Change is a constant – in business and in life. Embrace it or fight it, there’s no denying it. Change is disruptive, often messy and always challenging. It is also necessary for innovation and growth. In marketing, it is vital to innovate often – moving faster and smarter than your competitors. Where new products and solutions are concerned, the first to market has a clear advantage to dominate mind and market share. Even established brands that fail to recognize user needs and respond quickly, and with the right message, are in danger of becoming irrelevant. Apple’s iPod took out the Microsoft Zune not because it was a dramatically better product, but because Apple did an absolutely fantastic job of marketing the device. Almost 10 years later, the iPod is practically a synonymous term for MP3 player, and I can’t name you a single competitor.
Similarly, managing internal change and innovation, such as the development of a new website or the implementation of a new strategic marketing plan is all about embracing and leveraging change. The most successful businesses understand change is inevitable. They don’t resist it – they pay attention to it, anticipate it, and strike while the iron is hot to make the most of it! These are the businesses that end up influencing change. At Zer0 to 5ive, we have had the honor of working with some amazing and innovative companies, and in doing so, have been able to observe the beauty of change and innovation when it’s done right.
These are my top (0 to) 5 tips on the successful management of change.
0. Always start with research.
Proactive research will ensure you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the market. Identifying market trends and understanding customer buying habits, demographics, economic shifts and competitive landscape can guide your team in making smarter, faster business decisions. It also provides your team with a compelling business case for change and a platform to start selling the idea internally.
1. Buy-in starts with the executive team, but it shouldn’t end there.
Getting the buy-in of the executive team is an important starting point for every change initiative. Unfortunately, it often stops there. Lack of communication or mishandled communication can create resistance and negativity down the chain of command. Sell the vision and the benefits of the change so that everyone involved is excited as opposed to fearful.
2. Have a plan.
Seems pretty obvious, no? A lot of people say they have a plan, but in fact only have a vague notion of how they are going to get from Point A to Point B. In my experience, change is a whole lot easier if you have mapped out your path and shared it. While any plan is (theoretically) better than no plan, a good plan will provide clear and concise direction and include timelines, milestones, roles and responsibilities, challenges, potential roadblocks and measurable goals.
3. There is no such thing as over communication.
Clear and frequent communication is an essential aspect of managing change. People fear the unknown. Communicating ideas, progress and yes – even problems – helps people to feel more involved and secure. Good communication bolsters confidence and makes people feel more secure. Additionally, open dialogue can lead to creative solutions for problems your team has yet to face, cutting the time it takes for your message to reach the market.
4. Focus on what’s important.
You’ve established a strong foundation through research, gained buy-in and insight from your organization, put together a killer plan and communicated it effectively – now all that’s left is delivery! Keep the team engaged, communicating and focused on the right activities at the right time for the right result. Focus on the end goal and execute against the plan.
5. Be flexible, open minded, and embrace the unexpected.
Roll with the punches and have fun!
Post by Cole Naldzin, Director