How to Sell Organizational Change

Any significant organizational change is difficult. But the shift from traditional marketing to Revenue Marketing™(where marketing operates as a revenue center instead of a cost center) is a whopper.  Up front, it’s not a hard concept to get: you’re going to implement some systems and change processes and organizational structure so you can drive revenue through your marketing efforts. Seems like that would be an easy sell up the chain. But it isn’t – not by a long shot!

I’ve helped several companies through this transition and learned a lot along the way.

My first piece of advice is what not to do – don’t take the Trojan Horse approach. A lot of companies try to sell it as a technology shift. It usually falls apart when people realize that it isn’t a simple little implementation of a marketing automation system. Then they are pretty much scarred for life on the whole concept of revenue marketing. Instead, be totally honest about the scope of change up front. I always tell my enterprise clients that this will be a three-year journey. The first year, you will try stuff out and will be making lots of changes. You will probably fail a lot, but will also start to see some positive results. The second year, you are actually getting a little more predictive and analytical in your efforts. By the third year, you finally feel like you know what you are doing.  It tends to scare people to hear this and the most common response I get is that “we don’t have three years”. I tell them it doesn’t mean you have to wait three years to get any results – you’ll see those right from the start. But you have to be candid about what it’s going to take to make changes of this magnitude.

Another helpful piece of advice is to celebrate the successes – big or small – very publicly along the way. Make the marketing teams feel like champions and they won’t be so quick to fight the changes. It’s just as important to have the line managers on board as it is to have the executives on board.

Finally, you’ll need to make a lot of hard decisions throughout this journey. There are activities you will need to stop doing. There are personnel changes you will have to make. There are political battles to be fought (or not!). Don’t shy away from these things. These are ultimately the things that you must do to make your journey a success. Change is never going to be easy, but the end result is amazing and well worth the pain!

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