This is a transcript of an audio podcast.
Editor's Note: This is episode 6 of 8. If you are just jumping in, you might want to start with the transcript of episode 1.
Lee Odden: Welcome to IBM Press podcast series with Mike Moran and Lee Odden. I’m Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing and Executive Editor of marketingblog.com. TopRank is an internet marketing consulting agency that provides enterprise search engine optimization, social media marketing, and online public relations services for companies that range from Hewlett-Packard to McKesson. Our guest is of course Mike Moran. The credentials list on Mike Moran is literally a mile long including the fact that he is the author of two very important books, the new Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules and Search Engine Marketing Mike Moran is an IBM distinguished engineer with more than 20 years experience in search technology. He led the original search marketing strategy for IBM.com as well as the integration of ibm.com's site search technologies. Mike worked on IBM's website for eight years and now works on IBM's OmniFind Enterprise Search and Analytics Products. In addition to his search work, Mike is also a columnist for Revenue Magazine and WebProNews plus he writes a very popular blog called “Biznology,” which you can find at mikemoran.com. We are in episode six of our series of eight podcasts talking about Do It Wrong Quickly.
LO: This may make sense to a lot of people on their heads, this notion of Do It Wrong Quickly, but their gut is probably churning over how to convince themselves to make the change. How would you explain that, or what advice can you give about that, Mike?
MM: I think that it's hard. I think that we expect ourselves to be able to change very easily and some kinds of changes are easy, but some aren't. The ones that really require us to change the way we think — those are usually the hardest changes. So there’s a concept of technical changes and adaptive changes, and most of the changes that we make in our lives are technical. There are things like — well, if sales went down, then lower the price because maybe sales will go up. Those are technical changes. You’re not changing the way you think; you’re just approaching a problem; you’re listening to data; you’re deciding to do things. But an adaptive change is something like — don't pay attention to what all the experts in marketing thought was the right message — instead, try out a message on the customers and see which one resonates with them. That's an adaptive change. Or an adaptive change for your IT department is to say, “Well, don't do the development the way you always have. We need you to be much more responsive. So we want you to do agile development where we’ll tell you what we want and then two weeks later you’ll give us the piece of it that you could finish in two weeks.” The system has to work all the time. You don't get to go off for a year with a pile of specks and then come back. Those things are adaptive changes; those really change the way people think. They change the very way that they do their jobs, and those things are really wrenching for a lot of people. We really need to be sympathetic and we really need to say hey, “Look, we understand this is hard, but the reason you’re doing it is because the circumstances have changed. The way that you adapted to the old circumstances was intelligent; it was correct, but it wasn't the way to work for all time; it was only the way to work under those circumstances.” Now that marketing isn't this thing that’s full of upfront costs and huge risks and long lead times, now that internet marketing is something where you can change things very rapidly, you can test things, you can get feedback on whether something actually worked — as opposed to a TV commercial where if a nickel rolled on to the door because you had higher brand awareness, no one would ever know. So now that all those things have changed, you need to change the way you work, but those changes aren't that easy and a lot of people are fearful. A lot of it breaks down to people saying, “I am afraid; I can't do this.” So by getting some information, by understanding that it's okay to be wrong about things, that it's okay to experiment — that's actually the secret — is to let yourself do that to kind of drop that control. I think by getting a lot of information about this, that's what I am hoping the book can do for people. It can help people to see that there is another way to work, and that they can try it, and it's okay if they don't get it right away.
LO: Well, then that sounds like what the book can do for people is provide a roadmap for people to follow. It gives them a plan that they can look forward to in understanding how these personal changes can occur and what the outcomes might be, but at the same time, there are organizational changes too. Right? I mean, this kind of change you are talking about — to have the most significant impact — needs to be an organizational level change. And I think even if people can get past their personal concerns, many people might say things like, “You don't know my boss or you don't know my IT department how they work.” So, what advice can you give to people on how to best make organizational changes?
MM: I think that it's different based on every organization. What I think you really need to do is to analyze what the leadership in your organization really values. So there are some people who would come to me and say, “My boss is so risk averse there isn't a chance in the world that he’s going to approve us just going around willy-nilly and experimenting and trying stuff, and he’d say, ‘There is no way I am going to approve any of that stuff.’” So if you’re in that kind of situation where you have somebody who is really motivated by the fear of a mistake, then what you need to do is, you need to position all of the things you’re doing as the way to avoid the biggest mistake of all, which is — not experimenting. You need to show them — if he is driven by fear — then you have to scare the heck out of him for not changing. “So if you keep everything the same, here is what's going to happen to us, Boss; it's really scary. All of our competitors are going to do these things, in fact, here, look, there are two of them doing it already. We’re going to be left in the dust.” Your boss is going to be asking you how we missed this.
You have to really identify what motivates people. It's not that easy to do all the time, but I think sometimes people come at this by saying, “Okay it's new; it's different; it's an experiment; it's unusual, and that's how they present it to everybody. The truth is that a lot of the things that I talk about have a lot of solid data behind them. So, it's not an experiment in terms of whether this approach works or not. I mean, Amazon, Google, Netflix, there are a whole bunch of case studies that we have in the book that show all these different groups that use this, and we tell stories about how they do — and they’re all very successful — and so this is what they are doing. It's not really something that's risky to try. What you need to do is to focus on what is holding the organization back. Is it a leader that's stopping it; is it a certain set of policies that are stopping it? You need to get enough buy-in with enough of those leaders that they’re willing to tackle it, that they’re willing to say, “Okay, look, this one project we’ve had so much trouble with — and it's so important to us — why don't we use this one to try something new.” Let them go after it because that's how you make organizational change happen. You find really painful problems that can't be solved the regular way and you go after it. Sometimes you can do it by not asking anybody; sometimes you have control over things, and you can just try things. So for example, even in most marketing departments you have control over the copy, so why don’t you just say, “Okay, I don't need to worry about the IT department; I’m going to write the copy for this paid search ad because we already have a paid search campaign, and I am going to change it 10 times this week and see what happens. You have total control over that, and once you show that things work in a small way, then people will be willing to try them in a bigger way.
LO: So as you document successes with these ‘ask for forgiveness and not permission’ sort of initiatives, maybe you can share the stories of those successes with the organization and relate how they’re helping the organization or department or business unit meet its business goals and how that can support further change across the board.
MM: Yeah, one of the things I advise is after you run a series of experiments, declare success, whether it worked or not. You can define success as being, “Hey, we eliminated these 30 things that won't work faster than we ever would have the old way. Now we can move on to ones that might really work.” I remember when I talked to one of the web leaders at Scotts Miracle-Gro, the lawn care people, he said to me that one of the things that he likes to do is to be interviewed by external media. So he was happy to grant me a book interview because he wanted to tell the story in my book just as he has told the story to press and bloggers. Because when stories like that get circulated around his company, it gives him plenty of credibility. Because if other people were saying how good a job that is, then other people feel that, well, they should be doing whatever he’s doing, and that helps him bring everybody along. There are lots of techniques that you can use that I talk about in the book to help persuade people, but you really have to analyze what kinds of things cause the people to listen. When you look in the past about changes that have been made in your organization, what were the kinds of things that were convincing? Was it because they show the numbers worked better? Is it because they got several big customers to say that's what they wanted? What are the kinds of things that cause organizational change? So you identify those things, and then you go after making those factors happen.
LO: Well, I think we have gotten 60 minutes of fantastic advice and certainly compelling reasons why folks should go out and get Do It Wrong Quickly. This concludes our sixth podcast out of eight. It also concludes the discussion of Do It Wrong Quickly, and I certainly appreciate all the insights you’ve provided, Mike. In our next two episodes, we will discuss topics from Mike's best selling book, Search Engine Marketing, Inc., starting with planning a search marketing campaign. For more information on Mike Moran, you can visit mikemoran.com where you’ll also be able to find out more information about Do It Wrong Quickly as well as the book we are going to talk about next, Search Engine Marketing Inc. This series is brought to you by IBM Press at www.ibmpressbooks.com.