[Content Marketing Institute] How to Persuade the Naysayers to Embrace New Marketing Technology

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On this subject here is an article about how to embrace change: The world of technology solutions for marketers just keeps getting bigger. For proof, take a peek at the evolution of the Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic.


When Scott Brinker created this graphic in 2011, it featured around 150 solutions. By 2016, the graphic had exploded to include more than 3,874 solutions in 49 categories. That’s a staggering 25-fold increase in five years.

I’m not trying to put you in panic mode; I’m just trying to point out that you and your content team probably rely on more software solutions than you’re consciously aware of – and chances are high you’ll onboard new tools in the near future.

Adoption problem

I recently ran across an article in Harvard Business Review from 1985, which stated that “… there often remains a persistent and troubling gap between the inherent value of the technology … and (the) ability to put it to work effectively” and that “the distance between technical promise and genuine achievement is a matter of especially grave concern.” The goal of the article was to “describe some of the challenges managers must overcome if companies are to absorb new technologies efficiently.” These sentiments could easily have been written today.

In fact, 32 years later, Harvard Business Review is still talking about the same problem, convincing employees to use new technology:

Even among digital natives, adoption of things like enterprise digital tools often doesn’t live up to lofty expectations. ‘We’ve spent an awful lot of money on technology, but I still see people working in the old way,’ complained the CFO of a large hospitality company. The result is often widely deployed internal applications that no one actually uses effectively.

Why is this still a challenge? I believe much of it comes down to our natural resistance to change. Luckily, there are proven strategies that will immensely increase your chances of software-adoption success.

Once you’ve waded through the software bog and selected one that has the potential to make a real difference in your organization, here’s how to get your team to actually use it.

1. Address culture first

Anthony Imgrund is a project manager at FCB (Foote, Cone & Belding), a global advertising organization with more than 8,000 people in over 120 offices throughout 80 countries. He has guided 12 internal business units consisting of more than 1,100 people through the implementation of a third-party project management solution. And sometimes when a team approaches him to ask if their team can adopt the solution too, he tells them no.

Why? Because “the culture was such that they weren’t willing to do the work or make the changes that were necessary to make it successful,” Anthony says. “Why spend all that time trying to launch something if you don’t have the culture, the policy, or the process in place?”

No software, no matter the category, will be a plug-and-play miracle solution. If you have endemic problems with culture or personnel, those must be addressed either before or during the software adoption process. For example, if some individuals have a tendency to hoard or withhold information, but you’re trying to onboard a tool that will increase access and transparency, you’ll have to address their unproductive behavior. If you’re not willing to do that, your implementation will be doomed from the start.

Here are a few question themes to ask your team, perhaps in survey form, so you know what you’re dealing with before you begin:

  • How comfortable are you with the status quo?
  • How much do you want to enact change in this particular area?
  • What is your level of pain with what the new solution will solve?

Follow up with additional questions specifically related to the solution itself.

2. Build a business case for the solution

No matter what software type you’re considering, Anthony recommends establishing metrics for success up front, including defining “success.” Consider all the aspects of this software adoption that you could measure:

  • How quickly it’s up and running, measured in weeks or months
  • Percentage of target users on the team who adopt the tool
  • Hours saved performing a certain set of tasks
  • Money saved by reducing manual work with an automated process
  • Money saved by replacing an old tool (or several tools) with the new one
  • Revenue generated as a direct result of the tool

Whether you’re advocating for the solution alone or you’re a part of a team, it’s your job as the subject matter expert (the content marketer) to make sure the solution truly addresses your personal pain points. Ask your peers for their input as well.

But you also have to convince those who control the purse strings. A solid business case that speaks to your own needs, as well as the metrics upper management cares about, will help you gain support from peers, direct reports, and executives alike. If you have genuine buy-in before you start onboarding the solution, you’ll avoid much of the internal resistance that derails so many software implementations.

3. Create internal advocates

In a blog post for Capterra.com, Chris Savoie suggests “Find one or more internal employees who seem to be catching the vision of the new system early on. Involve these people throughout the process, and empower them to help evangelize the tool, helping with pitching and training as needed.”

I’ve witnessed the results of this strategy. At a software user group I attended recently, I heard from a major retailer how they deliberately planned for a software rollout by leveraging a group of internal influencers. The team consisted of influential people in the organization, along with the people who can find something wrong with everything (let’s call them the naysayers). The team leaders invited this group to share their hopes as well as their concerns, had them sit in on demos, took them to a user conference, and involved them all along the way.

Because the retailer brought the right individuals into the business case early, they had people singing the tool’s praises before the solution even launched, which can go a long way toward inspiring more widespread adoption. As Chris says, “The average employee who will be using the new solution is going to weigh a co-worker’s opinions over a vendor’s promises every time.”

4. Find an executive sponsor

The importance of having an engaged and supportive advocate at the top of the organization can’t be overestimated. According to the Harvard Business Review:

Coca-Cola faced huge challenges when it deployed its internal social collaboration platform. Only when Coca-Cola’s senior executives became engaged on the platform did the community become active. As the implementation leader put it, ‘With executive engagement, you don’t have to mandate activity.’

When a team comes to him asking to be trained on a project management software solution, Anthony says, “We do require an executive sponsor, and the executive sponsor is not just there to sign the checks. They have to help set the policies, like when is the transition date. They’re the ones that do the communications. They’re the ones that have to get buy-in from other people in the agency.”

Without upper management on your side, you may find yourself defending your software choice again and again – or dealing with resistance from peers or direct reports. Given these realities, sometimes it is important to make adoption mandatory, which Chris says is “the only way to know if your new software can deliver on what it promises” – and that’s something only an executive can do.

5. Don’t try to eat an elephant

What’s the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time, of course. The same is true for training your team on a new content marketing tool.

According to business strategist Jay Baer, “Teaching the team how to use many features in a software package all at once can be incredibly disruptive, cause uncertainty and ennui, and often waste a ton of time. Instead, roll out new software in phases.”

Make a list of the features this tool offers that will benefit your team. Rank them in order of importance. Then, Jay says, “Start with the third most important feature. You don’t want to roll out the killer feature first because the entire tool will be new to the team and they’ll end up focusing too much on interface and process and not enough on usefulness of the feature.”

Then roll out the second most important feature, followed by the first, before tackling items four, five, and beyond.

Out with the old, in with the new

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