It’s Like You’re My Mirror: Marketing and Change Management

In a previous blog, I discussed the similarities between marketing and change management at a high level and suggested six questions that should serve as a foundation for any successful initiative. This blog takes the thought one step further, looking at how the similarity between standard marketing and change management frameworks highlights the similarities in the communication requirements.

In his hit song, Mirrors, Justin Timberlake sings of the way his love is  the other half of him, completes him, and supports him. The song is great, but its relevance here is in the way his words perfectly capture both the similarities between marketing and change management and the way that understanding those similarities can make each discipline better.

In change management, ADKAR is a widely known and respected methodology. The letters represent the journey through which change managers must guide their audiences in order to achieve the desired new state.

The value of a framework like this is that it identifies all of the moments in the journey that need to be accounted for and addressed through communications and training. It also enables a leader to think strategically about where the biggest risks and opportunities for influence lie. For example, if a company is introducing a new software application to replace a much despised legacy system, the opportunity to drive change may be greatest in the Knowledge and Ability stages: nobody needs convincing that the new system is better than the old but they may need extensive guidance on how to do their jobs under the new system. Conversely, the introduction of a new process for customer onboarding that is projected to save money and increase retention may require more emphasis on building Awareness and Desire if the current process, to those using it every day, doesn’t seem “broken.”

In marketing, the customer decision-making journey is often defined through the following stages: Problem Recognition, Information Gathering, Alternative Evaluation, Purchase Decision, and Post-Purchase Assessment. As with the ADKAR framework, this model enables leaders both to think carefully about each stage of the process and to identify the stages in which the flow is most at risk. For example, a new entrant to the CRM software market may need to invest heavily in the Information Gathering and Alternative Evaluation stage in order to gain consideration by prospective customers. On the other hand, a company selling a new kind of service connecting corporate art buyers and artists may need to focus on Problem Recognition to drive prospects to consider their solution.

Interestingly, when we line these two models up next to each other, it is, in the words of Justin Timberlake, like each is “lookin’ at the other half of” the other. More importantly, the alignment brings to light the key objective in each of the five stages.

A subsequent blog post will provide more guidance on how these objectives can provide a powerful foundation for devising more effective change management communications, but to illustrate the potential:

  • The objective to “highlight the need” drives home that the efforts to build awareness of the need for change must be from a credible source and be seen as empathetic.
  • The objective to “Envision a better world in which the need is resolved” makes it clear that any attempt to build knowledge of how to change requires that the “how” be seen as irresistibly simple and clearly puts the better, future state close at hand.
  • Focusing on the objective to “Make it happen” will ensure that assertions of the audience’s ability to implement will minimize friction and build confidence.

Soulmates: Marketing and Change Management

Their eyes meet across a crowded room. Drawing together, they begin a conversation and discover that they have much in common – core values, personality, life goals. They make plans to meet again, filled with wonder at how the hand of fate has seemingly led them to find each other.

Who are these two souls? Marketing and Change Management. Two disciplines that aren’t typically thought of together, but which are in fact very similar in their goals and objectives and who powerfully complement each other when combined. At their cores, marketing and change management are about influencing behaviors and attitudes of a target audience to move it in a desired direction. For marketers, that direction is purchase; for change management practitioners, that direction is adoption of new processes or technologies. The terms change, but the concept is the same: persuade individuals to move from their current state to a desired future state.

There are two ways you can get people to do what you want them to do: force them or persuade them. Needless to say, while there have been times in history when force has been coldly effective, companies in the free world today have to rely on persuasion. This means that they not only need to have a clear picture of where they want their audience to go, but to do this they also need to have a strong understanding of the attitudes and motivations of the audience. This is true whether your audience consists of internal users of a new technology or prospective customers of your product or services.

Whatever the audience and whatever the desired action, marketers and change managers therefore need to begin by making sure they can answer the following six questions:

  • What audience need is addressed by the solution?
  • What is the audience’s current way of addressing that need?
  • Will the audience immediately understand the benefits of the solution?
  • Will the audience need guidance on how to implement the solution?
  • How does the audience typically consume information that relates to this solution?
  • For any of the questions above, are there any significant segments of the audience for whom the answer would be different?

When marketing strategies and change management initiatives aren’t supported by answers to these questions, they fail. The failure might be immediate, or it may be longer term, but ultimately any effort to influence decisions and actions not built on the foundation of this understanding cannot succeed.

At the end of the day, then, marketing and change management are really just two sides of the same coin. For practitioners of either, this should be cause to rejoice as the thinking and experience of both disciplines can be mined for ideas that help improve outcomes. And perhaps both disciplines will end up living together happily ever after.

Resistance is Mutable: 5 Keys to Driving Technology Adoption in Financial Services

Technology is continuing its push to take over all aspects of customer workflow in financial services, from paperless onboarding to risk assessment apps to instant loan decisioning to algorithm-based portfolio construction. In fact, there are few aspects of the customer lifecycle that can’t be touched by technology. But “can’t be” is different from “won’t be” and that distinction often comes down to adoption by customer-facing personnel. While few technologies are perfect and there’s often a specter of tech replacing humans, in our experience neither of these is typically the cause of tech adoption struggles. More often than not, tepid adoption is due to a failure to appreciate the intensity of people’s resistance to change.

You may think that the current system is so inefficient/ineffective/clunky that everyone will love the new one, but that is not the case. Why? For starters, nobody likes to be told what to do. Moreover, even when people work with far-from-perfect systems and processes, they don’t always embrace the new, required solution because they have devised work-arounds that have become an integral – if imperfect – part of their routine. Finally, for customer-facing personnel, you can take whatever resistance exists and multiply it by 10 because those on the front lines of customer interactions are understandably anxious about using systems they don’t know and trust when under the pressure of dealing with customers looking for quick resolutions to their problems.

To overcome these obstacles and drive long-term adoption, here are five key components for success:

  1. Understand the audience. When you want to figure out how to get customers to buy, you seek out research and information about their attitudes, behaviors, and pain points to identify points of leverage. Driving adoption is no different. Sitting with, talking to, and watching future users in action will fundamentally shape how you should present the new technology to them and how you can communicate its value more persuasively.
  2. Appreciate their anxiety. Change is hard. As the saying goes, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” Dismissing or underestimating the anxiety surrounding technology change is practically a guarantee that you will underinvest in driving adoption and will fall short of your goals.
  3. Calculate the impact. How much time saved? How much more accurate? And, most importantly, how do those gains translate into benefits to the users and their work? Most change management efforts come equipped with an ROI calculation, but these calculations are often based on a hypothetical future state, rather than the users’ current state. Identifying the time spent on activities today and the potential value of that time redeployed will lead to more compelling adoption communications grounded in reality.
  4. Market the change. Driving adoption means influencing behavior. Influencing behavior is the primary job of marketing (albeit one that typically applied to prospects). The same core elements of a successful marketing campaign – nailing the message, identifying the most effective communication channels, and measuring results – should be applied to your adoption efforts with all the rigor and discipline of a lead generation or customer retention campaign.
  5. It’s a marathon not a sprint. If you were launching a new product to a skeptical market, you wouldn’t promote it once at launch and then never again. Driving tech adoption must be approached the same way. It’s fine to launch with a splash, but if that isn’t supported by ongoing efforts to highlight successes, handle ongoing objections, and measure effectiveness, the opportunity for wide-spread adoption will be missed.

If these five components make driving technology adoption sound like a marketing campaign, that’s because it is. Many businesses talk about “selling” users on new technology but miss the most important inference of this language: before selling, you need marketing. A company may not get as excited about 95% adoption as it does about big, new sales deals, but the amount of money invested in new technology means that it should. A great but unused application has as much value to the company as a big but unsigned customer: None.