Organizational restructuring—and the change that comes with it—is never simple for marketers. It can mean rethinking work that has long been set in stone, working with new groups across the organization, and ultimately taking leaps where there is no precedent to fall back on. But it also represents a huge opportunity.
We sat down with Nicole Ferry, Partner and Executive Director of Strategy, and Christian Castellano, Managing Director of Strategy, who drew on their experience with organizations like Verizon, American Express, Cornell Tech, and Pitney Bowes through periods of change to discuss how marketing can and should contribute.
Restructuring is a result of big, organizational forces at play. What role do you see marketing playing in the process?
Nicole Ferry: Yes, restructuring is often done for broader business reasons that reach beyond marketing: adjusting to a sweeping, industry-wide shift; adapting after a merger or acquisition; or, in some cases, even downsizing. But marketing does play a crucial role: throughout the process, we represent the customer. We own the customer’s point-of-view—understanding it, dissecting it, and powerfully presenting it to the rest of the company—so that these customers have a voice in the outcome of the restructured organization.
To put it another way, organizational change is done with the goal of increasing a company’s value. But that doesn’t really mean anything until that value is positioned in a way that makes sense and is relevant to the customer. That’s the marketer’s job. And a restructured organization will only be effective if the marketing team is able to encourage customers to start and expand their relationships with the company.
Christian Castellano: In restructuring and beyond, marketing really is the voice of the customer. What we see too frequently is companies changing in a way that reflects only their own internal business needs; what we need instead is a balance between those needs and the customers’ needs.
As for individual marketers, it’s understandable that the first reaction to change is one of concern: where do I fit into the new structure? How does this affect my role? But the truth is, it’s a real opportunity. Yes, you’re going to pull from your company’s heritage—but for the most part, you really are helping define a blank page, and that’s exciting.
What specific challenges do you see marketers face in these situations?
NF: What we have seen recently are organizations moving from a product-based approach to a more solutions-driven structure. So the first step for marketing will be rethinking the value proposition. In a product-based model, you’re selling on specs, technical details, things like that. But a solutions-based approach necessitates something more: it’s defining the value of the relationship you provide to customers.
Then, once you know what you stand for, the question really becomes: How and when are you going to talk to your customers about it? The truth is, you’re going to have to change your communications anyway—so we often help companies take advantage by evaluating their communications framework and recommending what can be kept, what should be discarded, and what needs to be created from scratch. If it’s done well, it can be a chance to set a foundation for more efficient and effective outreach that benefits the customer and the organization.
CC: The only thing I’d add is that it’s a big opportunity for older, larger companies who have been doing things a certain way. Because they’re trying to overcome something more They have a chance to modernize their approach, and create a message that feels more timely and relevant to what today’s customers are facing.
We’ve touched on building a new story externally, but what role can marketing play internally—in helping employees overcome the fear of change, and understanding the new status quo?
NF: Well, often before you can even launch externally, you have to make sure that your people understand the intent of the restructuring and the expectations coming out of it—especially your sales and service people, who have direct contact with your customers. They’re the ones who are going to fulfill the new vision every single day with clients and prospects. You can market all day long…but if these people can’t express how this change will improve a customer’s experience, you’re not getting the value of your marketing spend or your restructuring.
The other thing to remember is that restructuring doesn’t always mean you want to tell a huge new story to your customers—you just want them to have a better experience. In this case, it’s natural for the broader set of employees to feel insecure and unsure after a restructuring. But if you can help get them excited about where the company is going, they’re your best advocates. And that enthusiasm will, by nature, affect your internal culture and external success.
CC: After a restructuring—particularly a move to a “solutions-based” approach, like we touched on earlier—you’re depending more than ever on your sales team. Instead of selling individual products, they’ll be tasked with recommending specific offerings and cross-selling, so it’s imperative that not only do they believe in the new structure, but they know, very tactically, how they should change their day-to-day behavior. Help them understand the new way of doing business: how to speak differently about our offerings, when to make a certain call, and what new resources they have at their disposal.
What about specifically for division-level marketers, who may not be as privy to the larger corporate decisions? What role do they play?
NF: In a way, they have the most important role: it’s their job to execute on the new vision and strategy. That’s brand engagement, really: you can do whatever you want to your organization, but it’s those on-the-ground moments you create with your clients that are going to deepen and extend your relationship with them. And so division-level marketers have the most power to realize the potential of the new organization.
CC: The restructuring happens based on a change in business and a high-level vision, but it’s kind of leaving you a few steps from the door. It’s up to the division-level to walk it through and execute—and that’s where this new story will really come to life.