Outbound to Inbound Marketing Requires Change Management

Switching from outbound to inbound marketing: is it good for your organisation? The question alone can stir up a great debate especially because embracing inbound marketing actually means taking your business in a new direction.

Unlike outbound marketing, in which communication only goes one way, inbound marketing is more interactive, directly involving customers in decision making, with a favourable impact not only on the relationship between you and your audience, but also on sales processes and revenue.

Thus, it seems that “do what you did yesterday” is no longer a formula for business success. In fact, changing business direction in order to stay abreast of the latest trends in all the areas the affect your business has become a key prerequisite for your company to compete effectively in today’s marketplace.

According to a recent survey, the organisations following effective change management practices have already outperformed their competitors in terms of both overall success and financial performance, regardless of the industry sectors and regions they operate within. In most cases, change management practices include reorganisation, implementation of new performance management systems, and strategic changes in corporate focus.

But managing change is not easy. Not only change management requires agility, teamwork, and strategic planning; the new strategies must also be consistent with the current business environment and economic predictions. The companies that cannot meet all these points must prepare to face serious consequences.

Common Pain Points in Change Management

Before developing a change management strategy, leaders must assess and understand why most employees resist change. Below are the most common sources of resistance in organisations changing business direction.

  • Concerns – Change, regardless of whether it relates to the implementation of state-of-the-art technology or new business concepts/methodologies, is resisted especially because employees are unable to perceive gains and recognise benefits. Additionally, everyone knows that change involves a lot of work, which inevitably leads to task overload. Another essential point is that employees know that a shift in business direction will bring something different. How much difference the new strategies will make in practice is a matter of debate among employees, at all levels.
  • Uncertainty – According to experts, it is human nature to resist change. Most people prefer to remain “mired in misery” than to embrace the “unknown”. Another aspect often overlooked relates to the downside of imposing decisions suddenly. Many leaders make the mistake of planning new directions and strategies in secret, and then announcing all the changes at once, just before implementing them.
  • Threats – When leadership teams announce a new plan, the people who managed previous changes may feel that they have done something wrong. This may create ripple effects, disrupting departments and determining employees to rebel against new change initiatives.

When it comes to managing a major organisational change, companies may also face challenges posed by a series of additional external and internal factors, such as:

  1. External factors: The external factors that may impact a business embracing a new direction include all the elements that make the external environment in which the company operates. Existing competitors may leave, while new ones move into the market; economy may change positively or negatively, requiring additional planning; and population shifts may result in changes in consumer groups, increasing or decreasing the number of prospects. By considering all these factors, you can easily understand that changing business direction must be seen as an on-going process, and not as a one-time event.
  2. Internal factors: Besides resistance to change, employee turnover, leading to significant changes in teams; progressive accumulation of knowledge; continuing development of skills; and implementation of new technologies define important internal factors that may affect your company.

How can you handle all these challenges and achieve the best results? Unfortunately, committing effort and resources towards change cannot guarantee success. What should you do?

Consider Change Management Principles

For successful change management, companies must focus on strategic and tactical planning, while developing an intimate understanding of human implications. This means that the leadership team must find a way to align new strategies not only with organisational goals, culture, and values, but also with employee and customer needs and demands. For this to be possible, they need to:

  • Address issues the right way: Dealing with uncertainty and resistance resulting from job changes, including the knowledge and skill employees must acquire, may put results at high risk. However, leaders can manage change by making available several alternatives, from which employees can select the most appropriate options, according to individual roles and responsibilities. Additionally, leaders can give employees ownership by providing abundant information, training, and support, and inviting everyone in the planning process.
  • Involve all “players”: Transformation will affect everyone, being inherently unsettling to all employees, at all levels of an organisation. To counteract negative effects, executives must identify the right “change” leaders and help them embrace the new approach in order to motivate other employees. If you are honest and transparent, keep things familiar whenever possible, remain focused on important aspects, follow a “cascading” methodology (starting with just a few employees and ending with the entire organisation), and avoid change for the sake of change, your employees will be more willing to accept and embrace the new direction.
  • Use incentives and rewards: As a leader, you should acknowledge the hard work your employees are required to put into in order to make change possible. You could offer tangible or psychological rewards, such as financial compensation, administrative support, and camaraderie along with a sense of shared destiny.
  • Prepare even for the unexpected: Regardless of how much you plan, unexpected things happen. By regularly assessing your business strategies along with your company’s ability to implement each stage of the transformation process, you will be able to maintain momentum and drive the results expected.

Although the activities mentioned above remain constant, regardless of the changes an organisation intends to implement, the key to effective change management is to understand the unique needs of all those involved, including organisations, customers, and employees.