In Part 1 of this article, we outlined two struggles to mastering executive engagement.
Struggle #1: Engage
Struggle #2: Realize the Value
And we introduced the first five barriers to engagement. Those that keep B2Bs from earning C-level customers’ time, attention, and deep interest.
Here, in Part 2, we continue with the second struggle. And we outline five more barriers. Those that can limit the business value that stronger relationships could (should) create.
(A reminder of the good news: You can overcome each barrier. If you want advice on overcoming a specific barrier, we’ll be adding more to this series soon. Be sure to subscribe.)
REALIZING THE BUSINESS VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT
Your goal: Transform your conversations and interactions into measurable value that the business cares about.
- Stronger relationships = loyalty, advocacy, and expanded accounts
- Better-informed, customer-oriented strategies = increased revenue and market share
- New business opportunities = new revenue models, buyers, markets, and lines of business
And, then, attribute and amplify that value.
Barrier #1: Defining success.
Are your expectations clear and consistent?
The value of your engagement strategy depends on what you’re trying to change or improve. Do you—and your stakeholders—know and agree about what success looks like?
- What, exactly, does the business care about?
- How, exactly, do you expect these programs to contribute?
The trick: sales, marketing, and business leaders—and your customers themselves—will inevitably define success differently. (And then there’s the age-old struggle—measuring customer programs by revenue and other hard numbers.)
The result: Ironing out a shared definition takes deft negotiation and conscious effort. Without it, the results are bound to disappoint someone.
(Hint: Your customers’ definition will be paramount.)
Barrier #2: Acting on what you learn.
Are you proving that you’ve been listening?
Your customer programs create all manner of new conversations and interactions. The question becomes: What do you do with what you hear?
To act on what you learn requires:
- people with clout and commitment
- synthesis into insights your leaders and teams can use
- communication by and to the right people
- oversight, accountability, and metrics that influence behavior
It’s follow-through that will connect the conversations and interactions to actual value.
Barrier #3: Communicating.
Where is your communication breaking down?
Organizational silos, inadequate systems, or critical-but-uninvolved stakeholders cause poor communication. And disjointed communication erodes the value of your relationships in two major ways.
One, it prevents you from sharing and acting on what you learn (see barrier #2).
Two, it results in mixed or ill-timed messages sent to your c-suite customers.
By fixing these major breakdowns you and your colleagues may reinforce relationship gains. Rather than allowing faulty communication to undermine them.
Barrier #4: Committing to the long term.
Are you judging outcomes and pulling resources prematurely?
All strong relationships take time to expand and deepen. Engaging your executive customers is no different. Ad hoc events and one-off campaigns don’t return the same results as sustained relationships. (Even when effective in the short term.)
Patience can be at odds with today’s business environment. A break-neck pace of change. Quarter-to-quarter pressure. Constant disruption. Fickle attention spans. None of those foster a long-term view. It is easy for business as usual to interrupt and short-change relationship gains.
The key: Make the case for staying the course. And share—widely and unabashedly—customer input that reinforces your company’s commitment to relationships.
Barrier #5: Achieving a customer culture.
Is your company’s customer orientation a work in progress?
When it comes to being “customer-centric,” your engagement programs may outpace your organization.
Your engagement programs may focus on customers and relationships. But employees, incentives, operations, and systems may still orient toward brands, products, and transactions. That mismatch becomes a bottleneck. And can cap the value you’ll realize from stronger, deeper relationships.
As your customer culture matures, the value your programs can realize will increase, too. (Keep in mind, customer culture often requires systemic change that top leaders must drive.)
In the meantime, keep an eye out for what’s changing. And jump on opportunities for new customer-oriented initiatives. Momentum may increase sooner than you think.
Next Up: Overcoming the barriers.
If you want advice on overcoming a specific barrier, we’ll be adding more to this series soon. Be sure to subscribe. We’ll let you know when new posts are ready.