Change is the most difficult sell of all. Internal communications must be allowed out from the shadows. The full force and strategic prowess of your marketing department, the creativity and the power of your marketing technology suite must be fully harnessed to drive successful digital transformation.
Even the most traditional corporations are beginning to understand the importance of putting the customer at the epicentre of every decision and communication.
We are entering a brave new world where technologies provide a deeper understanding of the nuances of human behaviour with unprecedented accuracy. The most successful companies are starting to use data to really get to know the people who buy their products and services.
Effective communications is shifting from creative guesswork to creative science.
Leaving The Science Behind
However, even forward-thinking companies dedicate this remarkable power solely to brand marketing teams, while internal comms are treated like poor cousins. Internal comms have relatively small budgets. Internal change is communicated in much the same way as it was a decade ago.
From my perspective, as a transformation and communications expert, this seems like utter madness. Let me explain why.
Brands Are Made By Software
Companies sink or swim according to their brand. According to a recent Gartner report, 89% of CEOs say that customer experience will be the most important business driver by 2016. The experience, the relationship, the promise is becoming the brand.
Customer expectations are high and getting higher. They expect to recognise, and be recognised by, a single consistent brand across every touchpoint. They expect brand journeys across multiple channels to be seamless and delightful.
These seamless experiences can only be enabled by fully integrated technology platforms. If the platforms are disconnected, and the wrong action or message is delivered at the wrong time, the brand promise fails.
In the connected age, a disconnected experience may not alienate one single customer, but hundreds, or thousands, of their followers who listen to, and share, complaints on so-cial networks. These followers who would far rather trust peers than marketeers.
In short, brands can be made or destroyed by enterprise hardware and software.
Technologies Are Not Solutions
Companies invest in technology platforms and expect the technology to do all the heavy lifting. The challenge is that technologies are not solutions. They are only enablers .
Unfortunately, as I said in last months article, embedding enterprise platforms is notoriously hard. According to McKinsey, over 70% of digital transformation projects fail to hit their targets.
Why? Well there’s a whole bunch of reasons, but technology is not usually the main culprit.
Customers expect to see a seamless brand. But most companies are not seamless entities. They operate across disconnected silos and autonomous units: technology, marketing, business, regional and global work independently. These units and silos are judged against different and often conflicting metrics. There is little to no intersilo communication or collaboration. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, and what’s more, it doesn’t care.
The customer wants to see a single connected brand, not a mess of disconnected silos. It’s impossible to hide fragmented operating structures in the connected world.
Brands Are Made by Culture
For enterprise technologies to deliver seamless brand experiences, they must be supported by the right operating models. In most of the companies I have worked with, enterprise behaviours are neither understood nor incentivised, and for most employees the very concept of a holistic enterprise is entirely foreign.
Seamless customer experiences can be enabled by enterprise technologies, but can only reach maximum power if fully adopted across the entire organisation and supported by the right organisational structures and behaviours.
In short, brands sink or swim according to their operating models and organisational cultures.
Behaviour Change Is Hard
Take a long hard look at your company and answer these questions:
Does everyone at every level know the purpose and vision of the company? If they know it, do they really believe it? Do they understand how any one transformation project will get them closer to that vision? Do they feel like a valued part of the journey? Do people collaborate across silo walls? Do business, tech and marketing plan together? Do people celebrate success and share failure as learning? Does Global really understand regional drivers and challenges?
In a truly connected enterprise the answer to all of these questions, and more, is yes.
My guess is your company has a way to go. You are looking at a lot of change to get to a place where you can maximise your martech spend.
Change Is Hard
The single biggest reason that transformation projects fail is that companies forget they are made up of people; risk-averse people that are hardwired to resist change. If those people don’t “buy the why” they will do everything in their power to avoid change (I will talk more about the psychology of change in next months article).
Let’s look at the context of each new transformation project from an internal customer perspective. Employees are presented with another in an endless round of change initiatives. Yet another panacea technology platform that promises to cut costs is presented by some distant central function. A shifting market and increased automation drives yet another round of redundancies and yet another top-down restructure.
Employees are expected to adopt new technologies while adapting to different ways of working. Digital transformation is no easy challenge.
But is this situation really as daunting as it seems? Your external customers are just as resistant to change, just as divided, just as overwhelmed with value propositions from every direction. Digital marketers know how to tell stories that make people believe in a shared vision, to build brand loyalty, to build strong collaborative communities. Digital marketers know where and when to disrupt, to persuade, to coerce, to connect, to drive specific actions and behaviours.
Sure, you are not selling your customers a new car, a new bottle of shampoo, a service. You are selling fundamental changes; seismic shifts in habitual behaviours that make up ten precious waking hours. You are trying to gain buy-in to changes to behaviours that are core to the fabric of their very being.
Gaining the trust and buy in of internal customers is in some ways the hardest sell of all, yet the vast majority of internal communications remains top down, generic and unpersonalised.
The craziest thing of all is that over 80% of CEOs say that engagement and culture are the biggest blockers to successful digital transformation, yet fewer than one in three invest properly into strategic communications to drive adoption and embed lasting culture change.
Internal culture and adoption is core to customer experience and brand success.The most successful companies will turn the full force of their marketing prowess to support employees along the rocky road of change into a brave, successful new future.