Top 5 tips on marketing through change

In a business, the marketing function plays a key role in navigating the organisation through change

There is widespread uncertainty in the markets around us triggered by various factors contributing to it, from inflation to geopolitics to consumer and business trepidation (which are delaying purchases), the energy crisis, further waves of the virus, and so on. Uncertainty implies that we must deal with constant change, which necessitates a mindset and operational style.To be fair and kind to ourselves, few, if any of us, have really experienced this extent of change and uncertainty in the years and decades gone by. The treadmill speed and incline are both increasing!

In business, the marketing function plays a key role in navigating the organisation through change. Effective business leaders in marketing (and teams) play a key role as the “common glue” and “base” connecting the various functions together. Think of the key role the pivot plays in a game of basketball or football. When the function works well, this base and glue play a critical role in navigating the waters forward.

Five Key Areas While Marketing Through Change

To play the role of the pivot, it is important for marketing to be comfortable with the spectrum of considerations at hand – across the breadth and depth. This article will talk about 5 key areas that marketing leaders need to work through and keep on the radar/effectively execute:

1. Build a Data-Driven Rallying Cry for the Organisation: During periods of uncertainty, it is important for the organisation to rally behind core principles and ideas – which are simple to understand and bring execution to a common cause. With insights and performance indicators on consumer/customer behavior, marketing plays the role of identifying the highest converting customers, what tactics/messaging is working, customer preferences, and how together we can drive better accountability from people and teams across the funnel. These insights have the potential to bring collective focus across the organisation. Being data & insights-driven, it naturally brings focus, prioritisation, and attention from cross-functional teams.

2. Strive for Influence rather than Control: With the rallying cry, parts of the execution marketing “owns” and drives (usually an upper funnel to demand generation), but it also needs to be effectively “caught” and translated downstream into the sales funnel subsequently. So, execution involves as much influence through the funnel, if not more, than direct control and orders. Influence gets cross-functional teams to focus on the data-driven rallying cry. The influence that marketing exerts is the backbone of the role that it plays as the pivot. As an example, think about a competitive displacement strategy – where marketing has the outreach to target the competitive base – generates demand, and subsequently, sales/pre-sales drive the follow-up on the opportunities for conversion and revenue generation. The rallying cry that teams subscribe to in this example is ‘competitive displacement’ – followed by marketing plans for demand generation on this basis (marketing owned KPIs) – and finally, sales/pre-sales led conversion of opportunities (marketing here plays a role of influence to ensure the effective follow-through/pitch towards the sale and conversion).

3. Get Comfortable with Decision Making in Ambiguity: This third aspect is around ambiguity; uncertainty means several grey areas, with few clear black and white decisions. Hence, as a leader, you need to be comfortable with business ambiguity – which ensures execution with minimal churn. A key outcome from good decision-making should be – a (short) prioritised set of actions that you can drive or influence forward. Also, in my experience, it is better to make shorter “directionally right” moves rather than wait perennially to get them right completely. Moving the team(s) forward directionally serves to get runs on the board and helps to learn from any mistakes/course corrections required.

4. Importance of being Open and Agile: With ambiguity, you need to be careful about calls on the priorities made. And as situations change, revisit the tactics/decisions and be agile to change or pivot. For this, being “open” in mind, and having frequent conversations helps the cause and helps the outcomes it can support. While being open – remember the best ideas can come from anywhere in the organisation – but you need to make the decision calls keeping progress to be made and risk to be minimised both in mind simultaneously.

5. Communication is a Key Fabric for Maintaining Trust in the Team: This is possibly the most important; you need your team to believe in you and your decisions/approach. Hence, it is important to communicate and over- communicate to the extent you can, of course, because often there could be limiting considerations holding you back. Use both in-person meetings and written forms to reinforce messages. Be genuine and respectful here since the trust of your team powers the change you are steering through.

Warm wishes for the new year and the very best as you steer through 2023 and beyond!


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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