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Marketers: Planning to win in the era of accelerating change

Last month I had the opportunity to moderate a fascinating keynote panel at the CMO Digital Summit in Playa del Carmen, Mexico entitled ‘Planning to win in the era of accelerating change.’ For this discussion, I was joined by Chuck Linden, EVP
Digital Strategy, Business Development & Education at Crayola; Joanna Popper, EVP Media and Marketing
at Singularity University; Peter Horst, Former CMO at The Hershey Company; and Scott Liewehr, CEO of Digital Clarity Group.

The premise of our discussion was the idea that technology and customers’ expectations of the brands they interact with are evolving so rapidly that Digital Transformation no longer has a distinct beginning and end. Instead, it’s becoming the equivalent of a capability organizations must master to succeed. And, because the pace of change is accelerating, the time we have to react to new trends is compressing.

Essentially, whether it’s wearables, chatbots, or the internet of things, everywhere you look emerging technology is working its way into the customer experience. Everyone on the panel and in the room filled with senior marketing executives agreed that it’s critical to at least consider every new opportunity to engage audiences to remain competitive. The big question is, how can we react to constant change so well, that we are not only surviving but thriving?

“The rate of change is moving from linear to exponential, and it’s only going to continue to get faster.” -Joanna Popper

During this discussion, I challenged the panelists and audience to take a step back and think about things they have done as leaders, at the strategy and planning level, to succeed. I’d like to share a few of the key takeaways.

Lead with communication

There was a strong consensus that it is critical for senior leadership to communicate early and often about marketing’s strategic goals and messaging. Joanna Popper pointed out that well-aligned and informed teams are much better prepared to react to emerging trends and opportunities efficiently and successfully because it reduces overhead.

However, this alignment also extends to making decisions about what opportunities your team should pursue.

“When approaching digital transformation, make sure everyone on your team is speaking the same language.” -Peter Horst

It’s not realistic to assume your organization will be able to or should respond to every new technology. For example, Pokemon Go doesn’t make sense for every brand. It’s important to ensure that your brand knows the difference between the right and wrong opportunities and can explain it to you and others.

In the end, it’s all about knowing your audience and communicating that knowledge to the people who are doing the day to day work in marketing.

Be a good partner

Another interesting subject we discussed at length was the critical need for a healthy partner ecosystem. Since it’s unlikely to assume all organizations will always have the in-house capability to leverage new digital opportunities, it’s necessary to be apt at managing Digital Partners.

Working with outside partners has always been a challenge and the explosive growth of digital has only increased the complexity of this critical network of relationships. Because the work has become so much more complicated and the time to react to new trends so short, it’s becoming increasingly necessary to make smart decisions about what partners should do what work. It’s also critical that outside agencies transcend the old-fashioned land-grab and seek genuine, collaborative relationships.

To achieve success, Scott Liewehr suggests being the change we seek in our partners.

“You have to be a good partner to get a good partner.” -Scott Liewehr

He went to share his thoughts on being proactive about defining roles and responsibilities, eschewing the old fashioned request for proposal approach, and getting serious about finding partners who have the right skills and DNA to operate within a high-performing team, highly adaptable team.

Nurture a culture of change

Once upon a time organizations would occasionally change to adapt to shifts in the market. And by occasionally we mean: So infrequently that one of the original reasons for outside management consults to exist is Change Management. Remember those days?

As previously mentioned, change is now a constant reality. In the last twelve months, I haven’t talked to a single organization who was not concerned about being disrupted by “the Uberization” of the space they play in. I met a young entrepreneur who disrupted a regional restaurant market ten years ago and is now being disrupted, by the convergence of emerging digital trends.

To survive and thrive it’s necessary for organizations to develop and nurture a culture of innovation and change readiness. Far more than just acquiring some new technology, leaders must build and develop flexible, adaptable leaders who are both optimistic and enthusiastic about change and the opportunities that come from it.

What’s your approach?

So what’s your organization doing to win in the era of accelerating change? Let’s connect on Twitter and keep the conversation going or contact us. We’d love to learn more about the ways you addressing these key challenges and opportunities!

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