How to empower your clients, stakeholders over fear: Data does it


Change and innovation are tough to swallow for most.  Fear of the unknown is a powerful force.  It makes sense—the terrible “what ifs” linger  when a new idea is presented.  What if it doesn’t work? Here is what I can lose…my reputation, my job….you get the picture.  So it is perfectly natural that the first response to something new–is NO.

Take 2 short examples of how turn the “NO” into  “YES”:

My Cisco team was pitching a logical program to retain and engage employees by opening up the marketplace of jobs for people to move freely about the company–aka Talent Connection.  First hurdle was proving that it would work.  We launched a 6 week pilot with a test group.  Our rockstar analyst sifted through the data and helped present a business case that it worked.  The data proved it would work operational, as well as proved out the concept of the $100+ Million in savings if the program launched globally successfully.  That was the first hurdle and data saved the day.

Next hurdle was the old “field of dreams” dilemma—if you build it, they will come concept, NOT true.  People have to be aware before they will understand and act.  Here comes my role–the marketer. I under-estimated the challenge before me.  I had the plan and creative.  I knew it would work…it worked many times when I helped generate millions in pipeline for Cisco products. It was a no brainer. Right before I was going to press the send button and launch a full internal social media campaign, the brakes were hit.  No one took my word for it, I even used case studies and external data.  But the risk was too BIG for my stakeholders.  I failed to show them how this creative and plan would work in THIS exact situation.

Solution–research, testing and data that would allow my stakeholders to sleep at night. We commissioned a study from a company called Catalyst Strategies to test the creative concept.  The goal was to test if the video and creative would compel people to take action and participate.  A series of virtual focus groups and surveys later, gave us enough data to prove the concept was a winner.  Actually, there was a 19% increase in intention to participate just by watching the video series (wish I had this creative concept when I worked for SMB marketing for Cisco, I may have been VP by now;) ).

Outcome: we got the “go.”  To launch a unique internal marketing campaign.  But it took lots of data to prove it would work before our stakeholders would pull the trigger.

Story 2–short but effective.  I recently participated in a talk sponsored by Marketing Mondays in RTP.  @gnewel, Graeme Newell, (602 Communications) talked about letting go of the product specs and benefits to reach for a more emotional connection with customers. I can only imagine what his clients’ first react to this concept is when he pitches this idea of forget the product and consider the feelings of your customers.  His challenge is the same as mine was, helping his clients overcome fear of the unknown.  How does he do it…data! He does quantitative research to actually prove to his clients it works.


Lesson here—Data does it! When pitching change, innovation, or creative, the sure way to your client or stakeholder’s heart is to prove it.


About the author

Melissa Kennedy

I am an innovative, practical problem-solver with an MBA. Pioneered one of the first social media strategic plans for a Fortune 100 company, including monthly online TV program viewed by 120,000 customers. Created a scalable channel marketing service model and established a new customer communication channel through partner web syndication. Developed marketing plan for start-up technology firm. Launched first comprehensive marketing campaign for major science and technology university's $1 Billion fund-raising effort. Award-winning performance for 15 years across functions, industries and organizations.

My passion for results goes beyond professional pursuits. I am a global facilitator and co-organizer of Startup Weekends and serve as an advocate and volunteer for many local charities including Food Bank of Central/Eastern NC, North Carolina International Affairs Council and Connected Women of North Carolina. Plus, I have served as the President for the Triangle Interactive Marketing Association,

1 comment

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