How To Lead Marketing Transformation

08242007055When you think about the typical mobile app and the marketing that goes into it, what comes to mind? If you’re like me, you’re probably imagining a game or utility with an addressable market of millions. You think of apps that need that sort of scale in order to generate meaningful revenue from micropayments that relatively few users make in-app.

It’s in this context that Jonathan Levey’s work with Skyjet is so unique. He’s a change agent, and he has a great story to prove it. He championed an app that by definition caters to a marketplace that is completely unlike the scenario I just described. Private jet charters cater to a relatively small market that spends a lot per transaction. At first glance, it might not seem like a likely candidate for a mobile app that allows users to book a flight using Apple Pay, but Levey saw the opportunity and pushed to make it happen.

The app took four months to build. It was preceded by a mobile responsive website, which also required four months to develop, and was used to prove that mobile traffic would warrant the investment in an app. It required working closely with IT to satisfy data security requirements. He had to lead with data to forecast the usage and revenue the app could generate and to show that Skyjet’s competitors were gaining share and thought leadership with their own apps.

The keys to Levey’s approach to driving change are time-tested and effective. Start with a hypothesis that describes a meaningful business improvement. Model the outcomes and force the data to lead the argument for or against. Study the competition. Play nicely with your colleagues, especially those with whom you must collaborate.

The result has been transformative. The app, like the website before it, proved that charter jet customers want mobile booking options. The app broke even in a blistering six months.

Levey’s success was not preordained. He could have failed, the result of which would have been unpleasant. It’s a testament to his skill and determination that he guided this effort to such a productive end.

Having led a number of marketing transformations myself, here are a few other tips to keep in mind if you find yourself seeking out jobs that require bringing change to a marketing organization:

  • Know there are reasons why change hasn’t happened: There’s a reason why companies need change agents: they can’t change on their own. Expect, therefore, to face whatever pent up obstacles that pre-date your arrival to get in your way, too.

  • The most likely reason why change hasn’t happened is not because the incumbents are stupid: Chances are pretty good that they’ve thought about the types of changes you’re likely to propose. They may lack the data, insights, conviction, urgency, or skills needed to change, but they usually know what’s going on.

  • Get leadership support for change before you start: You will need air cover to do the hard but necessary things to change the status quo. Make sure you have that commitment before you start, and frame it around specific, measurable and time-bound goals and KPIs.

  • Be humble: No one likes a know-it-all or someone who acts the part of a conquering hero. Recognize that though your company’s marketing may be behind the times, there’s a lot of talent, knowledge, passion and useful history among those you’ll be joining. You’ll need them to be open to change if you’re going to succeed, so go out of your way to be a supportive, helpful and patient teammate.

  • Expect to succeed but prepare to fail: Great ideas and lousy execution fails. Lousy ideas and great execution fails. Sometimes, even great ideas and great execution fails. There are many more ways to screw up than succeed. On the other hand, leading from the front is great fun. It gives you the license to do things that by definition have no precedent. Its exploration and discovery is both exhilarating and scary, but it sure makes the work more interesting.

  • Have a Plan B: By now, many of us have heard the advice to fail fast or act fearlessly. Both are meant to encourage boldness. Despite these clichés, no one greets those who try and fail with roses and warm embraces. Failure hurts. Failure can cause you to doubt yourself. Failure can cost you your job. Make sure you’re ready for that possibility and know that you can dust yourself off and try again.

In spite of the risks, I’ve decided that I’m more comfortable leading marketing transformation. It now defines the jobs and projects that I seek out. I’m comfortable with it, even if it means thrusting myself into potentially uncomfortable situations.

If you can imagine failure and know that you can pick yourself up again, there is no better teacher to help you prepare for the inevitable challenge that you will face again in the future.

There’s also the chance that you will succeed. Levey did. So, too (I bet), can you.

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