I’ve posted several times before on the importance of marketing skills and disciplines for the IT organization – strengthening a traditional weakness for IT leaders and professionals that is critical to realizing business value from IT assets and investments.

I’ve heard back from several readers and consulting clients who want to hear more on this topic, so I have enlisted the help of my friend Scott Marticke, a highly seasoned and experienced marketing executive who has given a great deal of thought to organizational change, and has experience in using the lens of marketing to drive business change results.

Scott, welcome to my blog!  Can you tell us a little about your professional background?

Scott Marticke

Thanks Vaughan. Glad to be here. I’ve spent 28 years working and consulting with organizations such as Young & Rubicam, Grey Global, Chiat Day, Saatchi and Saatchi, Ketchum, on both marketing and business development. In my time working with these companies, I’ve gained experience in guiding many of their clients through organizational changes. My partners and I, marketing professionals, business and academic leaders have all borne witness to or been directly involved with complex organizational changes that have either stagnated or gone rather badly. Most often the culprit has been poor internal and external communications. Whether driven internally or in conjunction with established consulting firms, this key factor is often mismanaged.

The Case For Marketing and Change Communications

VAUGHAN:  Scott, your position is that the disciplines, skills and tools of marketing are applicable (and in fact, highly necessary) for helping raise the effectiveness of organizational change management initiatives.  I’ve heard you say that organizational change management, and the IT organization as a common agent of change, need marketing as much or in some cases more than the company’s product or service needs marketing.  Why is that?

SCOTT: Change is a complex psychological process. Companies will spend millions to get to the point of implementation. That is, engaging with a change agent, such as a consulting company, researching the existing organization and postulating outcomes, then creating the plan to arrive at the desired outcome.  When the actual change implementation takes place this is where it often breaks down. That’s because the change is usually treated as a mechanical step. The C-Suite (typically including the CIO) has arrived at very considered decisions based on the research around the current state I mentioned.  Now, it’s up to the management team to make the change happen.

The gist of my argument is this. You, as the instigator of change, now have to sell that change to any number of constituents.  Management, staff, analysts, investors, vendors, customers, etc. You are marketing the change as you would be marketing your product or service to end consumers. So why wouldn’t you use proven and prudent marketing techniques to understand the market segments your are trying to reach, creating the correct messaging, ensuring proper delivery and receipt of those messages, and adjust your messaging and marketing approach based upon feedback?

VAUGHAN:  You present a strong case for marketing as a core discipline – and not just for the marketing organization.

SCOTT: Absolutely!  It’s my contention, especially these days that everything a company does is marketing. When Detroit auto execs fly in their corporate jets to ask for bail-out money, it’s front page news and paints a very clear picture of the mindset of those CEO’s.  It effects public perception of their brand, just as their advertising would, and to be truthful, even more so because it’s perceived to be a more genuine example – people follow the ‘walk’ more than they follow the ‘talk’.

The Case for a Marketing Plan for Change

VAUGHAN: I know how important marketing planning is to product and service marketing.  Does a marketing plan have a role in managing organizational change?

SCOTT: A smart marketer would not spend millions on a new product launch without developing and instituting a marketing plan. A company undergoing change must do the same. This is even more critical in today’s world than it was even a few years ago.  The ease in which people can communicate via institutionalized social networks has made even the deepest, darkest secrets of an organization open to the public. Therefore a company that is implementing change today can anticipate commentary and immediate feedback, both internally and externally, that has to be planned for, and if necessary, assuaged or supported. To be silent or to be inflexible just won’t cut it.

VAUGHAN:  Unlike product marketing, it sounds like a company’s employees become a key segment for treatment in the marketing plan.  Can you provide and example of who this works or fails in practice?

SCOTT: Your most important constituency, your employees, are often the ones who are most neglected in the change process.  As I mentioned change is a psychological process and typically, for most of us, an uncomfortable one at that!

I’ll give you an interesting example. Several years ago a major import auto manufacturer decided that it was time to revamp their internal organization in order to better respond to the market and create a leaner and more nimble company in the US.  They engaged a top consulting company with whom they had spent millions of dollars researching the market and developing a decentralized business model that would allow for local empowerment of the decision making process.  It sounded great on paper. However, when it came time to implement, the consulting company, as is their model, was less active, preferring only to offer a recommended process. That process was driven from the top down (the antithesis of the business goals) and called for an internal change team to guide the process. The team was to be made up of management pulled from a variety of disciplines including HR, Sales, Finance, Logistics, Supply Chain, etc. The team was pulled away from traditional duties and charged with this massive one-year assignment. One that would involve combining locations and moving a large number of employees out to field locations. And they went about implementing it in an all too traditional way. Information was put out on a need to know basis, and the overall scope was kept close to the vest.

You can imagine the results. Bits and pieces started to leak out. Employees became nervous and rumors started to spread like wildfires.  Phone calls and meetings turned into guessing games and productivity slowed. Their dealer body, a key constituency, had no clue as to how this would impact their businesses. Vendors who were charged with communicating the “official” announcements (the PR and ad firm) were just as concerned about their situation.  Many of the rumors pointed to the elimination of those relationships.

In the end what should have been a one-year reorganization took several years and the internal unrest led directly to a loss of market share during critical new product launches as mixed messages led to staff defections, poor marketing decisions, analyst and consumer confusion.

VAUGHAN: That’s scary.  But also, from my experience, a familiar scenario.  Thank you Scott.

In Part 2 of this post, we will explore how the use of a marketing plan and related tools and disciplines can lead to a different approach and a more desirable outcome.

Cartoon Courtesy of Harvard Business Review – Value Prop by flickrdarbyshire

Here’s how to reach Scott:

Scott Marticke
Marticke Associates, LLC
Roswell, Georgia