Change is not something that we naturally embrace. As human beings, we like our well-established patterns, even when those habits don’t necessarily serve us, or a larger purpose.
In the context of work, we are often presented with change and what do we do? We “fight through it.” Which leads me to ask, why is change so damn hard to adopt? And what is our role as brand stewards in introducing and ushering in the changes needed for overall client success?
Author, speaker and consultant, David C. Baker of ReCourses, Inc., believes that one’s current success presents one in a line of obstacles to substantive change.
The most critical reason we don’t make as much progress as we could is our own success. It traps us. We scratch and claw our way to a certain lifestyle inside a fairly predictable, arranged world. We know that it’s not what it could be but we’d rather tweak it than blow it up. If we tweak in the wrong direction, we can untweak it. But if we blow it up and nothing else rises in its place, we’re sitting there cross-legged on the ground with dust in our hair wondering what’s next.
In other words, your agency may have a significant amount of business, even though the account mix is not ideal. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to fire the accounts that aren’t productive and profitable and replace them with new accounts that fit your business model better? That’s the desired action. But what are the real actions taken on a routine basis to help create the results you seek?
On the client side of the coin, change comes in waves.
- A new CEO joins the company.
- Sales are good but not great.
- Turnover is through the roof.
- Competition is gaining an edge.
Baker argues that the job of a consultant is to humanize and simplify recommendations so they can be applied successfully in the real world. He also suggests the need to “speak the truth, retaining any credibility you have by being the objective advisor they hate to love (not love to hate).” That’s solid advice.
We routinely ask that an action or series of actions be taken by people inside the client company. This is where communications meets operations.
For example, a new direct mail piece provides more qualified leads than the sales organization can handle (a rare and good problem to have!). More likely, the new company website is content-reliant, but no one bothered to hire an editor or train the team. Or maybe a company is struggling to retain its staff finds that better recruitment advertising brings more qualified people in the front door, but their operational problems on the ground remain and that causes people to walk out the back door.
In the case above, a person who identifies as “ad maker” may say the campaign worked, technically speaking. A consultant, on the other hand, will work to fix the disconnects, and this means poking around in the business and ruffling a few feathers. A client in this situation can either appreciate the value added or feel that the agency overstepped. To avoid a misunderstanding, it is crucial to lay the groundwork at the beginning of any new client engagement. The client must know if they’ve hired a pair of hands to do things they can not do, or if the pair of hands comes attached to heads and hearts, fully committed to organizational growth, no matter the difficulty.
One of the tricks here is moving initial conversations from, “We want a website or new ad campaign” to “We need more qualified leads in the pipeline and a way to consistently nurture those leads.” A client may come calling with desired outputs in mind, and that’s totally legit. Nevertheless, our job is to ask the right questions and listen intently in order to get a firm grasp on what the real challenges are and how our firm can help meet them head on.
When you’re dedicated to growing successful businesses you end up going way beyond making ads. You become an essential part of the team and invested in the outcomes. This level of teamwork and commitment may surprise some clients. It’s our belief that we need to care about the marketing problems at hand, but more that than, we need to care about the human beings our work impacts, namely our client’s customers and prospects, and the community of people employed by the company.