10 Ways to Guide Marketers Along the Path to Change

By Ginger Conlon

At the heart of all the change that marketing leaders need to drive today is this: people. Chief marketers need to bring their teams along the digital transformation journey. Without guidance and clear path, some marketers will lose their way and others won’t move forward toward change at all.


Organizational change management isn’t always a marketing leader’s strength. So, we asked 10 executives who represent varied vantage points the following:

What is one thing marketing leaders can do to foster change, whether that change is adopting new technology, focusing on the customer experience, or making better use of data? Here, their advice:


Debbie Qaqish, Chief Strategy Officer

The Pedowitz Group

The very simple answer to this question is this: BE a transformational leader. These types of leaders are most successful in fostering change. Period. They articulate a strong and compelling vision, while also motivating and empowering their team to higher levels of performance.


Here are four leadership behaviors that are sure to foster change based on a transformational leadership style.


1. The transformational leader acts as the ultimate model for change. They walk the talk and do it often and in every forum possible. Ask yourself: How visible are you as a leader of change?

2. The transformational leader sets higher-than-normal expectations and simultaneously helps create a real sense of team, of camaraderie, of “We can do this together.” Ask yourself: What kind of expectations and sense of team have you created during a time of change?

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3. The transformational leader creates working conditions that inspire innovation, creativity and challenging the status quo.

After all, you’re asking for something different. So, nurturing this type of environment is fundamental. Ask yourself: What kind

of environment have you nurtured during a time of change?


4. The transformational leader is a coach who intently listens and responds to employee needs related to the change. This ongoing exchange is critical to fostering change. Ask yourself: What kind of interactions do you have with your employees during

a time of change?


John Sisson, President

Wilde Agency

Fostering change for digital transformation with your team requires two things: the reason why and effort to try.


We all know technology for technology’s sake leads to confusion at best and frustration and abandonment at worst. Having

solid reasons why the transformation is necessary, with goals and objectives and a lucent strategy is key to success. This gives everyone on the team something to rally around and clear direction to follow. With all the technology out there, getting distracted from the goal is easy. Having that clear reason why you’re adopting a technology or transforming the organization to take a more digital approach is what keeps everyone aligned.


And, because transformation is rarely easy, you have to encourage your team to try. As in marketing basics, testing is essential. Experience is the best way to learn or adopt new technology or process. Running pilots is always a good idea when rolling out new technology; and proof of concept can be an effective way to test a new approach or process. Small focused efforts don’t just prove the case; they prove process—which will undoubtedly be different from what was done in the past. Some efforts will fail so there must be tolerance for failure, in pursuit of the best way to move toward digital transformation. Without testing and trying, change will be an academic exercise not based on what happens in real life.


So give your team a reason why digital transformation is essential for your organization, and then support their solid effort to try. That’s when change will happen.


Stella Goulet, CMO


Today’s digital transformation journey requires businesses to significantly adapt to remain competitive and relevant, as well as meet customers’ increased expectations for experiences that are intuitive, connected, personalized and timely. Marketing has an important role to play in this journey to ensure that the touchpoints across the organization are coordinated to optimize engagement and respond quickly. However, this requires marketing to reshape the way it works. Some of the approaches and processes marketing leverages are old school and slow. It’s time for marketing to shift to a more agile approach.


If there is one thing that marketers should embrace to keep pace with our changing environment and role, it’s agile marketing. By using an agile methodology, we have the potential to cut response times dramatically, improve quality, and help build teams that are highly collaborative and iterative, adding value regularly over short periods of time. Working in an agile way is a new approach for many teams and hence culture and mindset must change, as well. And it may take time because this kind of change doesn’t come easily. So marketer leaders must be patient but persistent.


Within the marketing organization at Avanade, our experience with transformation so far has made it clear that a vital element

of agile success is a collaborative culture.

Ultimately, we want to make agile the de facto way we work. It will enable us to continually innovate to better and more quickly meet the changing needs of our clients and the business. And that, after all, should be marketing’s key focus.


Employees follow leaders who motivate, inspire, support, and enable. The leader who exhibits these qualities and actualizes these qualities through behaviors has the best chance of fostering change…of any kind.


Ryan Phelan, VP of Marketing Insights


There are two approaches that are tightly intertwined:


1. Set aside time to plan strategy. I am a big believe in strategy days (or half days) to bring your team together. Involve everyone in your digital path. Leave the titles behind and foster open, fair conversation about what worked in the past, what's not working, and what ideas are worth trying.


Bring along your specialists, the worker bees, and your lower-level folks. Talk about the "why," not about the "how." Don't talk tactics; talk strategy.


CMO's can no longer expect to know everything about their departments because they aren't on the frontlines every day. They're looking at the battle from 100,000 feet, but the keys to success are at ground level.


2. Fail fast. Have a research and development budget. If you don't, you're missing out because you won't be able to afford to try the new things you talked about in your strategy sessions. And because of that, you won't know what works and what doesn't. Gone are the days when you could take extensive free trials before making up your mind.


Failing fast is an essential aspect of your goal to expand the digital transformation of your business, and an R&D budget is key to that process. Every day some new gadget, widget, platform, or scheme hits the market. Some have high potential, but some are worthless. You need enough resources to help you figure out which is which.


Vanessa Saulsberry, Marketing Director

ISM Inc.

For better or worse, everything must change. As marketing leaders, our role is to drive positive change not only for the business, but also for customers and employees. It’s a tall order made possible by technological advances, creative approaches, and infinite data sources. Personally, I’m excited about all of the innovative ways in which companies can enhance the lives of customers and employees through meaningful, thoughtful interactions and experiences.


Digital transformation can be intimidating when considered broadly, but it's a mind-set. It starts with understanding the explicit and latent needs and preferences of the organization and its stakeholders, and then taking data-driven steps to address those challenges. It’s not about racing to implement underutilized and often conflicting technologies. It’s about peeling back the layers and revealing the true needs of the organization and the people that helped build it. It’s about listening to employees’ ideas about the tools that are necessary to make their lives better. It’s about mapping the customers’ journey to understand what will make their path to purchase easier.


Complex, misguided changes can be costly and dampen team spirit. Yes, you're there to motivate the team and get things moving towards a more modern organization, but it doesn’t have to be disruptive. In the end, it’s not about changing everything under the sun all at once in an attempt to sell more products and services; it’s about building relationships and enhancing experiences, both internally and externally, to influence substantive transformation. Do that and you’ll be on the right track.


Galia Reichenstein, General Manager, US


Digital transformation is here. So, marketing leaders must focus on loosening the approval process for testing new partners and ideas. They need to support their team’s shift to digital by daring them to try new technologies and techniques. Most important, they must encourage risk taking and allow their team to make mistakes.


The way marketers share and perceive data also has to change. Too often, marketers are afraid to share their data with other teams in their company. The result is that they, and the company, are likely to fall behind their more collaborative competitors. It’s vital that marketing leaders are daring and transparent to create the environment needed to keep up with the fast pace of change today.


As part of that shift, marketers need to broaden the way the look at data. Consequently, marketing leaders should encourage not only creative thinking in terms of how to use data, but also the use of existing data resources among their team. They should look inward first when it comes to new campaign launches, for example, to leverage campaign and CRM data to improve activities such as audience prospecting (e.g., lookalikes, Facebook audience insights).


These more collaborative and creative approaches will help marketing leaders move their teams more smoothly—and happily—along the digital maturity curve.

Antonio Tomarchio, CEO


Rapidly embracing new technology is essential for marketing teams to complete their digital transformation. Integral to this is a data-centric culture.


Today, marketers face a unique challenge because the arsenal of data choices is extremely large and still growing. And because there are so many data providers and products available in the marketplace, marketers need to ensure that they identify the best data sources in terms of quality and accuracy. So, chief marketers must establish a culture built on understanding data and its value in the marketplace, as well as the importance of leveraging data to support marketing initiatives and campaigns. Without the ability to understand and use data correctly, marketers will find it difficult to successfully complete their digital transformation.


Or Shani, CEO


Marketing leaders who implement new technologies whose benefits include productivity gains for their staff will free up their marketers—allowing them time to focus on higher-value problem solving versus sitting in spreadsheets or systems all day long. This approach also will empower the marketing team to focus more on activities related to improving the customer experience, which is a crucial element of marketing today.



Jake Ambrose, Marketing Operations Director


Data is at the heart of much of today’s digital transformation. So, one area that marketing leaders must focus on to help their team along the path of transformation is helping their staff make better use of data.


Data is a living conversation between marketers and their audience. It’s critical to always be listening, and more important, understanding what your audience is saying. As a marketer, you have to know what your end-user wants before they do. You need data to make informed decisions that deliver desired, measurable results. Taking action based on gut responses can lead to irregular outcomes and cause confusion on follow through.


With so many new tools and techniques available for collecting, organizing, and interpreting data, marketers must have a strategy dedicated to the entire process. That strategy needs to includes basics such as testing that all too often get overlooked:


Staying “up-to-data” –

  • Track, compare, and map: Always track any changes made to marketing campaigns to make sure you can compare captured data and map any trends.

  • A/B test: Testing should be completed throughout marketing campaigns and continually optimized based on audience response. Make sure to track any changes and the results observed.

  • Keep an ear to the ground: With all the change happening, it’s essential to attend conferences, subscribe to trade publications, and explore other content sources, such as social media, to stay in the know about new tools and methods for collecting, measuring, and sharing data.

  • Showcase: Create shareable dashboards or visualizations of your data in the workplace with monitors displaying current data. Data is no use if no one can see it and understand it. Plus, sharing data broadly will encourage marketers to use it more often.

  • Share: Share your insights with the whole team on a regular basis, and make it relevant so they can understand not only what it says about campaigns and customers, but also why it matters to them.


Taking these actions as a marketing leader, along with making them standard operating procedure will encourage your team as a whole to take part in using and sharing data more and more often. And that will help move them along on their digital transformation journey.

Chuck McLeester, Founder and Data-Driven Relationship Strategist

Measured Marketing LLC


To successfully navigate the digital transformation journey, you need to create a marketing team that joins people with the right blend of skills and experiences: digital natives who instinctively understand the nuances of various social media platforms; IT people who are familiar with current and emerging enterprise data systems; and traditionally trained direct marketers who understand response drivers and ROI metrics.


Digital marketing is direct marketing. The Internet is a direct response medium—people engage in transactions there, whether it’s consuming content, exchanging information, or making purchases. The digital natives who understand the mechanics of how to code and measure a campaign don’t necessarily understand the why. It’s a win when you pair them with classically trained direct marketers who understand multivariate testing, acquisition cost, and lifetime customer value. They teach each other.


These complementary team members need to extract and organize data for planning and analysis. That task requires someone with the ability to work across different internal and external data sources to bring the right information to the table—a CRM technician. Working together, they can define what data is needed and how to interpret, leveraging the combined wisdom of

the team.


Ultimately, it’s collaboration among these varied team members that will drive the whole team forward on their path of digital transformation.

About the Author

Ginger Conlon, chief editor and marketing alchemist at MKTGinsight, catalyzes change in marketing organizations. She is a frequent speaker on marketing and customer experience, and serves in advisory or leadership roles for several industry organizations. Ginger was honored with a Silver Apple lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the marketing industry.

Find her at @customeralchemy and on LinkedIn.