Advice for marketing change agents
Change is challenging. New is hard.
Marketing is often performed at the edges, where the new and exciting are introduced to motivate a response.
Change can be a new kind of promotion, an exciting, new entertainer or a new technology that makes guest experiences better, cheaper and faster.
Change is a strategy. Change leadership is a must-have skill for everyone who takes on a marketing career.
If you’re introducing new concepts, setting entire marketing departments on a new path or shifting company directions to meet a new challenge … you’d better become good at change strategy.
“People don’t resist change; they resist being changed.” – Peter Senge, systems scientist
Let me tell you, being a change agent is not easy.
Casino companies never move forward in a straight line. Success is a jagged line that jumps up and down like a Richter scale at 8.2.
Change is dynamic. It’s a move to get out front to beat the competition, or to shake up a market with a new twist on an old way of doing things.
To move a marketing strategy forward, you must have skills in technology, understand what motivates gamers, grasp complicated rules and processes, push the edges and, most of all, become an evangelist for the new.
Let’s look at some of the classic anti-change phrases that seem to repeat themselves from marketing team to marketing team across the country.
The most damaging phrase in the language is, “We’ve always done it this way!”
This classic line was made famous by computer programming pioneer Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper in 1987. Rear Admiral Hopper kept a clock that ran backwards to illustrate her point that “We’ve always done it this way” is a backward philosophy.
Marketing departments can become complacent and hang onto comfortable like a pit bull with a steak bone. If you go after that bone, be prepared for the bite.
The best way to deal with an entrenched marketing team is to be persistent and come extremely well-prepared.
If you are introducing a new promotion or revamping an existing database technique, the burden is on you to have the details and your ducks in a row. The prepared and the meticulous win the game against dug-in teams.
The devil is in the details and a detailed plan wins over doubters.
“It won’t work; we tried it once.”
This is the most repeated, negative phrase in the history of marketing departments.
Change agents are constantly told that “It won’t work, because we tried and failed in (fill in the year).”
This most repeated phrase is based on the collective memory that a similar approach happened sometime in the dim past and met an untimely and gruesome end. The truth is that the project or concept most likely perished due to poor execution or was ignored to death.
The way to deal with the “We’ve tried it culture” is to show examples of how the new concept worked in other environments and try a test period. Nothing shouts success louder than success, so showing a win is the best way to advance your cause. Remember that the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” culture thrives on stubborn mediocrity. By demonstrating a win, you can advance the ball.
“It’s not in the plan … not in the budget.”
These twins of doubt are timeless, stiff-arm slams heard across the marketing world when teams are faced with something new.
The problem with plans is that planning is always a moment in time.
The way to approach changing a plan is to have a better plan. If you believe in your concept and know that it will blow the doors off, present your plan and keep on presenting. If the old way is failing, your concept can eventually come as a welcome relief.
The best answer to the “Not in the budget” dilemma is to find the funds required for the new idea within your existing budget. Programs that are not producing can feed new programs that have the potential to ring the bell.
Change agency requires massive perseverance, a never-quit attitude and strong, detailed planning to get your point across.
As Ron Burgundy says, “Stay classy” when you attempt change in a marketing environment. Above all, keep it positive. And always count your fingers when you’re near a pit bull.