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Why B2B marketers must ride the tidal wave of change

There’s one skill or attribute above all others that’s fundamental to determining a senior B2B marketer’s success or otherwise in today’s world: that is their ability to manage or respond to change.

Change is all around us in corporate life – never have organisations been faced with demands to change so often, so quickly or so comprehensively. And this makes life difficult for B2B leaders: typically they’re bombarded relentlessly by requests, appeals, instructions or demands for change, which can come from any source and affect any number of aspects of marketing. Keeping pace with this tidal wave of demands can be an exhausting, bewildering, confusing and potentially overwhelming challenge.

But it doesn’t have to be this way – this scenario assumes marketers are only (and can only be) the facilitator or deliverer of change. What if they were to become the driver, or agent of change? What if they could shape, determine or even initiate the change that organisations felt compelled to align with and focus on? It’s not such a crazy idea – a few B2B leaders already demonstrate this in practice, but too many others remain the subject of change programmes conceived elsewhere, and at the mercy of these fickle ideas and their originators.

So what are the characteristics of an agent of change? Which skills, attributes and traits are required? This question was at the heart of our recent B2B Leaders Report, and our research showed there were five core facets:

  1. Supportiveness – having empathy and patience for those struggling to adapt, and collaborating closely with other stakeholders.
  2. Authenticity – truly and tangibly believing in the change that you’re driving.
  3. Clarity and consistency – ensuring your message is relevant, resonant, digestible and does not deviate.
  4. Positivity – being a passionate advocate for the change, overcoming resistance through conciliation.
  5. Pragmatism – knowing when (and how) to adjust and recalibrate, and when just to push harder.

So if you’re not an agent of change, what are you? Based on our research, we’d contend that you’re probably either:

An ‘enabler of change’ – who may not (for various reasons) be able to conceptualise or originate change themselves, but may be very good at delivering change conceived elsewhere. To do this effectively, enablers need to embrace both the ends and the means of the change programme they are seeking to implement as passionately as they would had they originated it. In short, they need to live it… and that’s easier said than done.

A ‘victim of change’ – who has little or no alignment or buy-in to change dictated elsewhere, and consequently their passion and enthusiasm for its objectives will be conspicuous by its absence. Their ability to deliver it effectively will at best be compromised.

Being an agent of change, and actively driving change within your organisation may not explicitly be part of the job description of many senior B2B marketers, but their ability to do so will define their effectiveness in the role and the way in which others perceive them. It is likely, therefore, to define their future career.

If you’re a B2B leader, and you’re not currently driving change in your organisation, or exhibiting the characteristics listed above, perhaps you should ask yourself: is becoming an agenct of change really just an option, or is it a necessity?

B2B Leaders Report 2016: Agents of change

All marketing leaders have to deal with change, but how many are really able to drive change within their department and wider organisation? The B2B Leaders Report 2016 examines why leaders should be aiming to become agents of change within their organisations, as well as what's stopping them from doing so.

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B2B Leaders Report 2016: Agents of change