How to make marketing change management more successful

There has been an incredible amount of change within marketing departments (and of course businesses overall) over the past 2 years.

Some teams that we talk with feel burnt out, others are refreshed with new models and ways of working, and others have tried to change but are still facing headaches 6 months down the track.

In this post, I’d like to focus on the latter and outline some of the key observations and learnings from assisting marketing departments that have tried to change but were still struggling.

I’ll break it into three areas where we’ve helped to refocus, re-prioritise and recharge.

Have you changed the deck chairs or the deck? The need to refocus.

Change is never easy. However, one of the recurring themes that we come across is that marketing teams have either rearranged the deckchairs or changed a few deck chairs as part of a change process.

Typically, this is a new agency partner or a change to resources and roles within the marketing team.

Some have integrated roles and functions, or have in-sourced expertise. And others have created new functions with new specialist skills, expectations and accountability.

Whatever the change undertaken, one commonality that we observe is that poor practices and culture still exist within the system.

So, no matter how many people are replaced, or reduced, or whether new agency partners or functions are embedded into the marketing process, the deck is actually the issue.

And by the deck I mean the platform on which marketing activity is built.

Too often we see a lack of accountability. There is no one common goal for which marketing is being held accountable. There are lots of objectives and KPIs, but they’re not laddering up to measure the value that marketing can deliver.

There’s also a lack of alignment between marketing and other areas within businesses. So marketing teams are off in one direction and sales, customer service and other areas may be heading in another. Sounds unbelievable. However, it’s more prevalent than you think.

This is mainly due to a lack of clarity in the marketing strategy in how it will deliver on a business plan. As well as a lack of clarity on how all the marketing activity is connected to the marketing strategy.

So, if I squeeze the life out of this analogy just a little bit more (forgive me), then the deck chairs are all being used very busily every day, but no one knows the true value of what they’ve done when combined or viewed from above.

In short, a refocus on what marketing is trying to achieve must be addressed prior to any structural or functional changes.

Are you using the same process but expecting a different result? The need to re-prioritise.

Another major common theme that we see when change programs have been ineffectual, is that the volume of activity hasn’t been prioritised.

The same processes are being used to manage the same or increased volume of activity. Which has led to inefficiency, conflict and burn out.

Marketing leaders tell us that they need to get more and more marketing activity out quicker and quicker. However, the pitfall is that the system wasn’t set up for success.

Not every project is created equally. Nor should every project be treated equally.

The seniority of resources, time intensity, involvement, and cost allocations all need to be prioritised.

And activity needs to be framed in terms of strategic value and contribution, investment and capability required; measurability; and stakeholder and partner expectation, risk and involvement.

Some of the initial questions we ask are:

  • what needs to be prioritised and why?
  • what’s most important to you in a prioritisation approach?
  • and what has been impeding prioritisation to date?

Discussion around these areas helps us form a view on how best to prioritise within the system that marketing operates. To then identify the key dimensions for a new decision-making process.

There’s no cookie-cutter model here, and no one size fits all approach.

Unfortunately, best practice comparisons are irrelevant. We always approach it as the best practice to meet individual marketing team requirements. 

Do you love what you do? Or do you need a recharge?

This is a theme we also come across regularly.

Many marketing teams that haven’t successfully changed or adapted say that they’ve lost the love for what they do.

The system they operate in is too complex or too hard to change. Or the culture is too stifling. Or the resources are all pointing fingers and bickering at one another wondering why the activity isn’t getting out more efficiently.

As marketing management consultants, it’s easy to helicopter into a business. However, we acknowledge that working in a business is often difficult (we have all been there in our careers). And we appreciate that many businesses are hamstrung by personality clashes, historical arrangements, and legacy relationships.

Interestingly, we find that a recharge follows by working through 1 & 2 above. Tensions simmer and focus turns to a new common language, a new set of behaviours, and ultimately greater efficiency.

We’re not saying it’s easy. However, rolling up the sleeves, facing the house of mirrors, and having the confidence to move forward is how these marketers, who were previously getting stuck, are now tasting greater success.

To conclude, here are some thought starters for anyone struggling with change or experiencing change fatigue:

Before undertaking any marketing change process, take the time to consider and discuss these areas:

  • What is your motivation for change?
  • What are you looking for in terms of roles and resource expertise?
  • How ready are you to, and how will you, support any new functions or relationships with knowledge transfer, communication, collaboration, mentorship, and feedback?
  • What functions do you really require internally and externally?
  • Which processes must be reconsidered to accommodate change, and to ensure the efficiency of the overall marketing operation?
  • If you’re looking to in-source more expertise, where would the resources be located internally, and how will they connect with other internal teams?
  • What tracking mechanisms will be required to measure utilisation, efficiency, cost, and ultimately the value of your outputs?

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