Five Critical Behaviors for Successful Marketing Transformation

Marketing transformations often fail.  Simply, leaders are unable to successfully make the turn from result X to result Y in the afforded amount of time.  The result is an un-pleasant and career-defining moment that could have been avoided if approached differently.


Whether you’re a CMO, a senior marketing leader, or a member of the team, the reasons why are nearly always attributed to a lack of internal cooperation (e.g. from IT, Finance or Sales); a lack of resources (“we’re drowning in to-dos!”); or unclear or changing leadership expectations.  Each of these obstacles can be overcome with the right mindset.


Make no mistake: transformation in any complex environment is hard.  But marketing leaders can better position themselves for success by embracing these five principles:

  1. Ownership.  Your outcomes are the sum of your choices. Unclear leadership expectations are an opportunity to insist on clarity.  Budget cuts are opportunities to make a better case.  Get in the habit of asking yourself: “What could I have done to influence a different outcome?”  There is always an answer to this question.
  2. Communication.  We live in the era of digital communication.  As marketers, we are more comfortable with these tools than anyone in our organization.  This also explains why, at times, we can be terrible collaborators.  Say what you mean.  Be consistent.  Pick up the phone. Give context to avoid negative conclusions.  Clear and direct is the quickest path forward in times of rapid change.
  3. Solution-orientation. I’m pretty sure that when bad leaders go to Hell, their punishment is a never-ending line of people standing outside their office waiting to dump problems on them.  Always present problems in the context of a solution, preferably one that just needs a “yes” answer.  Expect the same of your team.
  4. Resolve. Waiting for approval? An email reply? Data? A calendar opening? Too often, we allow our dependencies to influence our outcomes. If the job was worth starting, it’s worth finishing. Be resolved to get projects across the line and hold others accountable for their role in the organization’s desired outcomes.
  5. Action.  Business as usual is the enemy of transformation.  Every day you and your team aren’t working toward the necessary outcomes or operating model is a day wasted.  Clean your team’s plates of low-value work and executive pet projects.  Then, combine a bias for action with agile principles to help shape the plan and change behavior while making continuous improvements to strategy.




Running a marketing organization in 2018 is a tough job.  Consolidation and rapid technological change are turning most complex industries on their ear, and CEOs and Sales leaders are putting the screws to Marketing to change the story, transform their capabilities and better justify their revenue contribution.  Worse, these cycles are getting shorter and shorter.  CMOs will have to lean in to this change.