MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2023

Driving Successful Change in a B2B Marketing Team with Tom Swanson

Change is hard for an individual. It’s even harder for teams.

But there are approaches to successfully implementing change in your marketing team.

Tom Swanson, Engagement Manager at Heinz Marketing Inc., presented his version of change management at B2B Forum in 2023.

Discover a few of Tom’s secrets in this video clip, or read the transcript below.

And for more on marketing leadership, join us at B2B Forum in Boston, November 2024. With more than 50 sessions focused on all things B2B marketing, plus workshops, roundtables, networking opportunities and more, B2B Forum is the place where successful marketers go to stay in-the-know. Tickets are limited and available now. Click here to view the program.


This is Google’s “Five Keys to Effective Teams.” Yeah, that’s what it is…

The number one [thing] there is psychological safety.

Anybody familiar with the concept of psychological safety? Cool, cool.

That means people can give their honest feedback without fear of reprisal. That’s really all it is. There’s, it gets a little bit more complex.

There’s an excellent book about this called Crucial Conversations. Fantastic. Everybody should read it.

They break down how to recognize when a conversation is becoming unsafe, or somebody feels unsafe in a conversation, because they will close up. They won’t give you their honest feedback. And you won’t have the visibility that you need to drive an effective change.

So this is really important. I mean, those big flags that come up, “oh, somebody’s getting defensive. Let’s dig into why that is and return to a safe spot.” Very, very important.

And then finally, you got to close the loops. 

If you are making a change and somebody comes to you with a suggestion and they do it again and again and again, the suggestions disappear into the ether and never get made.

Anybody ever had that happen to them? It’s miserable…

You’ve got to do one of three things:

Put it on the roadmap. Make it happen. Or, go back to them and tell them why.

Why is this not happening? Why did it not get on the roadmap?

If you don’t and they come to you with another suggestion and you do it again, that will be the last time that they come to you with a suggestion.

After that, all of your communication and all of your empathy is meaningless.

So you got to follow through.

So this is our roadmap. I’m happy to send this template if you’d like. It’s pretty straightforward.

 We have our nice little categories here, but generally speaking, here’s the key takeaways.

I didn’t include timelines because it depends on the change. If your change is really small, you might do it in months. If a change is really big, you might do it in quarters. Kind of depends.

But here’s the takeaway: ideally, one or two priority-one issues.

I have three here and it bothers me, but I put it up here to demonstrate the point. I would love to have just one, but things got to move fast!

Don’t let things sit in three and four. Another way you’re going to break trust with your team is if they sit in those two categories. Thinking about how long a change or a suggestion has been in those two categories should be part of how you prioritize.

Because if it just sits there, it becomes a graveyard. 

Everybody knows it’s a graveyard.

They look at that and they think, “well, my suggestion’s in three or four, so that’s never going to happen.”

Trust is gone.

So remember this? Our lovely, beautiful workflow…

We simplify it for the discussions. This is really, really important.

You can make a giant complex process, but you should simplify it for when you talk about it with the team.

Each one of these has a set of steps in the big workflow that when we’re training the individual teams, we go through with them. We show them, “we’re at this step, here are the substeps,” and we go through bit by bit, do the whole workflow.

But when we’re talking about it, we show this, because this is less intimidating. It’s easier to conceptualize the change when you see it this way… than when you see it this way.

So big recommendation here.

And then it got a nice little R.A.C.I. on the bottom, which I super love.

So you’ll notice there’s only one accountable party for any given one of these.

That’s general. I mean the steps, the substeps themselves have different accountable parties, but I won’t worry too much with going into the details.

Point is, put it all in one place. Make it nice and small.

Test as early as possible.

These are the sample variables that we typically look at while we’re testing.

Straightforward stuff: people, process, tools, training, communication.

Usually it’s one of these things. You might have something different. These specific variables might be different.

Confirming accountability. Does everybody know who’s accountable? Does everybody agree with who’s accountable? Is the accountable person the decision maker? Because they should be.

And then, do we have the right people in the meetings? Yada, yada, yada.

This is how we typically look at testing, and I’ll say it again. Gather qualitative data.

Don’t just rely on the quantitative. You can see patterns. Patterns are lovely.

But you miss context.

Very important to have the context with this.

And don’t get too tied to specific success metrics.

This one really is a sticking point for clients where they want to say, “these are the metrics that we are judging the change on, and only these metrics.”

But then all this other really interesting stuff comes up that becomes useful later on.

So be loose with your metrics.

And then this… second one, I love.

You should [first] go, “can we do this? Does this process have potential?”

“Can we repeat this?” is the second iteration [in testing].

And, “can we scale?” is the third one. It’s very common in testing.

Training is crucial. You should train people.

In fact, if you don’t, you’re going to fail.

Do it before testing for any groups that are involved in the testing, but not everybody, if you are testing. I recommend you test. Definitely test.

If you change something and you trained everybody on the process and you’re like, good, we’re going into testing now. And then you pick people and you put ’em in and they come back and you change the process a bunch and you have to retrain?

Again, I love meetings.

Training’s a bit of a different story. They’re long. Take hours. And you have to do it for everybody. 

And in a big team, it’s really hard.

Here are a couple of tips for it.

You can do it by functional lines. That’s what I tend to like to do. Planning teams and production teams.

You could do it by R.A.C.I. allocation. So all the accountable people who are decision makers get trained differently than the people who are responsible. And you could basically put the consultant and informed together.

Or you could do… Well, there’s a million ways to do it there.

Share the testing insights with the whole team.

This is something that a lot of people miss. They take the testing insights, they make the changes, they come back and they say, “here’s what we’re doing now.”

But folks need to see the pathway to get there. So make sure you do that.

I like to do a pre-read video where I actually walk through the workflow and send it out a week in advance. Everybody can come with questions. I don’t have to do it while training.

If I could have, I would’ve sent you all this whole presentation and then we could just talk about change as opposed to having to listen to me talk for 45 minutes. But hey, here we are.

So finally, I like 20 as a number. You could go higher. Bigger teams, you’re going to need to go higher, so you’re not having a million different trainings.

But if you can keep it to 20, that’s great.

Published May 30, 2024

B2B Forum is packed with marketing insights, strategies, and tactics taken from the real world experience of over forty industry experts, packaged into context you can actually put to use.

Join us in Boston for B2B Forum 2024 this coming November 12-14, 2024. Early buyers get B2B Forum tickets at their lowest rate, and discounted hotel rooms are available while they last.


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