Strategies to survive a marketing upheaval
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Marketing reinventions go by many names—transformations, makeovers, revamps, redesigns, overhauls, transitions, readjustments and more. Regardless of the label, most are prompted by an upheaval of some sort—whether a global pandemic, management change, business fluctuation, competitive advance, technology disruption, acquisition or divestiture.

In my last article I outlined the four early warning signs a marketing reorganization is coming, and the preemptive steps marketing leaders can take to prepare for the inevitable disruption that follows. But what if you’re faced with a real-time marketing transformation that has left you flat footed?

Sound far fetched? Not really. The chaos and disruption of 2020, for example, has resulted in 91 percent of global business leaders saying they are planning companywide cost-reduction programs. That’s a lot of change, and marketing will not be immune.

Not all transformation is bad

Even though 70 percent of all transformations fail (largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support), there are many good reasons and some positive outcomes that can result from a successful transformation.

Done well, a marketing reinvention can help your company:

  • Consolidate disparate teams, uncoordinated marketing messages, and a sprawling number of agency partners
  • Integrate strategies and messages coming from corporate communications, human resources, sales and marketing which often have differing priorities and playbooks
  • Refocus and re-orient your marketing investment around customer segments or industries, instead of around products
  • Motivate all marketing professionals to pull in the same direction to drive a change in your brand, reputation or company
  • Automate your core marketing processes, internal databases, and lead acquisition and nurturing systems

Beating the reinvention odds

So how, then, can you best survive and thrive from a marketing transformation and beat the reinvention odds? Here are six strategies to tackle that next marketing upheaval head-on:

|1| Engage: The calmest weather is often found at the center of a hurricane or tropical storm, making it the safest place to be. As with a hurricane, the winds of change blow more fiercely at the edges of a transformation. Choose to be in the eye of the storm, where the weather is usually still and calm. You can do this by volunteering to lead or participate in a project management office or reinvention work stream. By doing so, you get a voice in the organization redesign.

|2| Be Forthright: Don’t hide information or resources. The first step in most reinventions is establishing a starting baseline that frames the current-state situation: budgets, programs, agencies, headcount, contractors, metrics, processes, best practices, and the like. This is not a time to play hide and seek or to reclassify employees into other “safer” job categories. This is a time to get on board and do what’s right for the long-term viability of your company.

|3| Keep Self Interest in Check: When faced with any business decision, three factors naturally come into play: the impact of that decision on your company, on your team, and on your career. Putting your company or customer first—before your team and before yourself—is the best way to ensure transformation, and career, success. The rationale is quite simple: A successful career requires a solvent company. How can you succeed if your company fails?

|4| Offer Suggestions: This is a time to provide constructive input and offer up any best practices within your business, function, or geography to those leading the reinvention. Most transformations aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel; rather, they look for quick wins and adopt-and-go best practices that can be broadened across the company. In the same vein, be open to new ideas.

|5| Get on Board: There are three typical reactions during a transformation: fight (resistance and subversion), flight (seek out more stable opportunities elsewhere), or freeze (performance paralysis). Choose to become an active partner in your company’s marketing transformation, not a helpless victim. In times of crisis and change, there is often more latitude to question an existing process, propose a new idea, establish a new norm, or demonstrate leadership.

|6| Be Courageous: Challenging the status quo is both scary and courageous. But it is the only way you can find new and better ways of doing things on behalf of your customers and company. Is there an outdated process that needs fixing? Now is the opportune time to do so. An agency relationship you should have exited long ago? A sponsorship that isn’t adding sufficient value? Perhaps a long-running campaign that is underperforming? Always question what you are delivering and how you are delivering it. That’s a surefire way to add value and exert leadership.

Shake or be shaken

The best way to avert change, of course, is to initiate it.

“The enlightened marketing leader knows that the best reinventions are self-imposed, not other-imposed. They change the rules before someone else does.”

The enlightened marketing leader knows that the best reinventions are self-imposed, not other-imposed. They change the rules before someone else does. They know that they only have two choices: to transform or to be transformed. And they act accordingly.

The enlightened marketing leader takes to heart the words of the late President John F. Kennedy, who said, “The best time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” They act preemptively, not reactively.

Change is inevitable. Preparation is a choice.

Marketing reinventions, transformations and change initiatives may be unpredictable, but they are inevitable. Preparation is your best response. How you respond can determine your success or failure. Following these six strategies will help you take control of your destiny.

To further help you on your journey I’ve developed some simple steps you can take, starting today, to increase your resiliency and reinvention success. I call these actions power moves and I’ve summarized the top nine in a marketing agility guide which is available as a free download.