As BR’s CEO Greg Nickerson recently reminded us, change is not an option. Organizations must constantly transform the way they do business or risk becoming obsolete. Whether that means repositioning a brand, sharpening a sales team’s story, learning to use new technology or targeting new customers, change is (and should be) the norm.
As marketing decision-makers, we’re uniquely positioned to make change happen by fostering a culture of innovation and transformation.
It’s an exciting time to be a marketer — particularly in B2B. We’re seeing marketing leaders become more influential and increasingly responsible for driving business results. The extra cred on the leadership team is certainly welcome (and long overdue), but to truly deliver results, we as marketing decision makers need to be courageous and effective change agents — even when it might seem as though we are trying to move boulders up mountains.
So how do we drive those results? How do we align the organization behind the brand? How do we make it happen (“it” being transformation)? We band together — first as a marketing team, then, most critically, across key functions. We share customer insights and strategies to reach our goals. We help each other drive positive impact through collaboration and clarity.
In that spirit, here is what has helped me push for change throughout my career as a corporate marketing leader and, now, at an agency:
Stay humble. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to set my ego aside and work to break down silos to collaborate for the good of the company. It’s not always easy, especially if collaboration isn’t part of your culture. I take it upon myself to become an ambassador and identify advocates who can help me make it happen. Tempted to cancel that one-hour touch-base over coffee with other members of the leadership team? Stick with it. It might save you more time in the future when you won’t have to fight so hard to push your ideas through. Try starting with your counterpart in sales or IT.
Get out into the field. For me, it’s inspiring to meet with our various teams to learn about their great work with customers and channel partners every day. I’ve always seen it as a way to glean insights across channels and the sales team. In a previous role, my team and I developed a digital sales enablement program that equipped the sales team with consistent messaging, the ability to customize their presentations and the latest technology to convey a cutting-edge perception. Either in the field or in the office, I’d get real-time feedback about how these tools are put to use by the men and women who ultimately determine whether the program is successful. While it should be a common practice for all marketers, putting my boots on the ground and knowing what’s going on is the most important tool in my marketing arsenal.
Use data to understand what works and what doesn’t. I have regular meetings with members of the agency to get a handle on things like whom our thought leadership is reaching, how our SEM efforts are performing and how we could do better with social media. It’s about how we can provide more value for our customers. Your organization should have a robust and accessible data architecture so you can be fully informed. You’ll also be able to make adjustments to programs in which you’ve invested a great deal of time and money so you know they’re working. I enjoy using the insightful, analytical side of my brain, as it takes a quantitative mindset to connect the dots of these separate data sets. And it’s important to have quantitative data showing success to go along with qualitative soft metrics.
B2B can learn from B2C. I count on trade media to keep me up to speed on the macroeconomics impacting not only our industry but on others. Looking outside our industry for insights and inspiration helps me keep my edge. I’ve worked in both the B2B and B2C worlds, and the work translates, sometimes seamlessly. I worked at Harley-Davidson Motor Company prior to Case IH Agriculture. While at Case IH, I noticed the passion producers have for farming was similar to the passion of motorcycle riders. So I worked with my team to launch an engaging social media campaign that strengthened the bonds of producers with their farm equipment, much like a program strengthened riders’ relationships with their bikes. The results were phenomenal in a B2B space where, at that time, such campaigns were rare.
Change is scary, especially for those set in their ways and for those whose businesses have seen great success. But change is important. It takes a brave and patient soul to be an agent of change, and to evoke transformation.
The challenge with transformation is that it doesn’t happen overnight ̶ yet it cannot wait. I know from experience it takes dogged persistence on the part of the organization to educate and inform, spreading the word about what change means, why it’s important and how it helps people do their jobs better. Change is much easier when the entire organization is aligned. Make sure the tools are in place and you’re keeping up with the field, industry, trends and technology. Be brave. Believe in yourself and what you do. Make it happen. If you have tips or lessons you’ve learned in your time as a marketing leader, please share them in the comments section.