Managing change in organizations using agile marketing helps your business evolve and improve in times of uncertainty. Learn how to implement both practices now.
Managing change in organizations is often easier said than done. After all, any type of change is usually met with resistance; whether from upper management, team members used to their ways, or customers.
Not everyone likes change, but businesses must learn how to evolve, especially when things start to head south. Without a change management plan, your business may not be able to handle life’s unexpected punches, like what many faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies able to adjust to the times fared better than those that couldn’t keep up with the changing landscape.
Your marketing department must also learn how to pivot when campaigns aren’t panning out. If your team doesn’t have a process to cope with economic upheaval, emerging digital trends, shifts in buyer persona preferences, and more., you risk becoming complacent—or worse, outdated.
To prevent that from happening, we believe in combining change management and agile marketing, two concepts that we’ll explore in this guide. We’ll show you what happens when you combine the two and our best tips and strategies for going about this. So if you don’t have a change management/agile marketing plan, or know you need to adjust but don’t actually know how or where to start, we’ve got you covered.
Let’s begin with with the basics:
What Is Change Management?
Simply put, change management is about having a system in place that allows your business to adapt to change on the spot, rather than retrospectively. Like we mentioned earlier, change can be predictably unpredictable. And yet, change is constant. Without a change management plan, businesses run the risk of throwing their company into chaos when faced with unusual circumstances.
Organizational change management strategies help steer the ship when choppy waters are on the horizon, such as when you:
- Lose or gain a high-level employee, client, customer, investor, etc.
- Need a rebranding.
- Add or remove offerings/services.
- Update processes to improve operational efficiency.
- Switch up your marketing efforts.
As you can see, change management encompasses many different types of situations that your business may face. Any of these events has the potential to run your team off the rails; your change management techniques play a crucial role in how each of them turns out.
How Change Management Works
While there’s no hard-and-fast rule about the best change management process, experts agree that a version of this step-by-step plan works well:
Step 1: Outline Your Change Management Process
To truly make adaptability a core part of your business, your whole team needs to understand why change is a good thing in the first place. You also want to get them more comfortable with the notion of your processes, people, and other aspects of your business continually changing and improving.
Draft a change management process that outlines:
- What needs to change. Identify one specific aspect you want your team to tackle at a time. While you may have several areas that need improving, spend time with upper management to decide which item will have the most impact on your business when addressed. Work on this one first before slaying the next most important to-do on the list.
- Why you want to implement change. You’re not aiming to change things just for the sake of doing so. You’ll be implementing changes to improve your business or prevent a change from holding you back.
- How this will be done. Aim for a strategic, methodical approach that everyone will understand rather than a haphazard hodge-podge of ideas.
- The benefits you stand to gain. By highlighting the advantages of embracing and adapting to change, you’ll help everyone to understand why this process is so important to perfect.
- The outcome you hope to achieve. Share your vision of where your company might stand after it makes adjustments and sees the benefits gained. Where do you go from here?
Use this change management template to tackle multiple projects and goals (and adjust as needed).
This blueprint will inform your team members, management, and shareholders of things that are in the pipeline so they’re not anxious or feeling left in the dark. It also shows new hires how your company deals with flux. Everyone has a chance to see what’s expected of them instead of worrying about how the latest changes will impact them or their job security. They should even come to realize that change is ultimately welcome and exciting.
Step 2: Take a Quick Assessment
With your goal in mind, take inventory of the team members, budget, resources, and tools that you’ll need to start fixing the issue. Do you have everything you require to be successful? If not, what additional resources will you need? For example, does your team need to upgrade its software, hardware, processes, or skill set? Make a list of everything you need to solve the problem in the most efficient way possible.
Step 3: Identify Who Will Be Responsible for What
Once you know what you need in order to get the job done, your next step is to determine everyone’s responsibilities. Employees should feel responsible for a particular piece of the puzzle and know exactly what’s expected of them and how their hard work will pay off for the team/goal.
If you leave responsibilities up to your team to decide, you’ll find it hard to hold people accountable. Things then have a tendency to slip through the cracks, and then the job won’t get done on time.
So think about your team carefully, and decide who’s the best fit for each role. Assign job duties accordingly when you present your plan. There should be no confusion as to who is doing what. Make it clear that your team members can ask questions about their specific assignments during this time.
Step 4: Create a Roadmap to Success
Though you may have a high-level overview of how you want to deal with change and what you hope to achieve, you need to get the details mapped out on paper. This roadmap should communicate all the essential steps of your change management project so that everyone’s on the same page.
Break out a calendar and mark milestones that you want to achieve by certain reasonable deadlines. Include the sequential, incremental steps that need to be taken to get there so that there’s no debate about what needs to happen first, second, and so on. Then, select a date when you believe the entire project should be finished.
Your roadmap will help your team to understand what’s going on and their next moves. They can work cohesively and better plan for potential obstacles that may arise. And after you share your plan, your team can chime in with anything that may be an issue long before the project is in motion.
Step 5: Share This Plan with a Small Group First
Once your plan is laid out, your next step is to share it with a small group of influential people, such as stakeholders or upper management. Get their feedback to see if there are any issues worth addressing before you actually put the plan into motion.
If you face opposition or receive actionable feedback, you’ll need to adjust certain aspects of your plan before giving your team the green light. After all, you don’t want your team members to start on something they may need to scrap later (which is a waste of time and resources). Once you gain approval, you can let everyone in on the game plan.
Step 6: Put the Plan Into Action
Your plan should be finalized by this point and ready to share with everyone who will be working on the project. Make sure everyone is comfortable in their roles and with their specific responsibilities, and that they all have the tools they need to get their jobs done.
As your team starts tackling items, don’t be surprised if you encounter opposition to the new changes, feedback about processes that aren’t working as planned, deadlines that may be missed, etc. Take everything into consideration as you learn more about how your team works and their needs. Make realistic adjustments to keep the project on schedule.
Step 7: Once the Plan Is in Motion, Communicate and Make Adjustments
As the project continues to unfold, don’t take a set-it-and-forget-it approach. Instead, try to remain in constant communication with your team to see what’s working and what needs rethinking. Check in at regularly scheduled intervals so someone can address hiccups early and before they derail the whole project.
Be willing to make adjustments to your original roadmap as needed and according to the feedback you receive. If you’ve done everything right, the new change should result in an improvement. We’ll take a look at this using an example we’ve personally used at WebMechanix next.
A Real-World Example of Change Management in Action
To help you better understand where change management can fit in your business, here’s an example we’re personally putting into practice:
Getting More Referrals and Stakeholders on Board
It’s no secret that getting more referrals is a key strategy to growing your business — after all, it really is the bulk of our business. But, for us to do that, we needed to take a more proactive approach at obtaining referrals and we needed to make sure our stakeholders were on board with this new initiative. That’s the exact point where our Digital Marketing Strategist Will Chou came up with this plan.
Using marketing legend Jay Abraham’s referral approach and specific strategy, Will adjusted this to create a system in our organization that was detailed and well-thought out, stakeholders couldn’t help but say they were interested and follow the plan. But, before he could get to that point, he needed to use a change management approach, which is exactly what he did.
To do that, Will first realized that it wasn’t getting stakeholders to agree that more referrals were needed — that’s a given. It was getting them to approve the plan to drive referrals and actually having them follow the instructions laid out to do so.
With this problem identified, Will created the foundation of what needed to be done to generate more referrals. He then gradually brought in more and more team members to review his initial plan and gather their feedback. They added their thoughts and suggestions on what could be changed or improved upon. Will took this information, adjusted his initial plan, and he then created a finalized version that he could present to the stakeholders.
From there, it was all about getting stakeholders to approve this system and implement it, which is much easier said than done with the latter. Knowing this, Will created a system that could be woven into our existing processes so that it could fit in seamlessly as opposed to being approved and forgotten about a few weeks later because it was too cumbersome to use and only good in theory.
Not only that, this new system would have to be agile — more on this shortly — where adjustments would be made to fine-tune this further once it was put into practice. This requires constant coordination with various team members and managers along with frequent follow-ups to check what it’s costing our business each quarter.
So far, the new system is on its way to launching in our organization, even if it does need some minor adjustments along the way. Updating this process is not a bad thing — it helps us continually improve and drive referrals, two things any business can benefit from.
Now that you know the basics of managing change in organizations and you have a better idea of how to put it into practice, let’s discuss why this approach works so well for your marketing team.
The Importance of Change Management in Marketing
Marketing is one of those perpetually evolving areas of your business—if not the most unpredictable of the bunch. With new digital mediums introduced so often, the landscape is constantly changing. This makes it especially difficult to get ahead of your competition.
If you or your team continue to rely on outdated marketing principles and refuse to adapt with the times, you’ll get left behind and waste your time, money, and effort in the process. Do this long enough, and your boss may wonder what’s up and if you’re really the right person for the job.
From a customer’s standpoint, your brand could also become outdated if you neglect to evolve with their interests, needs, and habits. So while customers may have found you relevant 5–10 years ago, they may see your brand as a dinosaur quickly reaching its shelf life if you never offer them more.
Fortunately, your adaptation to change can negate these issues long before they arise. That’s why we recommend combining change management and agile marketing. This one-two punch can help you systematically adjust your marketing efforts when campaigns aren’t going as planned to show you what works best with your customers.
What Does It Mean to Go Agile?
Before there was agile marketing, there was agile project management. Originally used in software development, this project management style focuses on creating continuous improvements and iterative changes based on customer feedback.
Teams under agile project management follow five key principles:
- Quickly adapt to change. When problems arise, team members must roll with the punches and adapt—ASAP.
- Divide work into sprints, which are short periods (usually lasting 1–2 weeks) in which your team aims to achieve a small, measurable milestone. Structuring your work into sprints can help motivate your team by giving them small, incremental wins that help generate forward momentum over time.
- Focus on innovation and continually improving the customer experience.
- Test new approaches before making any final conclusions.
- Implement new changes as quickly as possible after the test results come in.
Agile project management can be applied to any type of project, but it’s especially useful in the context of marketing campaigns.
What Is Agile Marketing?
Agile marketing is the ability to quickly adjust (hence, agile) your marketing efforts to improve your ROI and campaign performance. Instead of being married to a campaign that’s not doing you any favors, your team will pivot and adjust ASAP to turn things around.
Just like those following an agile project management style, your team will work in mini-sprints to address problems, test changes, and continue making tweaks until the desired results are achieved. As you switch campaign gears, conduct several small experiments, create multiple test variations, and collaborate with different departments—such as sales and product design—you’ll uncover areas that need work and others that you may need to eliminate.
Like with change management, the goal with agile marketing is to get your team members used to identifying potential roadblocks and becoming comfortable with change so they can usher in an improvement.
The Top 8 Benefits of Combining Change Management and Agile Marketing
Businesses see the following benefits of agile marketing when they combine it with change management:
1. Improved Campaign ROI
Agile marketing encourages your team to evolve instead of staying complacent, especially when things aren’t working. They’ll be forced to look at a problem in a new light and come up with solutions to fix it.
While you may not have all the answers right away, following an agile marketing and change management process can bring your team closer to solving both major and minor issues. This effort can make all the difference in turning a losing campaign into one with a positive ROI.
2. Better Internal Processes and Streamlined Systems
This technique requires your employees to understand that what’s working well now may need to change later down the road—and sometimes in as little as six months. The secret to success is creating streamlined systems that allow your team to adapt at a moment’s notice. And that leads right into the next benefit.
3. Faster Implementation and Results
Since your team will have a better handle on adopting and adjusting to change, you’ll be able to pump out updates and new iterations much faster than most other companies, especially your competitors. So when new feedback comes in from your customers, for example, they won’t have to wait months to see their suggestions in action. And your team will get better over time at implementing new changes with less opposition and resistance, allowing you to deliver results quickly.
4. Less Resistance and Opposition
Change is often met with resistance, both internally among your team members and with your customers. It’s only human nature: People feel more comfortable dealing with familiar processes than unfamiliar ones.
However, agile marketing and change management will get your team used to breaking out of their routines and into new thought patterns. They’ll learn to embrace change and address issues before they turn into obstacles and roadblocks.
5. Higher Customer Satisfaction and Customer Loyalty
Brands must take a customer-centric mindset to come up with changes that benefit their target audience. When you quickly fix these issues, customer satisfaction goes way up. And if a company continues to improve and upgrade its offerings, it will keep customers engaged, loyal, and happy to recommend its products or services to their peers.
6. Leveled-Up Team Members
Your marketing team should be continually learning and trying new things. But if they’re stuck in their old best practices, their lack of new skills or ideas may start holding your business back.
An agile approach encourages (and forces) your crew to think outside the box to come up with creative solutions, which helps them and your business to grow.
If your team needs new skills to meet your goals and get the job done, don’t hesitate to spend money on formal training to help them stay current on the latest best practices. As they learn new insights and tips to evolve their skills and strategies, your campaigns will also perform better instead of becoming outdated and ineffective.
7. Improved Communication and Collaboration
Give everyone a shared goal and plan to follow—and keep everyone in the loop as new ideas are tested and monitored—and you’ll foster better relationships between upper and middle management and the rest of your team.
You’ll also promote a collaborative environment that helps people to draw out each other’s strengths. Through experimentation, team members will have the chance to test their theories and see which ones work, which can be very rewarding and encouraging.
8. Gain a Competitive Edge
Unsurprisingly, brands that are focused on continual improvement fare better than teams that fall into comfortable, old patterns. Unfortunately, many campaigns operate in the latter when they should be opting for the former.
As mentioned earlier, what may have worked five to 10 years ago is probably already outdated. And if you’re only using past successes to dictate your plan of action, it won’t be long before these practices start to turn on you.
When your team gains valuable insights from their focused experiments and testing, they’ll learn what works instead of making unfounded assumptions. The feedback they collect and the trends they identify may help you launch new products, services, or iterations and drive growth.
Hopefully, you’re convinced that change management and agile marketing are essential for any business. With that out of the way, let’s look at how you can start using these two strategies together.
How to Implement Agile Marketing in Your Business Using Change Management
Remember those seven steps to creating a change management plan that we mentioned earlier in this guide? You can use the cornerstones of agile marketing best practices to implement a change management approach for your team. Just follow these steps:
Step 1: Lay Down the Foundation
Draft an agile marketing policy so everyone on your marketing team knows that the department will always be in a state of continual improvement.
With each campaign you and your team create, there should be an understanding that you’ll automatically review its performance, make necessary changes, see how those perform, and go from there. Make it clear that you plan to try new avenues as well, just to make sure you’re using the right outlets every time.
It may also help to explain agile project management and how you’ll use this in your marketing efforts so your team has a better idea of your goals.
Step 2: Identify What Needs to Change
Similar to the change management process, agile marketing focuses on identifying what metrics needs the most help right now. Do you need to generate new or higher quality leads? Lower your LinkedIn CPC? Boost awareness? Reduce churn?
Focus your attention on improving one of these goals at a time. Start by assessing your team’s baseline metrics to see where they currently stand. You’ll compare the results of each of your experiments to this initial baseline to see whether they’ve improved.
Step 3: Take a Quick Assessment
When you learn where your team stands, it’s essential to uncover all the potential roadblocks they may face when trying to improve the one area you’ve decided to tackle.
Do they need to increase their spend to achieve the numbers you’re after? Create more content to engage with new leads and existing customers? Upgrade an outdated CRM? Or is a refresher lesson on LinkedIn advertising in order?
Help your team to acquire the skills, tools, and resources they need, and you’ll reach your goal sooner and with fewer headaches.
Step 4: Determine the “Experiments” and Who Will Be Responsible for What
You and your team will need to conduct experiments” to see which specific actions lead to your desired improvements. You’ll come up with several different plans to split-test; then, you’ll monitor the progress, assess the results, make necessary tweaks, and reassess from there.
You’ll also want to assign team members to certain components of these experiments. They’ll be responsible for monitoring the data and reporting their findings. Then, you’ll decide as a group where to go after the initial experiment concludes.
Step 5: Create the Blueprint
While your foundational groundwork lays out the process for your team, your blueprint should outline all of the specific details—the who, what, where, when, how, and why. It must contain the actual steps that team members should take, the tools they’ll use, deadlines for sprints, and the metrics they’ll monitor as they work on improving your target area.
This blueprint gives everyone an idea of what’s expected so there are no surprises once you get going. And it should be easily accessible so team members can refer back to it if they have questions or issues. This is usually done on Kanban boards in agile project management, but you could do this using your favorite project management tools, like Trello or Basecamp.
Step 6: Share Your Plan and Get Feedback
Start discussions with a select group of high-level employees first before sharing your improvement plan with the rest of your team. So, for instance, you may want to pow-wow with marketing and sales managers to get feedback from both department heads. Ask them how they anticipate the plan unfolding or if there are potential issues you may have overlooked. Once you get the green light, you can share the plan with everyone else to get the ball rolling.
Step 7: Put Your Plan Into Action, Communicate Often, and Iterate
As mentioned earlier, agile marketing isn’t just something you do once to check a box on a form. You’ll need to regularly schedule check-ins to monitor progress and adjust accordingly.
In agile project management, team members meet for daily stand-ups to check how the project is progressing. This is a time when team members discuss the work they did the previous day, bring up issues that may cause delays, and assess the goals and milestones they’ve reached thus far.
After you decide on a date to put your plan into action, figure out how often you’ll hold stand-ups afterward to make sure everyone’s on the same trajectory. You can stick to daily check-ins or space them out more if you find that to be more productive for your team.
Step 8: Hold a Retrospective
Once you reach a project milestone or complete a sprint, you should hold a sprint retrospective, which is essentially a meeting that sums up everything your team did and learned from the most recent iteration of work.
Retrospectives help you to assess whether your goals were realistic, show what else you may need to work on, and highlight your team’s strengths and weaknesses. The lessons learned here will inform future sprints so you don’t repeat your past mistakes.
Follow the process outlined here, and your team will become change management and agile marketing experts. Adjustments won’t faze them, and your campaigns and business will continually improve. That’s the beauty of combining change management with an agile marketing approach.
However, as we noted earlier, change isn’t always easy. To prepare for potential obstacles that may arise, it’s wise to have a game plan for issues you may encounter during this process.
Obstacles You May Run Into (And How to Overcome Them)
Even with these step-by-step change management strategies and agile marketing best practices, you’re bound to run into obstacles and even some opposition from team members and stakeholders. After all, change can be scary.
But the more you can anticipate these issues, the less likely they will be to derail your efforts. The most common obstacles you’ll run into with change management and agile marketing include:
Team Members Who Think Change Is Unnecessary
When people adhere to a rigid “don’t fix what isn’t broken” dogma, your company won’t be able to make improvements without encountering significant friction. And that’s the wrong approach to take. It’s better to be proactive when once-successful campaigns begin to slide and to aim for improvement before things get any worse.
So if others see change as unnecessary, it makes your job much more challenging. You’ll need to prove that your company will benefit from embracing certain kinds of change and adapting to new circumstances. Outline your improvement plan for them, using your baseline metrics and the numbers you think you can achieve after a sprint. Show them why it’s better to act now rather than wait and hope for the best.
When you’re met with opposition, don’t take a defensive or argumentative stance. Instead, listen to the counterpoint and be willing to expand your points or adjust your plan as needed.
Address Issues You Must Work Around
Opposition often occurs when team members know about pre-existing issues but don’t have solutions to resolve them. So you’ll want to get ahead of these roadblocks by addressing them before they come up.
While conducting your initial assessment, be sure to include known issues that may impede your team’s progress. Are you particularly short on time or team members? Do you have a limited budget? Have you struggled with fixing these issues in the past to no avail?
To give your team the confidence they need to hop on board, you must demonstrate to them what exactly will be different this time around. And if you can’t change anything, such as if you’re in a hiring freeze, you’ll need to address this potential hindrance and adjust your game plan with those pain points in mind.
It may also help to run your blueprint by one of your most critical team members one on one to identify any potential red flags, before distributing it to the rest of the team. Again, don’t get defensive—take their input to heart. Chances are that someone else will raise the same concerns, so you’ll want to formulate a well-thought-out reply and keep it ready to go if you sense pushback.
Sometimes, your goals don’t pan out as planned—and that’s entirely okay. It just means that you’ll need to revisit the proverbial drawing board and start over. You may need to consider more factors during your initial assessment or run a few more experiments with different variables.
Either way, don’t discount the hard work your team accomplishes even if it doesn’t budge the needle. Every failure is an opportunity to learn something. You can always keep testing and adjusting as you gather more data. And your team will get more comfortable with change and adaptability and apply all that they’ve learned to the next goal on the table.
Final Thoughts on Change Management and Agile Marketing
How you communicate and handle change in your business has a significant impact on your overall success. As you can see, agile marketing is just another layer added to the change management process. Yet you can apply these organizational change management strategies and agile marketing tips whether you’re changing CEOs or your target audience.
Now that you have a better understanding of how important it is to implement a change management process and an agile marketing approach, it’s time to put your plan into motion. By doing so, you’ll ensure that your business always evolves with the times, continues to grow, and thrives.
When you make change an inherent part of your processes—broadly speaking but also in your marketing efforts—your team and customers will be more receptive to new ideas and features.
Start implementing a change management and agile marketing approach in your daily operations, and you may be pleasantly surprised by how much your business and team improve in both the short and long term.
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