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Defeating the change zombies

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Back in my earlier days of marketing, “change management” was a big new leadership topic. It was important for leaders to know how to work through the risks and rewards of organizational change. The change management leader was evoked for big multiyear projects like publishing prices on an e-commerce site. But now the pace of change in the b-to-b marketing function is mindboggling. It almost seems that if you go away for a summer vacation, you'll come back to find a new job role—like social content curator or conversation mapping analyst. Change management today is more like battling a zombie. A new change comes about, it's knocked dead with a new tool and then another “change zombie” sneaks up around the corner. Sound familiar? There are several key skills that savvy digital marketers possess today to win against the change zombies. I'd like to focus on two of them: innovation and knowledge cloning. Top digital marketers keep an eye on the latest trends but also have a great sense for knowing when and how to adapt trends to the needs of the organization and customer. They are smart innovators. If a marketer adopts something too early, it could be costly and not accepted; too late, and it's a competitive disadvantage. Smart innovation comes in very handy when a marketer is faced with trying to decide if Facebook will be more like MySpace, if it will become the star of the future or if the next steps in Facebook even matter to a b-to-b audience. Innovators understand the culture and vision of the company, and use that understanding to match up possibilities with probabilities. Knowledge transfer has been a key skill for leaders for as long as some of those change zombies have been around; but when the rate of change goes into hyperspeed, the savvy marketer can keep pace by “cloning” expertise. At Hitachi Data Systems, we are developing ways to scale expertise using a hub-and-spoke model. We have a social media center of expertise as the hub—for guidelines, training, mentorship, best practices, platform activities, etc.—and we have communities such as geographies, product lines and functional areas as the spokes. The hub collaborates and aligns with the spokes to educate and scale out practices or activities. It's how we clone our expertise. We also have a Social Media Ambassadors Club to provide ongoing mentorship to employees learning and implementing new skills. Exciting change and endless possibilities make it a great time to be a b-to-b marketer. Armed with innovation and knowledge cloning skills, the winning marketer possesses key weapons to be at ease with the change zombies. Sharon Crost is integrated marketing manager at Hitachi Data Systems. She can be reached at sharon.crost@hds.com.
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