Of course I can’t see into all change agent’s minds, but I can certainly share with you what’s on mine. And what’s on mine is influenced by the context I’m in.
I consider myself a marketer and a change agent. I’m always looking for and working on (new) ways to improve the results we are after. With a leading role in brand & customer (experience) strategy, close to the Executive Board of a corporate, my team and I develop and execute initiatives, in close collaboration with many colleagues throughout the organization, to achieve our strategic goals.
With that in mind, here’s what’s on mine:
Everyone is talking about transformation, for companies, humans, governments and not to forget the globe’s ecological transformation. To me transformation is something that is both inevitable (something to absorb) and something that one can (pro-)actively drive. In other words: we cannot influence how others respond to the (increasing pace of) change around them, but we can drive our own action based upon what we experience. We can even try to guesstimate where the puck will be and design our response to that future situation (or multiple situations).
Unfortunately people suffer from loss aversion which often results in inertia. This does not mean that people do not act upon the changes they see. They do, but they do so not with the intention to change. They do so with the intention to keep things as they are, or they are slow making decisions because they fear the unknown. Both can have devastating consequences.
The strange thing is that, when you think of it, both the people that do not (appear to) want things to change and the ones that do, have the same goal in mind: creating a sustainable future for the organization and its stakeholders. One would think that if goals are aligned, both should be able to bridge the way to it. But then why is it so difficult?
Change agents should acknowledge that not only do they need to create a clear picture of how the future could be better compared to doing nothing, it is also important to define the bridge between now and the future. And this bridge needs to deal with the biggest concerns of the organization. If it does not, you will not close the divide, you will widen it.
Even with that understanding, what the working formula is to get everyone on board to co-create the transformation – I believe we so desperately need – is what I’m figuring out and trying to get better at every day. It’s the first thing on my mind in these turbulent times.
CREATING A (LOYAL) CUSTOMER
Positioning a brand is about getting people to think about you – in a favorable way – in situations or contexts that you offer a relevant value proposition for. It’s about perceptions and the way to influence them. It’s about creating preference for your solution over the alternatives to get their job done available.
We all know by now that lying and cheating about who you are and/or what value you offer is both dangerous and ineffective in the long term. We also know that creating awareness by pushing messages for reach is still an effective methodology in the short term. But it’s not enough to get a distinctive and positive position in the consumer’s mind that drives and increases market share through higher sales and lower churn.
My observation is that most organizations play high stakes on awareness and on conversion optimization, and they do their best to optimize the Customer’s experience at the company’s touch-points. Yet few understand the white-space in between, how people actually make their decisions along the decision journey and how to create brand preference through its very design. A design that shows you understand what stage of the decision journey a Customer is in, what is important to them in that stage and caters to that need in a way that a lasting – positive – impression is created. One that is shared and cherished.
Branding is not uniquely about creating communications to influence perceptions (if it was ever that way.. although we surely treated it that way). Branding is about (co-)creating experiences that create perceptions which in turn shape a Customer’s loyal behavior (not intentions!).
This – and what that means for the changing role and practices of brand & marketing (communication) departments, the experts in it and how we can help speed-up the process – is what’s on my mind.
GETTING STUFF DONE (AND HAVE IMPACT)
We all complain about silo’s. They are probably the number one named reason for failure of your XYZ Marketing Strategy. Fact is they are not. It’s the people in the silo’s that are – in an attempt to get things done too (like you are) – protective of their turf. They plan inside it and only step out of it when absolutely necessary to get something done that helps their goals. We just need to realize that Marketing is as much a silo as all the others, from the perspective of the other silo.
Breaking the silo’s makes no sense. There is plenty of work that can be done within each center of expertise. Aligning goals is part of the solution, but if we do not align limited resources (like change capacity) around these goals and the ideas to meet these goals, nothing with impact is going to happen. This requires bridging the silos through collaboration, the formation of cross-silo teams that work together on clearly defined challenges and plan to implement their actions together. Doing it this way is the best way to getting stuff done and have impact on a scale that the business will actually experience that something is changing (and so will Customers and other stakeholders).
In my experience there are a couple of things we need to making this happen. First of all the entire organization needs to understand how it is the company creates value and how it will (should) in the (near) future. If there is no alignment on that, there’s little chance of coordinated and aligned action (=strategy) to get there.
Secondly we need a guiding idea supported throughout the organization. This can be the brands purpose, mission statement, values etc. This is as much about the “why” as it is about the “who (for)” and the “what (with)”. Defining only the “why” is really not enough as it leaves too much white-space to be colored by any of the silo’s.
Thirdly it works best if the same methodologies are adopted throughout the entire organization. It e.g. does not really make sense to adopt an agile/scrum marketing way of working of the rest of the organization is still stuck in long term planning and waterfall techniques. Nor does it make sense to adopt lean-management in one functional silo only.
Despite each silo’s specific challenges and best intentions, alignment about these three things on a overall level will yield more results – over the short and long term – than a continued “fixing the basics” with operational excellence within each of the silo’s. In my opinion and easier said than done, that is.
Personally I believe that company value is created best through customer value (co-) creation and that using Customer (Experience) management and Service Design methodologies, to align priorities and (re-)design value propositions and Customer experiences across the business, works best to get that done.
Building cases and – most importantly – proof for Customer and Company value coming from them to further spread and improve our capability in these domains, is what’s on my mind to accelerate the pace, breadth and depth of their impact.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT
Albeit the above is on my mind, it is not keeping me from taking action, networking, tinkering, trying new things, day in day out. For one thing I know for sure: If you don’t act you will learn little and go nowhere, let alone forward.
Even if it sometimes feels like taking one step forward and two steps back. Because if it doesn’t cause an occasional stir, you are not moving hard enough.
What’s on your mind?
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