Leading and Communicating Organizations through Big Change: Part 1

by Bob Domenz


Leaders of organizations of every size deal with change daily, and most are adept at managing and communicating through it. The trouble starts when leaders try to apply those same strategies used with routine change to Big Change.
Big Change is often triggered by a disruptive event, such as new leadership, a new product or services launch, new market entry or total rebranding. It is transformational and driven by new vision and direction, and it comes with heightened expectations of performance and growth.

For leaders, these are often once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that will make or break them, their organizations and their brands. But for the employees, those same opportunities are often overshadowed by fear and anxiety triggered by the possibility of re-organization, downsizing, job losses or new directions for company strategy, culture and policies.

This is precisely the situation where it is imperative for leaders to have a strong communication strategy and flawless execution. Getting all employees across all functions of the business to understand and take aligned action on a Big Change strategy is an enormous undertaking.

Big Change sets into motion a set of actions that behave much like a starburst. Channeled properly, this burst of energy can propel the organization forward quickly — motivating and aligning the organization, strengthening the brand, sparking innovation, accelerating growth and creating new business opportunities.

But when that burst is not properly directed, it can become a straight pathway to Organizational Swirl, or simultaneous inefficient, counterproductive efforts from individuals and groups due to confusion, information gaps, misalignment and unclear priorities.

The Typical Path to Organizational Swirl: Six Steps

Step 1: Leadership spends months in preparation and planning, then are quick to communicate the strategy to their organization with the assumption that employees will embrace the plan and enthusiastically take action. They expect progress against goals will be swift, but this is rarely the outcome.

Step 2: Employees react with mixtures of confusion, skepticism, worry, resentment and indifference. Many don’t, won’t or can’t take action, in part because they are unclear on what action is being requested.

Step 3: Beset with stalled progress, costly missteps and lost opportunities, frustration arises at every level. The fingers begin to point between leadership and employees.

Step 4: Frustrated, leadership reacts with additional waves of communication in the belief that more is the solution to the problem. 

Step 5. The cycle painfully repeats itself.

Step 6. The business swirls and misses its goals.

It’s not that leaders don’t make communications plans in preparation for and response to Big Change. They do. It’s just that they don’t always fully appreciate the magnitude of what is about to happen to them, their organization and brand and the resulting communication needs. In the end, they unintentionally commit the common mistakes and oversights that lead to undesired outcomes.

In our next post, we will identify the four root causes of why Big Change goes bad and the benefits of an integrated Big Change strategy.

bobdomenzBob Domenz is founder and CEO of Avenue, a Chicago-based marketing strategy and activation firm that partners with B2B leaders to transform their businesses and brands, and launch new products. He can be reached at bdomenz@avenue-inc.com

When It Comes To Customer Experience, CMOs Need To Prioritize These Two Things Over All Others

by Steve Olenski

via Andy Wilson

via Andy Wilson


It should come as no surprise to anyone in marketing that the emphasis on the customer has been heightened significantly over the past few years. The majority of marketers the world over have realized, finally, that the customer truly needs to be at the heart of everything they do, and that the experience they receive with a given brand has a direct correlation between success and failure.

You’ll note the use of the word “majority” in the previous sentence. I used that word because, based on a recent Gartner survey, not every marketer or brand seems to have come to the same realization. One look at the #1 key finding of the survey tells you all you need to know: 89% of companies surveyed plan to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience by 2016 .
Now, to be fair, the 89 percent does reflect an increase as so noted in the title on the Gartner site in announcing the findings: ‘Gartner Survey Finds Importance of Customer Experience on the Rise — Marketing Is on the Hook.’

However, I cannot help but wonder what the 11 percent of those who answered in the negative have in store? If they do not plan on competing based on customer experience, what basis do they plan competing on? But that’s a topic for another day — a day when I feel like banging my head against the nearest wall trying to put my head into those 11 percenters.

The Big Two
OK, so we know that a great number of companies and brands are putting their focus squarely on the customer experience. As to what was identified as being the most important things marketers need to do in terms of achieving this goal, well… here’s verbatim from the findings:

“Although delivering exceptional customer experiences certainly depends on the strategic use of technology, these investments shouldn’t be made at the expense of people. Technology is often used to empower employees to deliver better customer experiences, but sometimes it’s confused as an alternative to people-based investments. Don’t underestimate the importance of culture, business practices, incentives and organizational strategy as the key change in the customer experience game.”

Now, do you know the two things CMOs need to prioritize when it comes to customer experience?

  1. People
  2. Technology

This should really come as no surprise to anyone reading this, and if it does surprise you, you may want to consider a career change. Of course, people are at the root of this movement to putting the customer front and center for the obvious reason: They’re people! Who better to relate to people than other people?

Of course, I am simplifying this, but I do that for a reason which is to make it obvious. Did it work?

One of those “people” who are so vital in all this is the person who holds the title of chief customer officer. Nearly two-thirds of companies surveyed indicated they have someone in this type of role (title may vary), and this role reports directly to either the CMO or CEO.

My intuition tells me that the bulk of this 65 percent reports to the CMO, for it’s only natural this role fall under the head of marketing, especially when you read this finding from the survey: Marketing controls the majority of the customer experience budget in more than half of the surveyed companies.

What is disconcerting, however, is the wide disparity in the prevalence in this role between B2C and B2B companies as it relates to this specific role. Overall, according to the findings, there was no difference among B2C and B2B companies regarding the 89 percent who indicated they plan to compete on customer experience by 2016.

So why, then, do only 33 percent of those companies surveyed who work primarily in the B2B space have plans to add the role equivalent to that of chief customer officer?

You can discuss that amongst yourselves, but in my opinion the reason for the disparity is quite simply that too many B2B-only companies are talking the talk but still are not walking the walk when it comes to realizing there is a human being on the other end of the proverbial line — despite the fact it’s called business-to-business.

Technology Rules
“Despite (the) clear bias toward people as the top priority for improving customer experience, technology was rated the most significant investment in 2014.”

The above is a slight paraphrasing of verbiage in the survey findings, and it speaks directly to the fact that people are of course the most important asset for any company, but… it is the technology which will allow people to provide the ultimate in customer experience. The technology selected by a given brand or company is paramount and its importance cannot be overstated  — not with such an emphasis on A) the overall customer experience, and B) the need to deliver a seamless, cross-channel customer experience.

Having technology that will empower your people to provide your customers and prospects with the right customer experience in the right context at the right time is… well, yeah it’s a pretty big deal. And, as such, the decision as to what specific technology a given brand implements is… well, yeah’s it’s a pretty big deal, too.

*This blog originally appeared at Forbes.com

Steve OlenskiSteve Olenski was named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred. Steve is a senior creative content strategist at Responsys, a leading marketing cloud software and services company. He is a also a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing and co-author of the book “StumbleUpon For Dummies.” He can be reached via LinkedInGoogle+, Twitter @steveolenski or at the nearest coffee shop.

Teaching Prospects Something New about Their Business Builds Trust

Jeff Lowe, VP Corporate Marketing at SMART Technologies, was interviewed at the C-Suite Network Conference in Marina del Rey for the B2Beacon Digital Marketing’s Leadership Series. He sits down with Thad Kahlow to explain innovative new ways C-Suite leaders can use technology to create a culture of collaboration in their companies.

Thinking beyond traditional solution-selling, today’s organizations need to stop asking customers what keeps them up at night. SMART Technologies VP Corporate Marketing, Jeff Lowe, advises that marketers instead focus on crafting “Here’s what should be keeping you up at night…” content to foster trust and bend the buyers journey towards your brand. Catch this highlight from B2Beacon’s Leader Series interview of Jeff sharing his unique insights on the evolution of the company buying journey.

Watch the full interview

Challenger Methodology: The Third Age of B2B Marketing

Jeff Lowe, VP Corporate Marketing at SMART Technologies, was interviewed at the C-Suite Network Conference in Marina del Rey for the B2Beacon Digital Marketing’s Leadership Series. He sits down with Thad Kahlow to explain innovative new ways C-Suite leaders can use technology to create a culture of collaboration in their companies.

The expanding customer buying journey has fundamentally changed the B2B marketing and sales landscape. As Jeff Lowe explains, VP Corporate Marketing for SMART Technologies, this radical change is bringing about the Third Age of B2B Marketing – The ‘Challenger Methodology.’ This methodology says that traditional solution-selling is mostly dead since customers are often far past evaluation before first engaging a sales rep.

The question is how do you get your brand inside the early self-evaluation cycle of the buyers journey? That’s the challenge facing today’s B2B marketers.

Watch the full interview

Mood, Food and Shopping: How Marketing Psychology Works

by Willis Turner


There is a big set of chemicals that control mood through the neurotransmitters in the brain led by the pleasure drug serotonin. These substances determine whether you feel good and energetic or tired, irritable and spaced out. They run on sugar, preferably the form that comes from low glycemic carbohydrates, according to Molly Kimball, RD.

We’ve long known that food controls mood, but could we often use food to respond to mood? What do you eat when you’re happy?  What kind of foods do you indulge in when you’re sad?  What about when you’re mad – would you down a pound of bacon?

Knowing mood affects our appetite, how could marketers use our mood or their food to influence customer purchases? Kacen and Friese(1) explored the influence of negative moods on German and American consumers’ buying behavior. Adopting Mehrabian and Russell’s (1974) Pleasure-Arousal-Dominance paradigm, they found that buying something results in a significant change in consumers’ felt pleasure. Consumers self-regulate their moods through making a purchase. In these cases, special prices or promotional offers were not a significant influence in the buying decision.

In a study conducted by British researches, respondents who said they were in a bad mood on their way into a shop were more likely to indulge in an impulse buy. A total of 62 percent said they had bought something to cheer themselves up while 28 percent said they had indulged as a form of celebration.

Food marketers are skilled at getting people to crave and consume the foods that they promote. In a study, authors Dr. Brian Wansink, co-director of the Cornell University Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition and Professor of Marketing, and Dr. Pierre Chandon, professor of Marketing at the leading French graduate school of business, INSEAD, challenge popular assumptions that link food marketing and obesity.

Their research suggests that consumption of healthy and unhealthy food respond to the same marketing tactics, particularly price reduction. In this study, they present food marketers with a win-win situation in which they can turn the tables, compel consumers to eat healthier foods and maintain profitability.

We probably didn’t need researchers to tell us this, but it’s Friday, and we’ve got a mood on. Now to eat or go shopping, that is the question!

Read more at SMEI.org

Willis Turner Willis Turner, CAE CME CSE, has gained international recognition for spearheading global membership engagement and professional certification growth as the President & CEO of U.S.-based Sales & Marketing Executives International (SMEI). Willis is also founder and CEO of Old Clayburn Marketing & Management Services Inc., a full-service association management firm. As a writer and speaker on professional certification, business ethics and leading edge sales and marketing topics, Willis leverages his worldwide business travel experiences to convey an informative and motivating message to his audiences. Willis serves on the National Advisory Board for DECA Inc. He has taught Sales Management at the University of British Columbia, Sauder School of Business. He resides near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada with his wife of 30 years. Follow Willis on Twitter: @willisturner.

Revolutionizing Brainstorming and Team Collaboration

Jeff Lowe, VP Corporate Marketing at SMART Technologies, was interviewed at the C-Suite Network Conference in Marina del Rey for the B2Beacon Digital Marketing’s Leadership Series. He sits down with Thad Kahlow to explain innovative new ways C-Suite leaders can use technology to create a culture of collaboration in their companies.

There’s been a rapid evolution in the many ways we communicate with one another in the past few decades. But amazingly, a few communication tools have remained stuck in time, unchanged for 40-50 years, somehow immune from being improved or re-imagined over time. Jeff Lowe, VP Corporate Marketing at SMART Technologies, shares with B2Beacon the launch of wholly unique way to collaborate, preserve, and share brainstorming sessions, team meetings and presentations in this age of the digital transformation for many organizations.

Watch the full interview

Maximizing Value Takes Hard Work and External Experts

Heidi Lorenzen, Chief Marketing Officer at Cloudwords, was interviewed at the C-Suite Network Conference in Marina del Rey for the B2Beacon Digital Marketing’s Leadership Series. She sits down with Thad Kahlow to weigh in on the current state of marketing, tech and more.

The mounting complexity of marketing automation and other technologies makes it difficult to maximize the most value out of these huge technical investments. And face it, you can be an expert at everything. As explained by Heidi Lorenzen, CMO of Cloudwords, to reap the best value and actionable insights from the mountains of data marketers gather requires diverse skill sets, and often makes sense to hire external experts in key fields to make all your systems sing together.

Watch the full interview

B2B Marketers are Getting Their Swagger Back

Heidi Lorenzen, Chief Marketing Officer at Cloudwords, was interviewed at the C-Suite Network Conference in Marina del Rey for the B2Beacon Digital Marketing’s Leadership Series. She sits down with Thad Kahlow to weigh in on the current state of marketing, tech and more.

Customers increasingly self-educate, consuming marketing-produced content to influence their decision cycle. Pair that with the wealth of closed-loop data available, and marketers can now take legitimate claim for direct revenue growth. As CMO of Cloudwords, Heidi Lorenzen shares her insight on this new-found respect (and responsibility) that marketers have earned in the digital evolution of many organizations.

Watch the full interview

Marketers Taking Lead on Revenue Growth, Tech and the Buying Journey

Heidi Lorenzen, Chief Marketing Officer at Cloudwords, was interviewed at the C-Suite Network Conference in Marina del Rey for the B2Beacon Digital Marketing’s Leadership Series. She sits down with Thad Kahlow to weigh in on the current state of marketing, tech and more.

The general digital transformation of many organizations, along with the growing adoption of account-based marketing in the B2B space, have put marketers in the drivers seat of guiding prospects very deep along the buying journey, dictating their ever-sophisticated technology stack, and in the end can now claim (and prove) their direct impact on revenue growth.

The CMO of Cloudwords, Heidi Lorenzen, knows that marketers are making these key organizational decisions and caters to their needs, especially getting their loads of content out to regional audiences.

Watch the full interview

4 Questions Every Leader Needs to Answer | Part 1

by Mark Sanborn


“Questions are the creative acts of intelligence.” — Frank Kindgon

Are you a leader on autopilot? You’re aware of what you do each day, but you’re not sure why you do it. You wonder if you’ll have the energy to face the next big leadership challenge, or you feel like you haven’t grown much in the past several years. Maybe you lack role models or mentors to help you in your journey.

Does that describe you?

Much of leadership is done at the tactical level. The focus is on the “what” — what to do, what problems to solve and what opportunities to pursue.

Why? How? Who? These are the harder questions leader ask. And the hardest of those questions are the ones that go deepest, that get to the heart and soul of leadership. They are both philosophical and strategic, and they provide more important insight.

Leadership, like life, can be spent skimming along the surface. It can be difficult if not painful to dig deeper into the motivations and philosophies that make leadership meaningful. But that is the work that is required for the rich rather than the cheap experience.

If you want to go deeper and further in your leadership experience, here are four questions you need to answer:

Why do I want to lead?

Aspiring leaders — students and ambitious employees — call me regularly to ask me for advice on how to lead. Before I answer, I ask them: Why do you want to lead?

The “why?” should always precede the “what?” and “how to.”

If you don’t have a compelling reason to lead, others probably won’t have a compelling reason to follow.

There are many reasons to pursue leadership. Unfortunately, wanting to be a leader isn’t enough. Leading — doing the work of leadership — is much harder than having the title of “leader.” You can be elected the president of a club, but if it rarely meets and you invest little effort, you aren’t really leading. True leadership isn’t about status, but results; it isn’t what you’re called, but what you do.

A clear leadership purpose creates three payoffs:

  1. It motivates. A higher purpose is the fuel for your leadership efforts. Goals alone don’t motivate you; purpose propels.
  2. It focuses. You have a sense of priorities, avoid distractions and don’t waste time on those things that don’t serve that greater purpose.
  3. It provides resilience. Purpose creates staying power when you meet resistance. Lacking a compelling purpose, many fold when they encounter difficulties and setbacks. Purpose creates leaders that last.

What kind of leader do I want to be?

I believe the principles of good leadership never change, but they can and are applied uniquely by different leaders. Substance is a given for effective leadership but style is a personal choice. Have you given any thought to the kind of leader you want to be?

Authenticity is about being who you appear to be. It is congruence between public presentation and perception and personal beliefs and behaviors.

Steve Jobs was famous for his intense focus on product. When you think of Mother Theresa, you think of her love for people. The founders of Hewlett-Packard created an amazing process and it became known as the HP Way. And when it comes to profit, there are many contemporary leaders to choose from. It wasn’t that any of these examples focused exclusively on these areas (with the arguable exception of Jobs), but that while all were leaders of great substance, their style and legacy were a result of the kind of leader they chose to be.

What unites all these different types of leaders? Their ability to create results. Style never replaces substance, but it has the power to leverage or diminish it.

Choose what kind of leader you desire to be and craft it carefully.

*This blog originally appeared at MarkSanborn.com.

Mark SanbornMark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE, is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. Sanborn is an international bestselling author and noted authority on leadership, team building, customer service and change. Follow Mark on Twitter @Mark_Sanborn.