I had the great opportunity to attend a Change Acceleration Process (CAP) training workshop a couple of months ago. Now I have the even better opportunity to put it into practice. That happens sometimes. You attend a workshop and then actually use what you learned at the workshop as part of your real job.
The situation. I am part of a four person team with an idea. Each of the four of us is passionate about the idea. No executive sponsor anywhere in sight. Even our line managers are not fully updated and certainly not on board. A classic ground up idea in a culture that prefers top down ideas. There is a lot of work to do, no budget, and we are not ready to pitch anything to anyone.
The CAP tool that I like the most right now is called a stakeholder analysis. We have a long list of stakeholders and a scale that indicates our impression of their reaction to our idea, if they knew about it. The other part of the scale is where we think they need to be, to support our idea so that it can be turned into an official program. I hope this does not sound too manipulative, but the stakeholder analysis is helping us to formulate tailored selling strategies for each of the stakeholders. Who prefers logic and who prefers emotion, who will get it immediately and who will need time to think it over. If another team had me on their stakeholder analysis, they would put me down as someone who wants a customer perspective and will listen carefully to give the idea a fair chance. I will formulate an opinion quickly. I will need some evidence to support the idea, but not too many details. Why do I like the stakeholder analysis tool so much? Because in the past that I have assumed that everyone is like me and that they will love my ideas. Whoops. What dumb mistakes! I know better now. Marketers have to sell and to sell you have to know who you are selling to and be willing to flex to their preferences.
- Prepare your case
- Ask for what you want
- Make your case
- Ask for commitment
It starts with clarifying your purpose. Also known as, “use a mirror first.” You have to know what your idea is and why it is meaningful. Then you can identify the stakeholders and predict the points of resistance.
Be creative as you define your idea and prepare your ask. If your idea creates a unifying and lofty goal that you can rally support around, that is great. If not, you will need to be able to connect your idea to existing corporate goals or strategies.
As you make your case, be ready to customize the message to the audience. What is in it for them and what is the best way (media and format) to make your appeal? Expect that leaders of a business unit are interested in anything that affects their results, but that not everyone needs to know all of the program plan milestones. Use questions carefully. Open ended to illicit information, closed to get focus or obtain approval. The art is mixing emotion, humor, logic and evidence in a way that makes everyone feel dignified and respected.
Sooner rather than later, but not too soon, assess readiness to commit to the idea. If you ask for commitment and get it, conclude the meeting by restating their commitment and then stop talking. If the stakeholders are not ready to commit, ask; “What can I do to win your commitment?” And take it from there.
Winning approval for ideas is a weakness in my game that I am working for the next few months. The inspiration for this blog comes from an on-line seminar I recently attended. I am also reading The Art of Woo, by Shell and Moussa. This book is about using strategic persuasion to sell ideas.
Ask yourself these questions if you are wondering if you are in the right job.
- Am I working with “my people”? You and your colleagues should share values and sensibilities. You should have the same intensity about your work. Simply put, you should like the people you work with.
- Does my job make me smarter? I think you want to be part of an organization that offers challenges and takes you out of your comfort zone. Sometimes it is fun to be the smartest person in the room, but it is more important for your career to be growing and learning.
- Are doors opening up? There is no such thing as a dead-end career. However, there are dead-end jobs. From your current job you should be able to see the next job. Consider all opportunities as good.
- Is there a joy factor? There should be something at your job that makes you happy. On the far extreme, your job gives you your meaning. It does not have to be the only thing that gives you meaning, but you also do not want to be at the other extreme, where your job is demeaning. Aptitude does not equal passion. Just because you are good at something does not mean that you enjoy it.
Is it possible that in our careers we will see a shortage of qualified people and a real labor shortage? I heard from a politician this week that 2012 marks the beginning of the baby boomers turning 65. Hundreds of thousands of them reaching retirement age, next year and every subsequent year for 20 years. I am not sure how I was supposed to respond, but since I want to work for another 15 years or so, I took it personally and was encouraged.
Would you buy a car if the dealership explained that a spare tire is not included? I think I would keep looking and buy somewhere else. Would you pay more for a car that includes a spare tire? Huh? At times the challenge for marketing managers is to market something that customers have come to expect, like a new car, complete with a spare tire (insert jingle here). It may also be worth considering how your promotions can change customer expectations. If you include a what was an optional feature, it can be difficult to end the promotion and make the feature optional again.
Spare tire's for everyone!
The problem I see is that it is not always obvious that you have become the marketing manager of spare tires. Ask yourself questions about value, keeping in mind that if it is valuable, customers will pay for it. Don’t risk becoming the marketing manager of spare tires.
- Will a customer pay for this feature?
- Are we the only ones offering this feature?
- Does this feature make our overall value proposition stronger?
If you answer “no” to two or more of these, if might be worth checking to see if your energies would be better spent marketing features that really make a difference to customers.
A responsive marketer finds a stated need and fills it. An anticipative marketer looks ahead into what needs customers may have in the future. A creative marketer discovers and produces solutions customers did not ask for but to which they enthusiastically respond.
From Kotler e12, p 353
What kind of marketer are you? What kind of marketer do you want to be?
Marketing is cool. Many reasons, including the propensity for marketers to create both confusing and meaningful graphs. We love to tell a story with one graph. This week I learned this one on customer benefit analysis.
Ability to win – Graph
Blue bars represent the customer benefit / what is important. For this movie example I chose to graph; entertainment, community / family, connection, and price. The lines represent performance relative to the customer benefit. Harry Potter is entertainment for young and old, it is a movie to go to with your friends and family, and the connection to the characters is real. The price paid for Harry Potter is the same as the price paid for any other movie. Harry Potter has amazing and overwhelming ability to win. About 6x the gross of Megamind.