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Data Driven Marketing: You Must Market Your Change ... to Change Marketing

December 23, 2013

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Cultivating Your Customers, the M Squared Group blog.

Pride, ownership, past efforts, comfort — there are lots of reasons why employees work so hard to shut down new ideas. But the biggest driver is fear — fear of the unknown, fear of losing their importance, fear of even losing their jobs. Add on top the fear of embarrassment, of being irrelevant, and you can see how deep rooted the barriers to change are.

Changes driven by digital marketing present their own challenges.
We have found four key steps are necessary to avoid being stonewalled. These steps are not optional; we have seen no marketer succeed in changing without them:

Map out your destination and the route on the way: What does data-driven marketing look like in digital marketing? Simply put, the revolution focuses on measurement, fact-based decision-making and continual test and improvement. Take a case — a sample e-mail marketing program — and lay out a test grid to show how tests provide new learnings which equals improved open, click and conversion rates. Repeat the case approach to show how to improve site conversion rates using web path analysis.

Network and evangelize: Who are the stakeholders will be threatened with such an approach? Is it the director of creative who will have a much greater and more complex workload? Is it the CIO who will need to provide performance results faster and also provide business intelligence tools to help analyze results? Make the networking part of your daily tasks. Propose a limited pilot program so that you don't scare anyone.

Make the case for change: Use benchmarks from other companies in your industry to sketch out how much revenue digital marketing could provide to the company in two to three years. Make the case visually with two to three charts and then begin to "walk the halls." Put the visual change onto a big easel in your office and invite anyone and everyone who comes by to see what you are envisioning.

Create your "internal marketing campaign: As the first pilot results come in, create custom versions of a presentation for each of the stakeholders and spend the time to share the results and discuss learnings and implications. Make sure that the stakeholders include your CFO and CEO, by the way. The more you market your results, the more you build understanding and buy-in.

Discussion Questions:

What steps should be taken to encourage adoption of new ideas around digital marketing? What are the particular hurdles to new digital driven approaches? What would you add to the suggestions offered in the article?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Of the four factors mentioned in the article to drive adoption of new ideas around digital marketing, which do you think is the most critical?


Ask employees for input. Frequently they are more up to date on customer technology use, and more technology savvy, than management.

Once a decision has been made, listen to line employee feedback. Make them active participants in implementation.

Share results. Tout when something works and share what didn't work.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

Love the title of the article!

Change does happen over time ... but meaningful strategic change must be both managed and cultivated. Mark Price does a great job of laying four critical components of change management.

While all four of Mark's principles are critical to launch change, I would add a 5th principle that is essential for sustaining change. Ongoing measurement of results is critical for sustaining momentum, support, and resources.

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Chris Petersen, PhD, President, Integrated Marketing Solutions

The good news about data-driven marketing- digital in particular - is that the results speak for themselves. But too often, practitioners point to the results and wonder why the rest of the organization fails to "get it."

The problem lies within the organization itself, a fact identified by the author. This makes point #2, "Network and evangelize," the most important step.

To be effective, change leaders need to recognize resistance may come from silos like IT, but it almost always comes from middle management. Senior management gravitate to strategic innovation, front line employees are energized by the "new" and lack old habits. But middle managers are most threatened by change and have the most to lose when innovation creates risks to the plan.

The antidote is to (1) evangelize senior leaders on the vision, (2) put middle managers in charge of objectives, (3) tap the passion of the front line to measure and iterate.

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Dan Frechtling, Vice President, Global Product Management, hibu, PLC

Make it clear to every stakeholder how the new "tools" - digital or otherwise - are going to be a valuable addition to THEIR arsenal and not something that is going to replace THEM.

The most rapidly accepted and notable changes of the past few decades have been those that either a) replaced people (think "self-scan," robotics and automated warehousing) or b) caused new people to come to power, relegating the "current occupant" to irrelevance.

No wonder most people fear change.

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Ben Ball, Senior Vice President, Dechert-Hampe

"But the biggest driver is fear...etc., etc." is old and common folklore and we almost wish it was the case. But is it?

Another perspective...

First there is a huge engagement gap between people and the organization they work for. Executives absolve themselves by claiming that it's fear on the part of employees that blocks change. I have news...it's not fear; many simply don't care. They are tired of being pushed to fulfill someone else's goals. More news...the 'active disengagement' percentage on the part of executives is as high if not higher than that of employees. When there is no purposeful and energetic connection between 'who I am' and 'what I do' you get mediocrity and status quo.

Second, we have lack of control. This whole piece is typical consultant-speak - go ahead and make the decision and then be crafty in convincing the riffraff that it's good for them. The long exhausted notion of "make the people think it's their idea" has done more harm to corporate vitality and innovation than anything else management gurus have thought up. Yet we cling to it as witnessed here.

For goodness sakes, why can't change actually BE their idea? Let them develop and own the plan, etc. "When people plan the battle, they don't battle the plan!"

Third, maybe, if you want to stay with the fear idea, it's that we're scared of how much more we can accomplish. This is Marianne Williamson's brilliant insight that our greatest fear is that we are "powerful beyond measure." Their are possibilities beyond our imagination just an arm's length away waiting to be made real by those who see them and have the courage to act. This is not the time for scheming as noted in this article, it's a time for managers and executives to get out of the way and let people learn to see what is truly possible.

Do that and we'll soon see that those "in charge" are the ones who are afraid...afraid that people will rise up and begin to think for themselves, create innovation, upset the status quo, want to be responsible for their own lives and work.

If you don't believe this, think about countries with dictatorships, primarily think about what they fear most. They fear education. That people will learn to read and write. Will learn that there are possibilities they've never dreamed of. That they might rise up to take back their lives and country.

This has nothing to do with digital, it's been this way since the beginning of time. Like Moses said: "Let my people go!" We still haven't learned much.

PS: If you happen to think that employees don't know enough to create plans for innovative change I offer this old adage: "In the beginner's mind are many possibilities; in the expert there are few."

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Ian Percy, President, The Ian Percy Corporation

I am not sure that the type or number of charts make a difference. Employees do need to know why, how and what. Why is the change being made? How does it impact individuals' jobs? What is involved? And what is the expected benefit?

The biggest hurdle is that the answers to these questions will be constantly changing as the digital marketplace changes. This change does not involve moving from one stable system to another stable system. It involves moving from a stable system to a constantly changing system. As a result, managing change becomes a permanent activity.

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Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D., President, Global Collaborations, Inc.

Ben is right. People don't fear change, they fear becoming obsolete and losing their job. The former is an undifferentiated paranoia. The latter, a reality of life in the 21st Century.

And, the fact is not everyone makes it across the new Digital Divide - a divide this time defined by skills at tool use rather than access.

The real hurdle to data driven marketing is that most companies don't don it or, if they do, they do it poorly.

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Ryan Mathews, Founder, ceo, Black Monk Consulting

Ben Ball has it correct. Before we make it too difficult or complex - answer "WIIFM" for each constituency (and it will NOT be the same for all). Change is NOT feared (we all make changes daily - the difference being that we choose it, not having it foisted upon us) when we feel empowered, in control, and aligned with it. Change raises resistance when people's involvement in the decision to change is violated.

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David Zahn, Owner, ZAHN Consulting, LLC

Nestle, one of our clients, went through a change management process for the entire organization to be more category focused, more customer focused and recognizing that the only way to truly win with your retailers is to have a mutually aligned agenda, and the only way to do that is around the shopper and around the category. When they first embarked on this change, they started working with their analysts around data and reporting for their retail customers, because people were more comfortable doing things the way they had done them before.

Hard questions were asked about what data and reports are the most important? What questions do our retail partners want us to answer to grow their business, etc?

Most analysts were used to building 100 page decks, and they had to start to get comfortable with getting rid of many of the things they were used to doing. They then had to remember that although they may be looking at new reports and new data, they should not discount what they knew about the category and the retailer.

Process excellence started to free up time, as people had to perform their new role while still doing their day job and functional roles, and finally standardize the analytical process. This was all about if you're going to look at data - and there's a lot of data out there - what is the best way to approach analyzing your current situation with your retailer?

The final piece was not just throwing out something new and hoping your people adopt it because that never happens. So they trained and trained. Training against the most important measures, what's going on with the retailer, what's going on with the category, etc. Category and shopper performance, shopper metric, conversion rate, loyalty, and then down tho the 4Ps.

So whether it is digital marketing or organization change, the steps that were suggested in the blog and hopefully brought to life by the Nestle example proves that a roadmap and detailed plan are needed. You cannot push the Easy button on this stuff.

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Zel Bianco, President, founder and CEO, Interactive Edge

"Awareness" is one word that can summarize the challenges as well as the approach to this. Creating awareness internally is the first step. As the article states, creating a business case justification and building an internal groundswell of support helps create awareness of the need for change. Citing external successes then build trust in the idea.

Culture though is what drives this evolution on a consistent basis. If there is not an encouraging climate for the constant flow of new ideas, then innovation will struggle to take hold. Fear of failure is definitely one obstacle. However there needs to be a team in the company that drives a continuous pipeline of ideas, some of which will fail and some of which will succeed.

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Consumer Products Industry Marketing Executive, IBM

I agree with Ralph of IBM that the right culture is essential for change and innovation. Also, speaking at the PLMA private label trade show in November, the ex-president of Trader Joe's gave a related piece of advice: "Culture eats strategy."

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John Karolefski, Editor in Chief, CPGmatters.com

Having the evidential data is a necessary, but not sufficient requirement for obtaining organizational buy-in for new initiatives. And that data had better be bulletproof in the face of the inevitable points of organizational resistance that will be met. Be it a marketing initiative being proposed from within the organization, or a third-party solution, fear of change away from legacy methods, and especially fear of change to radically new and difficult comprehend methods, will be greeted with skepticism at every step.

Unfortunately, obtaining the necessary, bulletproof evidential data is easier said than done. The article's illustration of an e-mail marketing campaign is a great example. How does one demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the campaign met its objectives? How does one demonstrate that the response you received was better than what would have occurred had you not run the campaign? This is a counter-factual argument. How do you establish the causality between the campaign and the achieved objectives? These are very difficult statistical questions that arise everywhere from medicine, to climatology, to marketing.

Hence, while the organizational skepticism that will greet a proposed new method may frustrate us, some degree of skepticism is warranted. Too often, measurement techniques are, in fact, based on "junk science." Too often, the conclusions drawn from a study are agenda-based. This is not to say that valid scientific measurement is not possible. Rather, it is to say (a) that it is necessary, and (b) that it must be conducted with precision and integrity.

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Dr. Paul Helman, Chief Science Officer, KSS Retail

Nice article, but everything in it assumes that all customers want to be "champions." The problem is, not everyone has the personal characteristics to pull this off. It's a rare person that actually becomes the "champion" who is out there "championing" new ideas and justifying it. These people have to get their regular job done and still make time to "sell" their ideas internally. At any company, there are "Champions," "Influencers," "Decision Makers," and "Gatekeepers."

As a consultant who preaches the benefits of business intelligence every day, I think it would be great if EVERYONE had the type of personality to follow through with the advice given in this article. Unfortunately, these people are few and far between.

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Janet Dorenkott, VP & Co-owner, Relational Solutions, Inc.

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