Strategic Planning

Plan for the Zombie Apocalypse

There are many reasons marketing transformations fail, fear of change, discomfort with uncertainty, and lack of confidence are often the culprits. However, another reason for so many failures is lack of consideration for the scale of change needed.

Many people leave the scope of change to be decided by more senior executives, more opinionated peers, or just fate. Others curtail themselves when they propose the transformation because they think they’re being too ambitious and will never get support for such widespread changes.  Worse, some people simply never bother to think through what the future organization actually looks like.

Planning Zombie ApocalypseThese are all mistakes. You need to be clear with yourself and all stakeholders about the necessary inputs and downstream implications of a marketing transformation. Failure to connect the changes in marketing to the rest of the organization will only lead to failure and recriminations. No organization can afford to let its employees waste time and money on projects that will never, ever increase revenue. And you will certainly not leave that sort of scenario smelling like a rose.

You may not get everything you propose but, if you map out all the connections, at least people can make informed decisions. Organization can also prepare for the ramifications of the short-term inability to execute everything as completely or as quickly as they would like. The key issue is to think beyond your main, marketing-related change.

How? How would you think about any problem? Dissect it step by step. It sounds intimidating but scenario planning is everywhere. The Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (which I know about since my Significant Other is a CERT instructor) basically maps out different, terrible disaster scenarios and teaches civilians how to deal with them. The Pentagon even teaches scenario planning by mapping out how to deal with the zombie apocalypse [I swear I’m not making this up. Read about it on CNN.]

Even the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Homeland Security use zombie apocalypse planning to think through scenarios. There’s a serious reason for that and for why I’m giving it to you as an example. In the case of zombie apocalypse planning, the planners had to deal with the utter collapse of complex society. They had to consider dozens of interconnected systems and processes. So do you.

Take an imaginary walk in a day in the life of the marketers living in your future organization. What sort of tools do they use to hand over leads to Sales? Is their performance evaluation process something that will likely retain the most skilled marketers? How well-suited is their email and network access to a fluid work-life balance that requires mobile access?

Hopefully, with even these cursory ideas, you start to see the inter-connectivity of top-notch marketing to all areas of an organization. If you think it through the post-transformation scenario with as much reality as you can, you’re much, much more likely to hit upon areas you initially didn’t think about.

After you’ve taken a whack at mapping out all the implications of your core marketing changes, have subject matter experts (SME) take a look to see downstream implications or necessary upstream inputs. Notice I suggested that you take a draft to the SMEs and not start with them. Two reasons:

  • One, it’s easier for people to respond to something that already exists rather than create something from the proverbial blank piece of paper.
  • Two, showing even a partial or potentially inaccurate marketing transformation plan really helps convey your intentions to new contributors.

As a group, revisit your comprehensive change plan and run it by an outsider, just to ensure none of you were so close to it while developing it that you missed something obvious. This, proofed version, is what you present to your stakeholders. Hopefully, they see how interconnected all the organization’s systems and processes are – and how brilliant you are!

Comments welcome, especially tips related to how your organization mapped out inputs and implications of marketing transformations.


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