3 ways marketing can influence culture change in professional services

Alexandra Duncalf, Head of Client Experience, Concep 

Few professions have changed as radically within the last 10 years as marketing. Marketers have become technologists, digital specialists and data analysts. They are under more pressure than ever to deliver leads to sales and to nurture contacts with engaging, relevant content. They have had to adapt to comply with new laws and regulations which have put existing processes to the test and present new challenges and risks.

Yet despite a revolution in marketing, many marketers are still working in firms that have the same approach, processes and behaviours they had when they were founded decades ago.

 Today’s professional services firms have recognised they need to transform digitally to stay ahead; new technologies that include AI and machine-learning are becoming increasingly mainstream. The results are boosting productivity, reducing errors (and, with it, the cost of services provided), changing the business model – and the culture. And yet organisational culture hasn’t moved with the times.

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Organisational culture is the collective set of beliefs and behaviours that impact how people interact with each other and externally. Culture is what defines the brand; it impacts customer experience - and ultimately the success of the firm.

As the professional services landscape continues to shift, many firms are waking up to the notion that their culture is the foundation to driving transformational change. All functions and areas of the business need to respond to new external factors in a way that changes the behaviours and beliefs of the people within the organisation. Successful transformation encompasses all the firm’s capabilities.

Change typically needs to start from the top. However, as a function that cuts across the organisation, marketing is well placed to play a significant role in shifting firm culture and taking responsibility for finding genuine solutions that work in the new, complex digital environment.

 There are three priority areas of focus where marketing can help impact culture:

#1 Focus on getting the full picture

All marketers have their preferred toolkit, software and solutions that do exactly what they need them to do efficiently and effectively. After all, why wouldn’t you want to use a specialised “best in breed” martech solution to get the job done?

But what tends to happen is that each system has its own set of analytics and insights that don’t “talk” to each other. Whether it is email, event management, webinars, payment systems or CRM, each data set sits in isolation.

Fragmented tech is often cited as a top barrier to marketing success. It also is an obstacle to culture change. This is because when data doesn’t flow fluidly throughout the organisation, conversations become limited and innovation is stifled. Culturally, it leads to siloed behaviours and attitudes, deepens team inequity, reduces levels of accountability and undermines team collaboration.

Rather than opt for a single solution that “almost” does it all, marketers should focus on good integration. Real intelligence requires connecting the dots and allowing you to see the full picture. That is what will bring you the most value as an organisation and start to shift culture.

#2 Focus on creating a secure digital environment

Firms today are more vulnerable to digital attacks, data breaches and to the reputational and financial fall-out of getting it wrong. The new California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), for example, gives contacts the right to sue a company that “fails in its duty to implement and maintain reasonable security procedure and practice” if their personal data such as email addresses are leaked.

Several high-profile cases were featured in the media last year as cyber-attackers look for the path of least resistance, targeting firms whose software systems and third-party integrations were lacking in password protection or where they were sharing accounts with multiple users.

 A lack of awareness and understanding by marketing teams of what can incur when using a range of online technologies exposes them to substantial risk. Studies have shown the biggest threat of data breach is likely to come from lack of staff training and awareness. A Ponemon Institute report suggests 64 per cent of security breaches are caused by user negligence alone.

 In ‘”old world” cultures, IT systems and security often took place behind the scenes; IT often being the last to find out that marketing had brought on board a new online solution! Today, marketers need to focus on digital security like never before - and be accountable.

They need to open communication early on with IT services and interrogate martech providers on what solutions they offer to help keep data safe and protect an online account: Does an email tool have a campaign approval settings feature? Are they able to connect with a system that allows single sign-on (SSO) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) solutions, for example?

Marketing needs to steer the behaviours and attitude changes that lead to a cybersafe culture – and with it help to contribute to a more open and collaborative organisational culture.

 #3 Focus on developing a growth mindset

A growth mindset puts a love of learning and resilience as the driving force behind success. In many organisations with well-established processes and an approach that has worked for years, developing a growth mindset can be hard. Organisations need to adopt the attitude that it is it not about being good; rather it is about being better.

Think about it. Our traditional approach to marketing reporting is to showcase results and demonstrate marketing success, thus proving to ourselves and to others that we are doing a good job. That’s human nature!

When you have a growth mindset you highlight not just the wins but also the fails, actively seeking what you can learn from them as they provide an opportunity to change what you do. That way, every new challenge becomes an opportunity to be creative, to innovate and improve.

 In reality though, marketing is often too stretched and under-resourced to experiment and learn from the results. Too busy doing and too afraid to change for fear of the consequences. This is where embracing the change technology offers and with it the opportunity of a new way of doing things comes in.

In the “old world” you purchased marketing technology and were trained how to use what it offered. In today’s world, you need to work in partnership with a technology provider that understands what you want to achieve, what your challenges are and work with you to find the best solution.

Work with your tech partner to get a fresh perspective on your challenges, seek out new ways to learn from them, implement technology to reduce the number of hours you take to work on repeat manual processes, automate where possible, set up time-saving workflows and sync data from different systems. It will free up your time to be more strategic. You will also become more agile while giving your clients more digital control and a more seamless journey when they experience your brand.

Embracing change and new ways of doing things is key to shifting culture. But it doesn’t happen overnight. By focusing on seeing the full picture, creating a digitally-safe environment and developing a growth mindset, marketing does have the power to influence culture change. And what you focus on grows.