How to deal with the anti-digital “monkeys” in the boardroom

Embracing digital change is hard. It involves marketing automation, but to make it work, you need the buy-in of people who will adapt your processes, and embrace the velocity and business impact you desire. We’ve all been in that executive management meeting when hard decisions about marketing and big data have to be made. Should we cut the program? Should we change our content marketing strategy? Marketing decisions are hard enough to make since objective data is usually scarce and typically, there are more opinions than individuals in any given meetings.

What irritates me to no end is when the strategic marketing decision meeting becomes a game of ‘Monkeys in the Boardroom.’ Haven’t heard of it? Oh yes, there is an app for that, and it’s called “Corporate Politics 101.” If you stand a chance of making intelligent marketing decisions about your next campaign, you might just want to use the cheat sheet below as a way of quickly identifying the corporate anti-digital change monkeys  that prevent you from soliciting real meaningful insights and feedback.

The Corporate Denier (Hear No Evil): Despite an abundance of empirical data, the corporate denier monkey refuses to acknowledge any form of accountability for inferior client satisfaction, low ratings, or honest feedback received from marketing research. They often uses phrases like “that’s news to me” or “interesting, tell me more” as if they never took the time to probe the pulse of an irate client to ensure we understand the root cause of their problem.

The Corporate Baboon (Speak No Evil): Beware of the corporate baboon. He is smart enough to pretend that he is listening and processing your data, and might even ask a few questions to build rapport along the lines of “interesting statistic, what does it mean?” making it appear that he speaks no evil and might support your digital change plan. But behind the hairy mask, he is just toying with you. He has no intention of supporting change because it means he will have to jump higher for his bananas.

The Corporate Non-Visionary (See No Evil):  Equipped with a unique DNA strand of the ability to only think about today and not to see beyond their own “tunnel vision,” the corporate non-visionary comments on your digital marketing change only through the hour-glass perspective of “what’s now.” They often use phrases like “I don’t think this would work for my department” or “well, mobile apps are not secure,” and sometimes will even say “our clients aren’t online,” despite clear evidence that the competition is online, engaged and ready for higher level of engagement.

So surrounded by these corporate monkeys in the board, what should an evolved marketer do? Three quick tips;

1. Murder-Board it. Using a media training technique, borrowed from the Pentagon that prepares military officers for external media scrutiny by rehearsing the worst case scenarios, the tough questions and objections should be addressed before you make your presentation. Playing devil’s advocate ensures your genuine desire for change doesn’t get killed by one of the above noted monkeys. 

2. Role Play and Simulate the Three Monkeys. Simulate and anticipate their answers, given your unique company culture and internal politics. Is there a point of getting the buy-in prior to the meeting to ensure you get a monkey off your back? Or on your back for good reasons?

3. Map Out Three Positive Choices. If you’re going into a meeting expecting the monkeys to give you a yes or a no, you should be prepared for a NO, as that is human nature going back to the days of the cavemen – most people don’t want change. However, if you build three realistic scenarios where you are giving them a “yes,” “yes” or a “yes” with different configurations, you may get what you wanted out of the same ineffective crew.

Bottom line: Call it ‘change management’, ‘surviving the jungle’, or ‘survival of the fittest’; be cognizant of the three corporate monkeys that are blocking your company from becoming digitally-savvy, or you will wind up going bananas!  


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