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Do We Fear Change…Or Something Else?

Some may say the reason that we as marketers and marketing operations professionals are reluctant to change in the way we do what we do is fear of the unknown. That’s a cop-out. Marketers aren’t afraid of the unknown. We regularly charge forward, damned near blindly, into the unknown. If we fall flat on our face we’ll try something different and call it A/B testing! Well, okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but still there is almost always some element of the unknown in marketing and it doesn’t hold us back.

It’s not fear of the unknown that gives us the cold sweats when we think about making some internal change to the way we do what we do. I’ll tell you what it is, because after many years, I can finally and freely admit it.

It’s fear of the ‘pain in the ass.’ Or, perhaps more accurately, fear of a different ‘pain in the ass.’

Let’s face it, marketing is a complex machine and operations within it are bound to be equally intricate. There are many different people, in nearly as many different roles, all with different concerns. There is a seemingly endless stream of details, deadlines and moving parts; all requiring decisions. Even when an organization recognizes the unique parts, connections and flow it needs, making the process actually happen is a pain. But it becomes a familiar pain. Unfortunately, as long as it results in some level of organization and effectiveness, the pain becomes not only familiar but also accepted.

When change promises to alleviate the familiar and accepted pain, we see it as merely swapping one pain that we already live with for another, the pain of starting over. Why would we want to do that? In cases where change impacts the actual process – the parts, the connections and the flow – fear of trading one pain for another might have some validity. But what about change that impacts the tools used to make the process happen and not the process itself? What about change that actually makes the process work better and easier, like it’s intended to work? Perhaps there is a worthy trade-off?

We’ll explore that more, stay tuned.

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