Today’s CMO #3: Embrace Change and Win Bigger

embrace change to win bigChange is all around us. Change is necessary to succeed and win in business. But damn change is hard.

This is especially true in marketing today where huge disruption, high expectations and massive FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) have become the norm. We’re expected to use real-time data to precisely target and personalize experiences, elegantly nurture prospects and deliver happy customers through the entire customer lifecycle, while portraying our brands as thought leaders to authentically differentiate our value. Not only is this a mouthful to say, but a big, tall order to deliver.

IDC sums it up simply: “Marketing organizations will be radically reshaped. The core fabric of marketing execution is being ripped up and rewoven by data and marketing technology.” This expectation isn’t for the faint of heart or those that resist change. Rather, it calls for changing the way we think, the way we approach our craft, and the way we measure and value our work.

And, instead of fighting it and procrastinating – which is human nature whether you’re the CMO leading or the marketing pro making it happen – embracing change to capitalize on the incredible career- and business-building opportunity promises bigger rewards. In a world where the rate of change is speeding up, the best defense is a smart offense.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a front row seat both as a CMO practitioner and working with hundreds of marketing organizations who face the challenge. An example is at technology provider CA Technologies (@CAinc). Beki Scarbrough, who leads the global marketing automation team, put it bluntly on the main stage during Marketo’s Marketing Nation customer conference earlier this month, “We were good at random acts of marketing… until we committed to change the way we execute and measure marketing.” The team became obsessed with data and embraced technology to spearhead their change. The result of this change mentality was a 400% increase in lead conversions year over year. Not too shabby!

So how can embracing change help you reach new levels of success? While not always perfectly aligned, here are a few key change management principles that I’m observing of high performers and standout marketing organizations.

Principle #1: Identify the initiatives that will change the business

Effective change most often happens when you focus your energy on efforts that transform or accelerate the business. Two areas marketers cite frequently are 1) customer-driven initiatives that drive revenue and 2) marketing automation and marketing integration projects that unlock cost savings. These high-impact efforts are measurable and showcase the ways change can create business value.

Principle #2: Be and find “change agents”

Change rarely starts at the top (but does require executive buy-in). Solicit and dig for smart ideas in every corner, both internally (within your company) and externally (from customer to experts). Socialize the need and opportunity for change, identifying and rewarding “change agents” who will set the tone for others. Using this collective knowledge and passion will help advance your effort. At the same time, identify and isolate naysayers and turf protectors. These people are those that find small or petty reasons not to make changes (versus real issues) and often try to sabotage change.

Principle #3: Communicate and share a vision that inspires change

Like all successful marketing efforts, your communications should be the truth well told – a story that inspires and causes action. Articulate the challenges and what’s possible. I liken this to an effective approach that shows the before and after of the change that needs to be made. While building a vision and story is important, avoid hyperbolic Silicon Valley speak like the adjective “game-changing.”

Principle #4: Use the tools and techniques that are available today

You don’t have to be on the bleeding edge to have successful change initiatives. You can use tools and techniques like marketing tech blueprints, use cases of what other companies are doing/have done, and always use data to help both amplify your points and get stakeholders moving in the same direction towards the goal.

Putting these principles to work and having a “change now” mindset built into the way you do business will help you and your marketing colleagues achieve new levels of success. If you want to make a difference, there’s no better time as a marketing exec to hit the change accelerator.

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