You Complete Me: How Marketing Can Boost Change Management Outcomes

In previous blogs, we highlighted six questions common to successful marketing and change management initiatives and common communication requirements across the five stages of audience journeys in adopting change. Now we want to go into the tactical implications of those communication requirements for change management.

There is a trope in love stories and RomComs of one character professing love for another through the words “you complete me.” Like many clichés, it has currency because it’s grounded in an experienced truth: In successful relationships, each partner possesses attributes that shore up weaknesses in the other so that together they are both stronger. That’s how it is with marketing and change management.

As we discussed previously, the similarity of the audience journey in the ADKAR framework to the customer decision-making journey is in the key communication considerations within each framework. Based on this foundation, marketing can help “complete” change management by offering communication best practices and ideas for each stage.

AWARENESS. Communications must highlight the need, bringing to light the pain that needs to be addressed. To be compelling, communication of that pain must be both credible and empathetic.

Examples of marketing communications at this stage:

  • Emails and presentations that explain the change in terms of its impact on all team members, coming from executive leaders
  • FAQs that capture and provide honest answers to real questions likely on the minds of team members

DESIRE. Communications must define the proposed change as the solution to the need, i.e., the best way to relieve the pain. To be successful, these communications must reach the “heart” and the “mind” of the audience by appealing to emotions and logic.

Examples of marketing communications at this stage:

  • Case studies of early, quick “wins” that highlight the benefits realized through the change
  • Infographics presenting the need for change and its potential benefits in simple, visual terms

KNOWLEDGE. Communications must create a solid understanding of the world after the change, in contrast with the current state. To be effective, these communications must make the case that the future state is close at hand and that the path to get there is very simple.

Example of marketing communications at this stage:

  • How-to videos and one-page quick-reference guides that make the path to implementation seem easy; brevity and visuals take priority over words and detailed use cases

ABILITY. Communications must minimize the perceived effort involved in change and reduce friction to take the first step. Successful communications at this stage offer a helping hand—not condescending but by providing clear, simple guidelines that encourage the audience to move down the path.

Examples of marketing communications at this stage:

  • Training materials and tools that provide comprehensive information about how to accomplish current tasks in the new state and instill confidence that change can be achieved
  • Gamification that turns mundane change into activities that confer status or create excitement for team members

REINFORCEMENT. Last, but definitely not least, communications must continue to celebrate the benefits delivered. Many change initiatives fail because they are thought of as a “one and done” proposition in which a single, intense effort suffices. Instead, the initiatives need to be promoted over an extended time period to bring along laggards and solidify the changes already made by early adopters.

Examples of marketing communications at this stage:

  • Success stories/testimonials highlighting the benefits achieved and improvements gained, not only in quantitative terms but in human, emotional terms
  • Awards to bring attention to change-driven achievements and, in the process, elicit feelings of aspiration and potentially competitiveness

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re not thinking about change management like a marketer and marketing like a change management leader, you probably missing something that could elevate the impact of your efforts.

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.

Marketing in the Coronavirus Crisis: Notes from a Discussion at the Boston Meeting of the Gramercy Institute

Just before everything shut down in the face of the pandeminc, a group of financial marketers convened in Boston for a meeting of the Gramercy Institute. The session was billed as focusing on the topic of ”What’s New and What’s Next in Financial Marketing“ and indeed much of the content touched on the future, but, taking a cue from the news at the time, the host initiated a discussion of marketing in a crisis.

Broadly, the conversation fell into two buckets: communication “best practices” and the role of marketing. Two key take-aways:

  • Communication “best practices.” There was agreement that transparency and authenticity were key to building connections with customers, but also that there was no clear playbook for communication frequency and channel. Discussion participants recognized the need to respect the limited time and frayed nerves of customers but also saw potential value in providing clear guidance in an environment filled with uncertainty. Likewise, they recognized the need to find a balance between communication overload – exacerbated by the worldwide turn to digital communications in light of severe restrictions on face-to-face contact – and the value of demonstrating presence and building community when so much of the current crisis feels (and is) isolating. Finally, participants expressed mixed feelings about finding opportunities in the crisis. Many said that this was definitely not the right time to be promoting products. Some made the argument that people are looking for concrete assistance and that there was a place for tasteful promotion of solutions that could meet the needs of customers in the current environment.
  • Role of marketing. As the discussion turned to the role of marketing amidst the crisis, there was widespread consensus that in some ways the environment was one in which marketing could really prove its value in building relationships with customers and prospects and in delivering timely, conscientious, clear communications. Even more, though, there was agreement that marketers at B2B financial services companies should seize on this as a chance to forge a closer partnership with their sales colleagues, who are likely to be struggling to adjust to a world in which face-to-face contact is minimized or even completely foregone. Everyone agreed that if Marketing could find a way to enable sales to leverage digital and voice channels to nurture relationships at a distance and at scale, it would have a significant impact on the ability of the company to navigate these difficult times.

While the event was likely the last in-person meeting for the near future for most in attendance, it was a valuable opportunity to share ideas with colleagues and learn from each other as chaos seemed to be descending. It has given us much to think about as we all now hunker down, socially isolate to try to stay safe, and think about what the future might hold in store.