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Why is changing your marketing so challenging?

I’ve written in the past about the need to Do It Wrong Quickly—to stop the slow consensus approach to all marketing decision making and start experimenting. But many people have told me that, although this idea makes sense to them, they just can’t bring themselves to do it. Some changes just seem harder than others, don’t they? One reason people struggle with change is they don’t distinguish between adaptive change and technical change.


Let’s look at an example that has nothing to do with marketing. Suppose you’ve decided that you want to get up an hour earlier each day. Perhaps you want to pray in the morning, or do some exercise, or start writing that book. Logically, if you go to bed an hour earlier each day, and add this activity first thing in the morning, you should be able to pull it off, right?
But no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to get to bed an hour earlier. You just can’t get up an hour earlier. It feels like a big change.
It is a big change. It requires you to alter longstanding habits. You might have to forgo watching your favorite show to go to bed earlier. You might have to give up the time you spend talking to your spouse each night. You might not see these implications as the root of your problem, however. Instead, you might tell yourself, “I just can’t get up an hour earlier” or “My body clock just won’t adjust to this schedule.”
For you, getting up an hour earlier might be an adaptive change—one that requires you to change your beliefs about yourself or change other habits that you consider to be part of who you are.
Let’s consider another example. Come spring in many countries, the clocks are adjusted to Daylight Savings Time—where I live, we did it yesterday. The entire country sets their clocks an hour ahead—that means that everyone is essentially going to bed an hour earlier and getting up an hour earlier. And no one has any trouble with it. Exactly the same behavior change. What’s going on here?
Adjusting to Daylight Savings Time is a technical change, rather than an adaptive one—a technical change alters something external only and requires no personal adaptation. Because everyone is changing their schedule at the same time that you are, no huge adjustment of your life priorities is triggered.
This example demonstrates that a good deal of the pain involved in change goes on inside your own mind. Clearly, your body clock is adjustable enough to change your bedtime by an hour—you do it every year—but if you tell yourself that you can’t adjust, you’ll undoubtedly prove yourself correct.
Changing the way you approach Internet marketing is no different. For some people, experimentation is a freeing, natural way to behave—they love this change. But for many of us, it’s scary. We don’t want to be wrong. We don’t want to be criticized. We just feel more comfortable doing it the old way.
For people that feel uncomfortable “doing it wrong quickly,” understanding that this is an adaptive change makes it easier. Understanding that this one won’t come naturally, that it will take some internal mental work, is the first step to making the shift. For more information on adaptive and technical changes, read Leadership on the Line by Heifetz and Linsky—it’s a great book that helps you identify each type of change, which is the first step to making the change.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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