By Jamie Montoya, Client Engagement Manager
Imagine this…Your team has gotten together and brainstormed an innovative strategy you believe will transform your sales pipeline and deliver results that prove marketing attribution. However, you are running into roadblocks with certain individuals in your organization that you did not expect. Why?
More likely than not, you failed to identify and engage the right people in your strategy development. This is not uncommon. Your marketing initiatives could be within scope, schedule and budget but still struggle with stakeholder engagement. Failing to understand and manage requirements and expectations from key stakeholders (internal and external) can influence the outcome of your marketing strategy. Because of this, stakeholder management is a crucial step to building any marketing strategy and set of initiatives.
Just like building a buying committee, you must understand who will be a “decision maker”, “influencer” and “champion” of your marketing strategy. There can be many cross-functional players involved throughout the development of your strategy. Getting their buy-in at the initiation and planning stages of your strategy will ensure you meet their functional needs – making you more successful long term.
Who are Stakeholders?
Typically, your key internal stakeholders would be your department leader (aka your sponsor), your team, and any functional counterparts who will provide additional resources to your strategy. External stakeholders might include consultants or customer groups. They are people or groups who may be positively or negatively impacted by or has influence over your strategy.
Each stakeholder will have their expectations and needs. These needs will inform the requirements that will satisfy each stakeholder’s sign-off on the success of your strategy. Know who your stakeholders are, and understand the requirements to gain and maintain positive attitudes towards your initiative. This will secure support for your objectives, resources for your deliverables, as well as acceptance of the result.
Steps to Managing Stakeholder Engagement
- Identify Stakeholders
Ask your department leader for a preliminary list of functional leaders or groups who need to be involved to plan, execute and monitor your strategy. Interview your counterparts to ensure you are not missing anyone who has potential stake in your strategy. Ask known stakeholders to name other potential influencers and decision makers that might impact your strategy. For example, as a marketing leader who is tasked with generating sales pipeline, sales & marketing alignment would be critical to your marketing strategies. Identifying who the key stakeholder is within Sales would be a great first step to building your stakeholder group.
- Build Stakeholder Engagement
Understand the business needs of each of your stakeholders and the “why” behind them. For example, you might have a stakeholder in Marketing Operations whose requirement is platform integration. Confirming that your strategy will be executed within the required platform will meet her stated needs and complete her requirement.
Documenting each stakeholder’s specific requirements early will ensure you avoid any roadblocks to executing your strategy in the future. Communicating you understand and documented each stakeholder’s requirement will make key stakeholders feel confident that their interests are represented. Closing the loop of communication will make your stakeholders feel heard, more likely to engage in your strategy and root for its success.
- Sustain Stakeholder Engagement
Manage engagement by understanding where your stakeholders fall along the engagement spectrum. Are they aware of your strategy? Are they neutral or resistant to change? Are they supportive? Some stakeholders may only need to be aware to be supportive; others may require a more hands-on approach to move the needle. Map where your stakeholders currently lie and write a desired engagement level for each. Identify any potential reasons for resistance and find ways to minimize concerns and maximize opportunities.
Here are some examples of how you can ensure stakeholder engagement:
- Provide appropriate information to maintain their support
- Consult with key stakeholders prior to making important decisions
- Meet with stakeholders on a consistent basis
- Consult and involve stakeholders to build their confidence in your team and marketing strategy
- Encourage stakeholders to advocate for your strategy with their internal teams
- Nurture these stakeholder relationships – they are critical to you and any future marketing initiatives
Depending on the needs of your strategy or initiative, stakeholder management can be formal or informal; high-level or detailed. Managing stakeholder engagement not only makes planning and executing your marketing initiatives easier; but it will also make advanced marketing strategies like Account-Based Marketing that require more cross-functional participation more attainable. Regardless of where you are in your marketing career, your marketing strategy will always be influenced by the people involved; therefore, managing stakeholders and monitoring their engagement are two crucial competencies, and mastering these skills will make you more successful as a marketing leader.