Today we’re seeing organizations of all sizes at a crossroads.  A decision point, trying to understand which way the world is moving and make decisions that allow for them to continue to grow.

These organizations see the changes happening.  They know that their previous tactics are becoming less and less effective over the course of time.  They know that other organizations are attempting to become more fluid in their responses to market dynamics and they should too.  They know they need to change in order to continue their evolution as an organization.

Despite their positive intentions, they struggle to make change happen.  Advocates for change are often met with zero sum bottom line trade off decisions and struggle to sell forward looking initiatives that have no basis for return on investment as of today.  Well intentioned managers regretfully make hard choices that continue along the well beaten path of years past.

Sound familiar?  You’re not alone.

Organizations have been dealing with these decisions for all time, though today the importance of them is magnified due to the exponential nature of technology and information dissemination.  It is far easier to see how competition is maneuvering and target audiences are seeking out information in today’s day and age.

It is always easier for group decision making to revert to existing historical strategy and tactics.  It has been done before.  In all likelihood, it has worked.  It is comfortable.

Today more than ever, organizations need to lean into discomfort.  There are a multitude of reasons for this:

  1. The only way to improve is to change. That does not mean change for the sake of change.  It means augmenting success by updating tactics of strategies that are proven while testing new offerings.  An example would be integrating a call to action for existing marketing tools driving traffic to your site, with appropriate measurement devices in place.
  2. Success is iterative. It is a process and great companies are in their markets for the long term.  Taking the leap into a new communication medium or sales strategy may not prove out with huge returns initially, but as you learn to gradually dial in the aspects of the medium, success becomes more and more visible.  For instance, when a company first introduces an email database and marketing campaign, they may not have enough customers to actually reach; they must build their database by reaching out to existing customers and finding new ones.  They must also learn what’s effective through testing what types of content are interesting, optimal times to send, etc.  This is true of ALL new initiatives – but you have to get to “yes” before you begin the learning journey.
  3. History is filled with examples of organizations that failed to take action falling apart. Kodak.  Circuit City.  Blockbuster.  BlackBerry.  Sears.  These are fairly recent examples of organizations that simply didn’t adapt and ultimately paid the price as competition strategically took their customers or changed the industry such that they became irrelevant.  There are no guarantees in life or business.  Starting new initiatives will not cement your livelihood for future decades, but it will offer you the opportunity to learn and find new ways to better serve your customers.  Unfortunately, many organizations wait until they are actually behind competitors before trying to make meaningful change.
  4. Your customers are changing. The decision making processes customers use are changing with the technology available to them.   They may not be using all new social media to evaluate companies, but they are absolutely using a number of them.  It’s your job as a marketer to understand what they are most likely to be using and incorporate the most effective tools for your organization – be it a company blog, emails, trade shows, customer call surveys, in person meetings, or any other viable medium – to help them make decisions and achieve their goals.  You have to change with them.

The big switch isn’t the taking on one new initiative, or even five, next year.  The big switch is taking an active stance to embrace change by trying new things through a lens of customer advocacy.  It takes guts.  It takes transparency to admit when things didn’t work out as you’d hoped, learn from it and improve on the next go round.  It takes smarts to figure out what really does work and the know how to merchandise success to the rest of the company when you do break through.

The list of reasons to be progressive from a marketing perspective goes on and on.  At the end of the day, organizations that are willing to adapt and find new ways to continually add value for customers are going to win.  Organizations that choose to live in the past may do so as an artifact of their industry.

Garth