Over a period of six years, an established high-tech company has seen five reincarnations of its global marketing organization. With each new senior marketing executive has come a new interpretation of the company's mission and vision, followed by new attempts to tune market positioning and overhaul sales tools.

Each change in leadership has also led to terminating relationships with existing consultants and agencies as entering executives introduced new players to the scene.

Such organizational instability sabotages the company's market messaging. The company expends inordinate amounts of time and money on repeatedly reinventing itself—while confusing its industry, customers and employees.

Good marketing programs that took months to implement are discontinued or flounder just when primed to yield results. A strong foundation from which to grow marketing momentum never sets. Resources are diverted to start anew year after year after year.

Needless to say, the company underperforms and suffers eroding revenue. Customer churn is high. New marketing initiatives are met with external skepticism and internal indifference.

Along with the largely cosmetic changes to product packaging, the company's R&D and customer service are among the many constituencies that turn a deaf ear.

The penchant for dramatic change that new marketing executives want to bring to their position can be unwittingly detrimental to a company's success. Even when a need for change is evident, new executives would better serve their organization with more objective assessments and value-based retention of the inherited marketing landscape.

Costly Career Climbs

Architects of "sea change" and "corporate transformation" too often abandon what they start for "better career opportunities" elsewhere.

The resumes of the senior marketing executives taking their turn at the high-tech company portended relatively short tenures. All had histories of short stints at previous positions, moving on in the name of advancing their careers. Yet the company continued to relinquish the reins of its marketing organization, and so repeated its mistakes.

In such circumstances, questions inevitably arise about not only the chief executive's own convictions regarding corporate mission, vision and direction but also the apparent lack of oversight by the company's board of directors.

More pragmatic approaches to change and oversight would have insulated the company and avoided confusing its messaging, abandoning good programs and wasting marketing dollars.

Constructive, Migratory Change

During the period following the departure of a senior marketing executive and the hiring of a replacement, a marketing organization continues with its current direction and programs. For a short time, the huge vacancy left by the absence of leadership is manageable.

A new executive arrives with credentials and a mandate to lead. Sooner or later, adjustments will occur and new initiatives will be implemented to embrace the executive's interpretations of market opportunities. The degree and rate of change will affect how seamless the transition will be and whether any existing marketing momentum will continue.

Change takes time. Abrupt, dramatic changes in market positioning, messaging and corporate imaging confuse.

Adjustments over an extended period of time, however, lure audiences into absorbing and accepting changes as part of consistent and evolving marketing programs. Working within an inherited marketing landscape for some time better positions the executive to implement constructive, migratory change.

Here's why:

  • Daily oversight of existing programs and marketing tools enables insights that cursory assessments cannot. The more that is known about predecessors' decisions and legacies, the better equipped the executive is to elicit support from key personnel, control costs and condition relationships (customer, industry, internal) for future change.

  • Some marketing programs take six months to a year to be fully operational and begin generating their full return on investment. A company's quarterly assessments of marketing performance recognize results of winning programs and the current team driving them. Premature termination of good marketing programs pulls the plug on profits that would otherwise benefit the company under the new executive's watch.

  • Opportunities to evaluate existing agencies, consultants and in-house staff reveal true capabilities, contributions and on-the-job performance. Replacements that may be favored by the incoming executive from a past association would need to be educated about the company and its products and services. The "old team" that worked well in a past environment may not necessarily be best for the current situation. Improvements would have to be substantial to compensate for necessary investments in time and relationship management of transitioning parties.

Leadership Through Stability

In high-turnover situations (such as that of the high-tech company), new executives will pay a price for past volatility. Multiple company constituencies will have been conditioned to consider the new executive transient.

While accepting and accommodating, they will remain unconvinced of the executive's long-term commitment and, for a period, cynical of another round of ambitious new initiatives. Follow-through on existing programs will engender confidence and improve responsiveness to new programs.

An executive often seeks to bring early, visible impact to a new position, but a more prudent approach that conveys consistency and stability will bring a greater reward: faster and longer-lasting success.

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Karl Meszaros is a communications consultant with Savvy Copywriting (www.savvycopywriting.com).