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by Erika Schmidt

Don’T PaNIC

How to successfully lead big change

“We need to change this immediately. We’re missing out on revenue. Let’s get new materials out to the field and to customers right away to reverse this trend!”

If these marching orders sound familiar—or if you have experienced this pressure in the past—you’re not alone.

The need for product marketers to execute faster is becoming a significant struggle. Within the past year, our team at Sappington has seen an increase in the number of enterprise technology product marketers who need to make something big happen—and quickly. The changes have ranged from “extend all new messaging across the product group within a month” to “increase customer usage of the product.” And, in each instance, the immediate reaction was to either panic or jump into fixing the problem through some tactical maneuver.

Any person who has high standards, or is ambitious, will tackle a big challenge, but not without some level of angst. The immediate question is often “how am I actually going to do this?” The good news is that just like the demands on product marketers are shifting, so are the resources to help react effectively, as well as proactively lead. The best solution is threefold:

  1. Take a breath and manage your reaction. Give yourself a few minutes to freak out, and then take some deep breaths to calm down. Then say to yourself, “this is a tremendous opportunity, and I’m going to figure it out.” According to Prosci, the leading change management organization, the action you take has a direct impact on the outcome you experience. While it might seem cliché, it’s true that how you react will directly affect how this turns out.

  2. Think about your assignment as a people issue. Whether you’re launching a new product externally, or getting your sales force geared up with new tools, product marketing projects are all about dealing with people—and getting those people to change. And, we all know that people typically don’t like change. That’s why change management is a growing industry. Your ability to spread messages or increase usage ties to getting people on board with what you need to accomplish.

  3. Assess the situation through a change management lens. While project management is a marketing reality, consider how your rollout approach can be improved by factoring in how you’ll manage change into your plan. Integrating change management techniques into your project management effort is a good idea. The Prosci method is one way to understand how to lead change. The Association for Change Management is another good resource on change management.   

If you want to tackle a request to make something big happen quickly, you can do it. The key for any product marketer is to remember that success with leading any change requires thinking about the change as much as the actual marketing need.