, the marketing profession will undoubtedly continue to change rapidly and radically, caused primarily by the technologies now at marketers’—and their customers’—disposal. Most Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) understand this and want to lead the efforts within their organizations to drive those changes, but many simply don’t know how. David said, “The ability to implement process changes and calculate careful organizational impacts will differentiate those CMOs who say they want to change from those who know how to make change happen. Like it or not, you have to figure it out.”
The former CMO at Kodak, Jeffrey Hayzlett, is now the co-founder and Chairman of C-Suite Network. In Jeff’s book, Running the Gauntlet: Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change, and Grow Profits, he points out that marketers should eagerly seize the opportunity to become change agents for their companies. “Being on the frontier of change every day sometimes feels like you’re running the gauntlet,” said Jeff. “And that gauntlet is terrifying. But when has mediocre ever made history? That’s where change agents come in.”
However, as David pointed out, even senior-level marketing leaders often are hesitant to lead that charge, most likely because of the potential risks involved. Jeff challenges those marketers to ask themselves questions such as, “What’s the worst that can happen? You make a mistake? You lose a client or some money? Maybe. But most likely, the worst you’ll get is a paper cut—literally and figuratively. So push like crazy. Be persistent. Accept responsibility for your actions, and learn to handle what comes after every success and failure.”
The Impact of Change
I consider myself an experienced change agent, as I’ve been at the forefront of driving major marketing shifts for virtually all the companies I worked for during the last 15 years. I believe that the most important driver for change should be how it affects the customer experience—and how that in turn impacts the bottom line for my organization.
Kerry Bodine, co-author of the book Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business, delineates that position well. “When we model the business value associated with a better customer experience and increased loyalty, we find that it’s worth millions of dollars in additional revenue for many companies every single year,” said Kerry. “For businesses to realize these benefits, however, they need to get serious about the way they define, implement, and manage the customer experience.”
But how does that directly affect the bottom line? “As change management operators, marketers play a significant role in this shift,” Kerry added. “Marketing communications of every shape and size set customers’ expectations about the types of interactions they’re going to have with a company. If those expectations aren’t aligned with the company’s actual ability to deliver on them, customers’ perceptions will plummet, and the business benefits will evaporate.”
So why should marketers lead the process? Because we have the best combination of strategic, creative, and communications skills and experience in the organization, all of which are crucial to the success of any major change management initiative. And serving as an effective conduit for change enables marketers to become a more valuable part of the leadership team.
Step by Step
If you’re now on board with the position that change management is vital to the long-term success and growth of your organization and that marketers should lead the charge, how do you actually go about it? I would suggest taking a systematic, thoughtful approach.
The first step is to get buy-in from the C-suite, as any significant shift has to have strong, unified support from the entire leadership team. Then get key players from every part of your organization involved to assist with creating internal messaging, integrating the changes into the company culture, managing resistance, and serving as cheerleaders for the change management process. Finally, create a formal roadmap to demonstrate to everyone in your organization what the goals are, who is responsible for what, how the process will work, and what will happen when.
If you still need more convincing, you might want to consider the words of one of the most famous change agents in American history: Benjamin Franklin. Albeit not a marketer by trade, he certainly understood the value of being a change agent when he famously said, “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”
I’m a long way from being finished. How about you?
A final thought: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ~Alan Watts