Who’s Ready to Lead Change in Marketing?

March 16, 2017

By George Stenitzer, Founder, Crystal Clear Communications

If you're not getting the marketing results you need, you may need to find a change agent. Or take on the role of one yourself. To find the hidden change agents among your team, look for these four behaviors:

1. Change agents question everything. Change agents exhibit relentless curiosity. They learn all they can about customers, products and services, the company, and competitors. Their reflex is to question assumptions, facts, and received knowledge. They ask out loud whether a team is using the best approach, content, or process. Change agents question authority and dare to ask the questions no one else will. Asking great questions help position them as experts who others turn to for answers. Change agents never say, "That's not how we do things around here," or "We tried that two years ago and it didn't work." That's because change agents value inquiry and learning more than conformity and obedience.

2. Change agents have a clear purpose. A pure customer focus can move mountains. By infusing a clear and consistent purpose into their work, change agents invite others to follow their path. Change agents discover their purpose by seeing the world through the eyes of customers and working to understand their pain points, needs, and buying journeys. That's how they deliver content and programs that fit customers like a glove.

3. Change agents seek forgiveness, not permission. Especially when they're new to an organization, change agents can use their "new guy" license to test the limits. Or they can receive a change license from an enlightened executive. That's what happened to me during my first six months at Ameritech, a Fortune 50 company.

I'll never forget meeting the CEO of Ameritech for the first time. It was on the morning I issued a news release about Ameritech winning a multimillion-dollar deal with EDS. Minutes after the release crossed the wire, my phone rang. It was the CEO, Dick Notebaert, whom I'd never met.

He got straight to the point: he hated a couple of phrases in the release. I replied, "Dick, I hated those too. But that's what the customer approved."

"Do you have the draft of the news release before the customer edited it?" he asked.


"Bring that draft and the one you issued up to my office right away."

I'd never seen his office. I rushed upstairs. Dick read both news releases quickly, then said, "I like the original one better. Why didn't you put this one out?"

"Dick, the customer wouldn't approve that draft. I put out the draft they approved."

"So, why didn't you call me?"

"Because my boss told me never to call you."

"You gotta break the rules. I'm counting on you." He made it clear that my job was to figure out the task and get it done, no matter what my boss said.

That's when it hit me: After many years in command-and-control companies, where I followed orders strictly, I transplanted into the entrepreneurial culture at Ameritech, but I hadn't changed the way I worked.

That was a pivotal moment in my career. Dick entrusted me with all the authority I needed to run my function, even offering a license to exceed the limits my boss set.

Luckily, for the next eight years, I got to work closely with Dick at Ameritech and Tellabs. Out of all the 52 bosses in my corporate career, I learned the most from him.

4. Change agents learn, learn, learn. Marketers face new challenges, new buyer behaviors, and new technologies every day. Change agents seek to learn at every opportunity by:

  • Reading the best books, blogs, and websites about marketing.
  • Attending local professional association meetings.
  • Participating in national marketing conferences.

To learn how to navigate the changes ahead, join me at the 2017 Masters of B2B Marketing Conference, presented by ANA's Business Marketing Association, May 31-June 2 in Chicago.


George Stenitzer is the founder of Crystal Clear Communications.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


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