On 4 April 2023 the Marketing Association held another of our popular ‘Think Again’ events at the Northern Club in Auckland.
Our Think Again events are targeted at Senior Marketers with topics that make marketers stop, and truly think again. The events are an opportunity to dig deep into topics that are often on the minds of Senior Marketers or are part of their jobs on a regular basis.
For this event we focussed on that increasingly important, yet often under-valued, topic of Stakeholder Management. The one thing marketers must be good at in order to truly be successful. Our panel included Carmen Vicelich (is there anything she can’t take on?), CEO & Founder of Data Insight, Annemarie Browne (award-winning) CMO at Lotto NZ, Dominic Quin, Group General Manager at Foodstuffs NZ, and Nick Boulstridge, Head of Performance Marketing at Kiwi Bank. And of course, our quick-witted and vibrant MC and panel moderator, Trudi Nelson, Newsreader / Broadcaster at MediaWorks.
The panel took turns answering a range of questions around Stakeholder Management and their personal experiences of successful, and not so successful, stakeholder management stories. Below are the top tips that came from the day.
Biggest pain in the behind* stakeholders to deal with?
Nick was quick off the bat naming two – one is legal (are we surprised?), the other is data & technology. It’s hard to get legal to see things from a marketing perspective, and Nick suggested that the best way to get someone from the legal team on board is to take them out for lunch. Get them to buy into your idea and understand why and what you’re trying to achieve with marketing. Make an ally out of them and help them to understand that ‘marketing’ is not the colouring-in department anymore.
Dom countered that he believes the silent ones are the hardest. The ones who sit in the back conjuring up their thoughts on how that campaign will never work. But never actually publicly voice those concerns, instead, he tells his mate on the C-Suite table or his mate from the creative team.
Carmen agreed with Dom – it’s always the boss who “knows somebody” who said that they tried something similar once, but it didn’t work, etc. In reality, people struggle with big ideas and doing things differently. Keep believing in your big idea and trying to encourage that change. Embrace those new technologies and set new paradigms.
Annemarie was spot on when describing the finance team as the ones who are usually the hardest to convince, but they are also fundamental to the success of marketing. The advice was to focus on marketing ROI, prove and justify that marketing are doing good things.
Horror Stories and Key Learnings:
Make sure you bring the right stakeholders along on the journey and share key information with them. You don’t want a campaign changing 30 minutes before the global presentation you’re about to do in front of 15 countries.
Confirm your budget before finalising an entire campaign. Nick had adjusted his budget to move 50% of it into digital. He worked with an agency to build a nationwide campaign, only for the CEO of the company to cut the budget to 30% because “he doesn’t believe in digital”. Lucky Nick had the sense to leave that company.
Be careful with your messaging! And just because you could, doesn’t mean you should.
Advice to Younger Selves
The theme and most inspirational answer was to fundamentally believe in yourself! Too often someone more senior or more experienced will try to limit your creativity, they will tell you why it won’t work, or adjust your campaign that will ultimately change the course of its success. You must believe in yourself, in your brain, your research, and give things a go! No one ever had a world-changing, viral campaign from not taking a chance.
It's important to recognise that everybody is only human. Don’t be intimidated by their seniority – bring the facts to your presentation, articulate your story well, and make it measurable.
Remember that proof to support your case is critical. Remember to listen, some people might have a good perspective that you hadn’t thought of. It’s important to not always go to your stakeholders just when you want something, keep engagement up and invest time in getting them on side.
Questions from the Audience
It’s a sad reality but something a lot of us has most likely encountered, what happens when you deal with stakeholders making negative comments about you behind your back?
The most common answer was to take that person out for coffee. Try and understand them, ask where their concerns were coming from, show them the data you have that underpins your campaign direction. Another good piece of advice was to acknowledge the conflict and front foot it. If the person is not interested in resolving things with you and listening to you, then approach the decision maker and explain this is happening, and once again get that buy in that you critically need.
Good stakeholder management is having the skills and emotional intelligence to bring people along the journey with you, being able to articulate the goal of your idea/campaign, and back that up with data and insights. And to back yourself all the way!