Vickie Sherman, Senior Vice President, Director of Integrated Marketing, Rabobank, N.A
Modern-day marketers know their function is simply no longer possible without technology. We need data. Automation. We’re moving into AI. Insights turned into personalized storytelling drive sales. The martech stack needed to reach customers and prospects according to their expectations that grows more sophisticated by the minute. IT should be our best friends, followed closely by Sales and Product. What if your best practices are sound but all too much is still manual? What if you’re in an industry with a reputation of slowly adopting marketing technology? What if the obstacles that keep you from modern marketing in your organization have little to do with the desire to innovate? There is a way forward. Surprisingly, it isn’t about technology. It’s about people and culture. The roadmap discussed below was largely inspired by John Kotter’s Leading Change | Why Transformational Efforts Fail. The CliffsNotes™ version is, it takes guts.
Walk with me for a bit CEOs and CIOs. Let’s unravel the 10 non-technical requirements needed to launch marketing personalization in your organization. Your CMO will thank you.
1. A clear vision
Let’s say the vision of what I want to build is epitomized in the 2017 commercial by Good by, Silverstein & Partners for Adobe Experience Cloud. Minus the robbers of course.
I’m in Sacramento, CA, about 2 hours from Silicon Valley. I know there’s a start-up not far from home that will make my company extinct. If we don’t innovate, we will die. It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. For my transformative initiative to proceed, embracing that isn’t a nice-to-do. It’s a need-to-do.
3. A powerful coalition
Kingdoms can exist in large organizations. Power dynamics are a reality. And we tend to undervalue the fact that projects require the same resources.
In my example, that means we need the royal approval and legitimate support of IT, Product, Retail, PMO, Marketing, and Executive Leadership. For the good of the realm.
What if the obstacles that keep you from modern marketing in your organization have little to do with the desire to innovate? There is a way forward. Surprisingly, it isn’t about technology. It’s about people and culture
You probably need to communicate more with your workforce, even if you think you already do. We need to make the narrative proactive, reassuring, and consistent, especially given the disruptive nature of items #1 and #2. This is a transformation after all.
5. Short term wins
Projects can take a long time. The project plan needs to identify and communicate out milestones that get us closer to the goal. Early reminders on progress will help build momentum and commitment.
6. Don’t declare victory too soon
Do you recall someone standing on an aircraft carrier in 2003 in front of a sign that said, “Mission Accomplished”? The war in question continued for 8 more years. Regardless of your politics, this illustrates the importance of not appearing to minimize extraordinary complexity. Items #4 and #5 should be measured and honest.
7. Obstacle removal
If the most dangerous phrase in business is “we’ve always done it this way,” then the most dangerous activity is ignoring existing procedures and how they contradict new initiatives. You can’t be afraid to change or throw outdated methods.
8. Strategic trade-offs
Closely related to #7, band-aid initiatives and unfunded mandates are symptoms of an organization that doesn’t nixbad projects. I call them Zombie Projects. Identifying an initiative as a top priority is more than moving it to the top of the list. It also means other killing other projects. This takes courage. It could mean spending political capital by disagreeing with the board or executive peers.
9. Not every picture should be rosy
Authenticity has extraordinary value. Leaders earn respect by owning their vulnerability and mistakes. Innovation is iterative. Admitting a first effort didn’t work, what we learned, and where we’re going as a result is the sign of a good leader and healthy culture. At best, Pollyanna’s are considered naïve. At worst, delusional.
10. Anchor changes in the culture
If legacy processes are allowed to linger, the new platform won’t last and all that work will be for naught. People tend to pay attention to that for which they are paid. Therefore, bonuses should be based around using the new technology. Update your processes. Eliminate the old ways. Plan for recurring training, maintenance, and upgrades.
The technology behind personalization and marketing automation is impressive. But the appetite for change and collaboration of the people behind it is critical for its success. Chances are, if you don’t have something like this in place already, your CMO wants to build it. She/he just needs your help.