The Dream Is Real

If you’re a marketing leader in a new role, you might be dreaming of reinvention. Tearing down the status quo and building something better—and more effective—in its place. This is no easy feat. But we recently stumbled on a story that proves it’s possible. What lessons can we all draw from this inspiring tale? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • The hero of our story is Douwe Bergsma, who embarked on a journey of transformation after becoming the CMO of Piedmont Healthcare. His full saga is well worth a read.
  • It all started with a gut feeling that there must be a better way. And a determination to push past business as usual and think critically about what truly works.
  • And it ended in an ideal place that most of us only dream of. Breakthrough results, tight alignment between teams and a permission to keep running from a very happy c-suite.
  • Reading Bergsma’s story, we were struck by some clear lessons on how to make positive change happen as a marketing leader.
  • Lesson 1: Ignore the noise. Bergsma decided to ignore the bright shiny objects talked up by big tech and the trade press. Years of experience had taught him that chasing every new hot thing was exhausting and not worth the effort. Instead, he sought clarity about true effectiveness grounded in evidence.
  • Lesson 2: Get the fundamentals right. Bergsma started the journey by considering the basic questions that drive any marketing strategy—who do we want to reach and what do we want to stand for?
  • Lesson 3: Define your philosophy clearly. Bergsma recognized the need to clearly define the beliefs that were driving his choices. This made it easier to bring others along on the journey and keep everyone aligned.
  • Lesson 4: Draw from experts but make it your own. In his search for a new model based on evidence instead of hype, Bergsma took inspiration from leading thinkers like Byron Sharp and Binet and Fields. But, crucially, he assembled his own model by combining elements from various sources rather than blindly following a single thought leader.
  • Lesson 5: Work to bring everyone along. Bergsma knew that operationalizing his model would require careful change management—up the chain and down. So he worked hard to loop in the CEO, other departments, his own team and their agency partners.
  • Lesson 6: Form close ties between marketing and CX. Bergsma partnered up with Piedmont’s CX leader, Katie Logan, to ensure that the brand promise lined up well with the customer experience.
  • Lesson 7: Carefully align metrics with your unique context. Rather than leaning on standard KPIs, Bergsma spent a lot of time defining metrics that would truly gauge the success of his strategy.
  • Lesson 8: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. At every step of this journey, Bergsma was supported by consultant and author James Hurman. Working with a trusted outside partner brought some key advantages: fresh perspective, encouragement when the road got bumpy and the ability to maintain momentum amid day-to-day distractions.
  • So how did things work out? KPI’s are all trending up. And Bergsma has earned permission to keep running—and the biggest marketing budget in Piedmont’s history.
  • Instead of the usual tough questions about marketing spend, the c-suite are now asking “What can we do to drive this further?”
Issue #167
Apr 30, 2023

Further Reading