Securing Stakeholder Support with Transparent Communications

Don’t work in secret. Don’t hide or avoid tough conversations and make sure you get out in front of anything you could potentially see creating an obstacle for your team. Your primary responsibility will be to keep the path clear for those who are doing the heavy lifting and one tactic you can use is full transparency. Keeping communication lines open for everyone will help prevent the escalations and build a stronger stakeholder support team.

Lyndon B. Johnson once quoted about J. Edgar Hoover “ It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”

Keeping your stakeholders close, well informed and engaged early an often will keep them from pissing inside your tent. There are a few tactics you can take to ensure this process is successful.

  • Create a steering committee that helps prioritize all requests and direction of the overall collaboration
  • Setup regular meeting cadences for updates to keep everyone aware of progress and ensure they have a platform for requests and feedback.
  • Keep entire project status, meeting notes, team members published publically so all can see. This will help you direct questions and allow individual to view for themselves.

How to Build an Engagement Marketing Strategy Plan

Let’s start with outlining the strategic plan and building the team. It should be based around your objectives you have already identified and will help support the story you have been sharing. First identify some low hanging fruit that you believe you can deliver pretty quickly to show progress is being made. You will also need to create a gap analysis to determine where you have needs. Don’t be scared of the term “Gap Analysis”, no one is looking for a twenty page document just a high level outline of items that will be fundamental to building the foundation of the platform, team or improvements on customer experience.

 

Engaging your team and your peers for ideas on need and direction will accomplish a few things. First, it establishes a sense of trust with them that you value their opinion and they will appreciate the fact that they are engaged and you have asked them for ideas. Many of these ideas will likely surround your objectives you have identified and you can work to prioritize. Creating a backlog list (Excel spreadsheet) is a good way to do this with columns identifying details of each item.

 

  • Urgency of need or critical dependency
  • Level of difficulty (easy, hard, medium
  • Resources required (funding, IT, Vendor)

Then sort through the list, in this order, identifying a hand full of items that are critical, can be delivered in a reasonable time frame and currently have the resources to deliver. Keeping a good mix of easy and hard will allow you to deliver n bi-weekly sprint releases while still moving toward the larger end objective. I have ended up with lists of upwards of 300 items, which can look daunting but will help you manage incremental releases and be a strong foundation for building your plan. This will also help keep communications transparent when stakeholders ask the status of particular features and when they may be expected.

How To Secure Executive Support and Commitment

Much of your success and or progress will be dependent on the level of executive support you have for your strategy. If you are reading this then you are likely in the same position I was many times where I had a directive but limited resources and budget to execute. Executive sponsorship will provide three items that will be critical to your success but you may not have it in the beginning. Executives will help find funding for the project, will help prioritize resources to build your team and most importantly provide air cover from all the noise and politics you may run into. And believe me you will run into many obstacles along the way and ironically it will be from the same people who you need to work with to ensure the companies success.

Here are three items you can start with to help secure the level of executive commitment you require.

  1. Create and Tell a Compelling Story
  2. Show The Value with Statistical Data and ROI
  3. Just Do it! Get started and make progress

Being able to do all three will certainly get you the attention you need but isn’t necessary. Evaluate what you have and start with what you can do. Keep it simple and keep working toward completing all three. It may take 6, 12, or even 18 months to secure the executive level of commitment you desire so persistence and dedication will be instrumental in keeping you moving forward.

 

3 Objectives for Collaboration Marketing

Before you start anything, priority #1 has to be clearly defining your objectives. This will help you and your teams accomplish several things. First, everyone should be able to clearly communicate and agree upon the objectives set. This will help prevent conflicting priorities as well as help you engage your stakeholders as you will need them to help drive success. Second, keeping the objectives simple but achievable will allow you to execute and make progress. It is that progress that will help you with the third item and that is securing executive support. All three will be important as you start transforming the way you communicate and collaborate with your customers and employees.

3 Collaboration Marketing Objectives

This is the third company I have had the opportunity to drive this type of initiative and while each need is a bit different you can easily get started with the three items below.

Modernize Your Customer Platform

Do you have a platform that your customers can easily engage? And no, email and survey’s aren’t one of those platforms. Customers need the ability to provide feedback as well as share inquiries and knowledge with each other. This typically isn’t done through your website which are often one dimensional and while social provides some of the capability it isn’t often tied together to provide a complete customer experience. A good place to start is evaluating all the ways in which your customers can current engage and pulling together a strategy that will unify your customers search interest, support interest and product feedback.

Transform Traditional Customer Engagement 

If you are like me I delete more email than I read. So, take a look at all your current engagement program s and determine if they are effective and really providing your customers the experience they expect. Considering most of us live and die via our mobile experience, do you have the ability to engage your customers where they expect you to have a presence? One place to start is to look at your traditional engagement, email, phone, webcasts and see how to transform into a more virtual and digital experience. Some of this will be achieved via transparent communication and publishing content that is easily discoverable. Why pull together a webcast that is email invite only when you can make it open to all at a time that is convenient for them to view. Granted I do realize the importance of lead generation and measuring touch point but times are changing and consumers expect to be able to find anything and everything online without filling out a registration form. Ultimately, this will be the first step that will lead to building an advocacy program.

Customer Advocacy and Share of Voice

Another transformation is adopting a new way to engage your customers and treat them similar to they way you engage your market analysts. I think you will find that most of your advocate customers are under the same NDA that your analysts have signed so why not share the same information. This will help establish a level of trust with your advocates and provide them the opportunity to be thought leaders in their own professional career. As good as we are at selling and marketing most consumers don’t want to talk to us. They want to talk with other customers, share experience and come to their own purchasing decision. So, why not embrace this and help support that decision process journey by empowering those we respect the most with the information they seek. This will help identify those who should be considered advocates and allow you to frame a program for engagement around these individuals and help contribute to their success. Advocacy is as much about your customers as it is about your brand. And with a measured balance both can be achieved to create an authentic share of voice that will rattle your competition.

What is Collaboration Marketing: Community, Communication and Collaboration

It was an honor to be able to present to many executives in NYC a few weeks ago and thought I would take the next few posts to share some of the slides and talking points. So, what is collaboration marketing? In it’s most basic form I see it as the intersection of connecting the consumer/buyer via community content, engaging in transparent communication in order to feed into the “builder” of the product to deliver an improved customer experience.

Collaboration Marketing

Community, Communication and Collaboration Marketing

Ultimately, driving more sales via brand advocacy.

However, as we shared our stories with each other I saw an opportunity and potential convergence of front line customer experience and online collaboration. It seems that many companies still keep these two functions very separate when they both share the same objective. One, is customer engagement via traditional call center engagement and two is the advocacy and digital marketing of customer experience. The goal for both is to deliver a quality customer experience and build brand advocacy but the functions themselves usually reside in two different departments with separate strategies and operating budgets. Imagine if you were able to connect the entire end-to-end experience from the customers first touch point with a full cycle of engagement.

It is pretty simple but much more complex to rollout to an organization because it touches and requires the engagement of multiple departments. It was interesting to see the nodding heads of those that could relate as I was telling the story. And it became pretty clear that we all start at the same place at some point in time. For me it was almost 4 years ago. I had no budget, two resources and confusion on where engagement marketing belongs. Was it part of communications, digital, customer service? This isn’t uncommon and in hindsight it really doesn’t matter where the function is located. The only thing that matters is if you can bring the stakeholders together and deliver. So, we started executing on what we had control over. And it all started with clearly defining three simple objectives and getting everyone’s buy in on just those three.