Marketing Success is Determined by Organizational Culture

Marketing Success is Determined by Organizational Culture

slowGuest Post, by Amanda Kaiser

We are all inundated with messages about “new marketing.” Experts tell us to try the new marketing strategies because the old are dead. In fact, just about every marketing tactic is changing:

  • Print versus web
  • Traditional media versus social media
  • Push marketing versus pull marketing
  • Marketing messaging versus content marketing
  • Same old member benefits versus innovation
  • Features versus benefits
  • Product versus experience
  • Communications versus story telling
  • Board-centric versus member-centric

In many associations, the board, CEO, and staff acknowledge that they need to move their association toward new marketing. There is a tremendous amount of energy and discussion around missed opportunities. Should we launch a blog? Why don’t we have an innovation process? How is our attendee experience? What could a mobile strategy do for our members?

Once a new marketing strategy gains some support internally, we then worry about the risk and start helping our client understand the meaning of lead nuturing. What if someone says something bad about us online? Who has the time to manage this? Which of us will be responsible? How do we get members involved? Even as we dwell on these potential problems there is generally an overall consensus that associations should be moving in the direction of new marketing. But talk is quite different than actually doing.

Does the slow pace of change for association marketing frustrate you? What we don’t often realize is this slow pace or failure to adapt is not just about the potential new marketing problems we are talking about. It may have more to do with the organization’s culture. Associations with mildly to very risk-adverse, tech-sluggish, insular, frenetic, or tactical cultures will struggle more with changes in marketing.

When the progress toward adopting new marketing approaches seems unusually poky, there may be culture issues at work. But with time and persistence there are opportunities to incorporate new marketing into your plans. Try to get one or two other supporters. Identify one small way to test a new marketing tactic that will likely be successful. Use the results of the small test to advocate for more marketing innovation. Implement at a pace that is comfortable for your organization.

Jamie said back in September, “So go ahead and manage that brand, but if you start by managing the culture, I think the brand management will end up being a whole lot easier.” The same applies to marketing at large; future success with new marketing is largely determined by an organization’s culture. Help your culture evolve and your marketing will evolve.


Amanda Kaiser is Chief Path Finder at Kaiser Insights LLC. You can find her at