As a CMO Consultant, I’ve helped more than 45 Chief Marketing Officers evaluate, implement and expand an organizational initiative. These are generally embarked upon by a newly-appointed CMO who wants to make her mark early on with a buzz-word project such as:
- Digital Transformation (DTX)
- Customer Experience (CX)
- Marketing Center of Excellence (COE)
- Account-Based Marketing (ABM/ABX)
- Lead Management
- Omni-Channel Marketing
- Revenue Operations
Such initiatives face a common set of obstacles:
- Status Quo – Resistance to change or change fatigue
- Legacy Org Structures – organized around product lines instead of customer needs
- Fragmented Data – Preventing one view of the account or customer
- Tech Proliferation – The ubiquitous impulse to shop for more software rather than building best practices
- Resources & Skills – The Great Resignation has resulted in much institutional knowledge loss
- Analysis Paralysis – Decision by committee creates meetings but prevents progress.
Based on my travels, the following recommendations will help you, new CMO, to overcome these are formidable challenges and succeed in leading organizational change.
- PICK YOUR MOMENT WELL
- Make sure you have enough runway, clout and budget to see the project through.
- Make sure you have the backing of your C-level peers. Build the relationships you’ll need, especially the CSO/CRO, before you broadcast your plan. Their people will start pushing back and you’ll need to be sure they’ll hold firm.
- PICK YOUR PROJECT WISELY
- Don’t select everything on the menu or predict miracles. Pick one reasonable proof-of-concept goal with achievable metrics.
- Pick a project that is attainable and urgent for your organization. If Marketing is still focused on churning our drip emails or taking orders, maybe you should start with DTX or a COE. If your organization is still focused on its own products, perhaps it’s time for a customer experience initiative. If net-new sales is the primary way your organization maintains revenue, consider client-expansion ABM.
- Make sure your C-level peers understand the project scope fully and similarly – and have reasonable expectations. If they’re looking for a silver bullet, they might not exhibit patience.
- COMMUNICATE RELENTLESSLY
- Setting the wheels in motion isn’t enough, you must move it forward every day for the long term. Evangelize until the initiative becomes an engrained process.
- Use formal Communication Plan, Project Management and Change Management techniques. Comms plans should include the following:
- Roadshow deck – The CMO should maintain a set of slides that explains the initiative and describes benefits as well as responsibilities by role and between teams. This deck should be a living document that evolves with the project and can be produced at any time for on-the-spot evangelism.
- Weekly Updates – Leaders should announce the initiative across the organization, communicate reasons and goals for the initiative, and celebrate progress. FAQs are useful.
- Progress Reports – The initiative leader should celebrate pilot progress using metrics and communicate benefits by role and team. Be specific about how teams can participate.
- Playbooks – As the plans and pilots take shape, every step and decision should be documented in a mostly-visual playbook (lots of screen captures). This will be essential for your training team.
- PILOT AND PROVE THE CONCEPT
- Pick a strong initiative leader – Ideally this would be you, CMO, but if you cannot move it forward every day, identify a VP-level leader with good cross-functional connections. DO NOT give this to a junior leader as a stretch assignment.I have seen many key initiatives assigned to a new Director to do “on the side” and it always ends badly. They never have enough experience, throw-weight, or bandwidth. They lose momentum and, feeling like a failure, often leave the company.
- Conduct cross-functional working sessions with a core team of stakeholders to identify initiative goals, audiences, resources, plans and metrics. Get very specific – use an accredited project manager to develop a robust pilot plan.
- Assign Pilot leaders who can manage workstreams like data, content, paid media and reporting. Pull resources from existing teams but be sure they are given time to contribute to the pilots and their “day jobs”. Otherwise, bottlenecks will occur.
- Pilot the Initiative – Select an achievable proof-of-concept effort. Maybe test ABM on one or two key accounts or improve the onboarding experience for a set of new customers. Identify RACI and set workstreams in motion. Use that project manager. Measure and communicate.
- Expand carefully, learning and documenting as you go. Add multiple pilots running in parallel and add capabilities such as new channels, personalization or intent data. Involve both champions and skeptics. Make participation a reward.
- MANAGE CHANGE
- Celebrate the pilot success, keep communicating the benefits of the initiative, and tell teams how they can help. Reinforce behaviors.
- Track metrics. Establish internal service-level agreements (SLAs). Analyze, report, adjust, lather, rinse and repeat. Expand with a plan.
- Anticipate and address common “dealbreakers” such as lack of readiness, cross-functional distrust, data silos, change fatigue, inconsistent leadership and day-to-day distractions. Change must be actively managed.
Sound like a lot to manage? If you want to make a real impact on your new organization, you’ll find a way. It’s called leadership.
Note: I have recently embarked on a new CMO adventure, but much of the learning I relayed in the blog was gained while at The Pedowitz Group. I recommend them for consulting support on your organizational initiatives. –Lorena Harris