Is Your Marketing Culture Holding You Back?

By Sean Tibor - April 20, 2016

My good friend Steve Nunn over at Nunn Better Consulting just posted a great analysis of the different stages of business lifecycle and their effect on organizational culture. Essentially, there is a peak culture that matches up with the midpoint of business maturity. However, without active leadership, businesses can surpass this point and slide downward into bureaucratic or even aristocratic stagnation that can severely hinder future growth and innovation.

I've seen this happen within marketing organizations as well, and the best leaders find ways to bring the culture back to a point that embraces all of the best aspects of startups and fast growing companies without losing focus. For example, Procter & Gamble consistently refreshes their approach to marketing and business growth. While I was there, I was impressed by senior management's willingness to test new approaches, rethink every paradigm, and redesign organizations to meet future anticipated needs. Crest was one of the first brands to advertise significantly on Facebook back in 2010, even to the point of shifting dollars away from proven media channels.

It occurred to me while reading Steve's post that the role of organization culture is vital to marketing transformation, even if it's not immediately apparent. Like other types of cultures, those people in the culture are often most blind to its effects. McKinsey published a set of staggering figures in a March 2015 article, showing that more than two thirds of commercial transformation efforts fail, and more than 70 percent of those failures were due to an "organization’s inability to adopt required new behaviors quickly and completely."

However, the reward is worth the risk: according to the same article, more than 90% of the successful commercial transformation efforts delivered sustained above-market growth. Clearly, there is power in reinventing your commercial capabilities, and McKinsey suggests six key steps to achieve this organizational change. Three of those steps directly address changing organizational culture in marketing, sales, and pricing teams. 

With the continued growth of online marketing and the rapid pace of change with marketing approaches and best practices, it's vital to create online marketing capabilities that recognize, embrace, and advance the culture of your marketing organization. Whether you are taking your first steps as an emerging business or startup, or shifting more of your marketing presence online, you'll need to ensure that your team's culture is designed to embrace these new capabilities rather than avoid them. 

As leaders, what are your best practices for creating transformative marketing cultures?

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