The Reality of Relevance – 5 Barriers to Adoption

Bryce MarshallToday I am kicking off a 3-part series focused on the concept of relevance in online marketing.
Today: The Reality of Relevance – 5 Barriers to Adoption
Wednesday: The Return on Relevance
Friday: The Realization of Relevance
In this installment I’ll focus on the reality of relevance, as currently in the day-to-day operations of an online marketing department or agency.

In concept, relevance is simple: it’s the process of varying the why, when, what and how of a message based on information or observed behavior of the audience.

Relevance is agreed to be a positive force in online consumer communications – a game changer as measured by response, conversions and ROI – enabled by advancing technologies only dreamt of years ago.

However, implementation and day-to-day application of relevance as a communications mantra is generally the industry exception, not the rule. If the concept is universally espoused but application lags far behind, what are the barriers to adoption? Is it the technology that is the barrier as much as the enabler? Technology that is fragmented, overly complex, or unworthy of capital investment is often cited as a culprit.

On Wednesday and Friday I will address the technological issue in greater detail. It’s important to consider that the barriers to relevance are equally (if not more) human, than technological. There are 5 common barriers ingrained within organizations (big and small) that stifle adoption of new visions.

The 5 Barriers to Relevance Adoption
For each of the 5 barriers there is a specific role required to hurdle each barrier. Though each role need not be filled by a single person, each role must be filled or adoption can fail. What are the barriers, and how do we hurdle them?

Barrier: Pervasive, business-as-usual mentality within an organization or department
Hurdler: The Entrepreneur/Visionary
The Entrepreneur/Visionary is a leader who strives to fix the thing that isn’t broken. This leader takes risks, and going the extra mile is in her DNA. You will find this leader ahead of the curve, far in advance of the tipping point. The Entrepreneur/Visionary must be present to shake-up the establishment, and to start the domino falling.

Barrier: Internal lack of consensus undermining the solvency of a new direction
Hurdler:The Evangelist
The Evangelist must understand the value of new directions and ideas, and have the talent and earnestness to guide the rising tide – the groundswell. The Evangelist must convince others a new direction is a positive step, establish the value of a new mantra, and build the organizational consensus – a body of believers not skeptics.

Barrier: After the initial hoopla, enthusiasm and dedication wane, and processes revert
Hurdler:The Motivator
The Motivator is tireless and charismatic. Far from just a shrill “rah-rah” cheerleader, the motivator leads by example and compels others to maintain consistency and discipline as a supplement to enthusiasm. The nature of the universe is towards entropy and decay, and it takes conscious, dedicated motivation to maintain new processes and disciplines until they become second nature.

Barrier: Inconsistent, ineffective implementation, operations and analysis
Hurdler:The Manager
Not nearly the sexiest of roles, but equally important. Many great concepts have been torpedoed by lackluster implementation and management. The Manager does not require the vision or charisma, but the talents to keep a diverse entity on task, organized and running smoothly, herding multiple skills and applications, both human and technological, to a single endpoint.

Barrier: Altruistic belief that the success of a project is its own reward
Hurdler: Personal Incentives
Here’s the danger in altruism: it assumes everyone from the Entrepreneur/Visionary, Evangelist, Manager, Motivator down to the Doer has an equal, inherent interest in the realization of a new vision. There are high stakes in accepting a challenge and raising the bar higher than it was set before. In today’s business culture not all of the players in most organizations share this outlook. Appropriately creating incentives for each player in their role to share in the victory when great things are achieved disarms the very last argument of quiet dissenters: “what’s in this for me?” If the goal is worthwhile to the organization, it’s worthwhile to create the personal incentives.

So, how does your organization hurdle these barriers? What if each of these roles is not filled? Whether your organization is big or small, these barriers to adoption will exist and you must find the individual(s) to fill each critical role. If you see the talents or passion within your team, you may have to go further to empower individuals to fill new roles. If your Visionary is not in a role of authority, you may have to shake up the organization so they can set the direction. If your Manager is himself micro-managed, allowing them to take more responsibility may be the answer. And if you do not see these talents within your organization you will have to develop them internally, or bring them in from the outside.

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