At the meetings of Inside Success Lab, the first laboratory of ideas dedicated to successful business transformation, we are collectively defining the best practices that lead to transformation projects’ success.
Because one of the key factors of success is intrinsically connected to the way the project is received internally by various audiences, we have devoted our last two workshops to “Transformation Project Marketing: The Key Link in the Dynamics of Change.”
But what exactly do we mean by marketing a project? Or by transformation project? At what stage in the transformation is marketing key? How do we implement project marketing? How do we turn a vision into tangible, personalized actions? How do we create a real sense that the project is “going viral,” as well as a feeling of belonging and a sense of pride in accomplishment?
Our members had a great deal of information to share in response to all of these questions. Here is our summary:
Marketing your project becomes self-evident
Whether they actually use the term “marketing” or do it without realizing, many transformation managers – or business unit managers carrying out transformation projects – already take inspiration from the mechanics of marketing in order to get employees interested, formalize good arguments, adjust messaging, and involve employees so that they will take ownership of the projects for which they are responsible. Why? Because they’ve understood that the employee is also a consumer who has powerful experiences outside the office – experiences conveyed by brands, especially the brand names of innovative products. However, the mechanisms used today by these brands, including in the B2B sector, are no longer focused on “push” approaches, but rather on “pull” approaches, which consist in leading consumers themselves to take interest in the product.
What exactly do we mean by transformation project?
As “transformation” has become a bit of a hackneyed expression, it’s necessary to clarify what we mean by it. Transformation involves any change that impacts employees’ ways of working: a change in management, workplace, culture, or professional practices. The notion of a loss of autonomy for the employee is a central concern as well. For even one of these changes, it is necessary to establish a support mechanism. Some projects can impact the daily routine of an operational employee, even if they wouldn’t fall into the “transformation” category. On the other hand, a very strategic project may not influence his or her daily life in any way.
Project Marketing is transversal in all dimensions of the transformation
If, as we have mentioned, transformation involves a number of dimensions, each of these has an impact on the employees and entails support in adapting to the change. It is therefore key to integrate project marketing into the overall strategy for piloting the transformation, regardless of the type of project in question. This marketing must also allow for the project to be considered in the context of the various other projects being carried out internally at the same time. This step is often lacking, however, even though it is necessary in order to emphasize that Management is providing a strong, clear vision.
Naming the “project marketing” internally? Not necessary!
In many organizations, talk of “marketing” or “internal sales” is not well received, especially when addressing the target audiences. However, by its very nature, marketing strategy must make it possible to develop messages that convey meaning, closely connected to the company culture. Therefore, elements of language should be carefully chosen, including within the project’s administrative team, to avoid any disharmony.
In concrete terms, how does one implement project marketing?
Just as in marketing an innovative product, the development of a project marketing plan starts on the very first day of the project, well in advance of its roll-out to all employees. In particular, this allows time to raise Management’s awareness of the concept of transformational time and to optimize the division of relevant, structured actions.
- “Strategic” step: vision, key success indicators, objectives, market/benchmark positioning, targets, internal client benefits… No element of marketing strategy must be left out, because every one of them will be indispensable to the construction of the project “narrative,” built during the phase when the communications plan is defined.
- “Product” step: ensure the best employee experience and formalize the use cases, relevant content, and benefits by target. It is important to sequence and to personalize the suitable methods of interaction according to the target audience, at each step and for each audience, especially if more than one management team is initiating transformation projects at the same time.
- “Communications” step: it is also indispensable to “brand” the project, give it a name, and associate it with a visual identity and a slogan that is meaningful to the employee. But it is just as important to identify the tone and the graphic identity of all digital and print content. Transformation is often synonymous with a desired improvement, in response to a possible failure. It is nonetheless important to maintain a positive tone that conveys a desire to co-construct with the employees. That way, their performance is not being called into question, and each individual is an agent of change.
- “Circulation” step: make good use of all available internal channels (multichannel dimension) to maximize the chance of getting the employee interested in the project, rather than relying only on managerial representatives and project “ambassadors”. We will come back to the central role of ambassadors and, more broadly, of employee communities during the next workshop on September 19, but we wish to emphasize here that hey provide significant leverage in accelerating change and making it last. That being said, employee ambassadors are a target in their own right, and they too must take an interest in the project. It’s a matter of creating greater overall support for the project, which can be reflected in someone’s career plans, keen interest in the subject, or natural inclination to work as part of a team and demonstrate teaching skills.
At what point do we use project marketing?
Marketing is useful at every stage of the transformation: preparation, launch, and long-term reinforcement. As we have already seen, it must make it possible, from the start of the preparation stage, to structure the construction of the transformation project pilot strategy, and to define the success metrics (KPI) and objectives to be reached in accordance with stages of maturity, both individually and collectively.
Project marketing must also play a role in the design of the process used and the training/project presentation media by target. And the communications and circulation aspects of the project marketing plan are also critical, starting at the preparation stage, in order to engage the communities involved at that stage, but also to start stimulating enthusiasm and clearly explaining the objectives and anticipated results to all of the employees who will be affected in the end.
Finally, as we have already mentioned, one of the key factors in transformation success being consistent support, the whole point of project marketing is to conduct marketing activities well beyond the preparation stage, during the launch and reinforcement, which last an average of 24 to 36 months. And unlike an “external” marketing plan, this one must be quickly adjusted based on the reactions of the various targets and revisited at least once per year.
How do we turn a vision into tangible, personalized actions? How do we create a real sense that the project is “going viral,” as well as a feeling of belonging and a sense of pride in accomplishment?
In order to be efficient, project marketing must rely on tools to create an internal user experience.
- The digital and physical communication tools traditionally used in external marketing, such as videos, email blasts, newsletters, events, flyers, brochures, and posters, form the basis for project marketing actions.
Example of a video production that went “viral”: a humorous dramatization of operational employees in a field situation, stressing elements to improve and comparing “good” and “bad” attitudes.
- Gamification tools (game-play rules, badges, points, rankings) can also be effective in creating healthy competition, communicating in a fun way, highlighting progress, and making objectives concrete on a day-to-day basis. In addition, challenge creation features make it possible to relaunch project adoption efforts or to temporarily emphasize a specific objective. Moreover, the challenges can be particularly useful in equipping team managers and saving them time.
- Aside from tools; coordination, facilitation, and results measurement are vital in order to adjust the actions and support the project marketing plan over the long term. The InsideBoard change management platform was created to meet this need, bringing all of the levers of transformation project marketing actions together in one place and to measure their success. Developed from Big Data technology, the pinnacle of the platform is the KPIs Success Boards engine, which helps to facilitate project objectives both individually and collectively. And thanks to its unique Artificial Intelligence algorithms, InsideBoard generates personalized recommendations to relay all of the marketing content produced, in an automated, relevant, personalized way. In short, thanks to digital technology, InsideBoard makes it possible to facilitate the full range of transformation projects continuously, while optimizing resources and offering a personalized project adoption experience to the employee, who can use the suggested adoption levers “on demand.”