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How to sell big ideas to internal stakeholders

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PHIL WOODFORD

Posted by admin on February 1, 2016

It’s the age old problem of Marketing and Comms Directors. You have a goal with a great idea, but how do you get buy in from the final decision makers, such as a Board? 

We often have numerous campaigns live at the same time and our internal stakeholders always have patient care at the centre of what we do. When I sell in campaign ideas, time and measurable results are of the essence. Here are my five ways to influence stakeholders:

  1. Do try to meet with key influencers to discuss your proposal before any final decision to proceed meetings. This gives you opportunity to discuss stumbling blocks with people before they bring them up in the boardroom where they can potentially block the big ideas before they even get off the ground.  Get to know the people around the table who will give the final yes or no. Everyone has a specialist interest that they will looking for from your pitch.
  2. Always demonstrate Return on Investment - this can be shown in many ways - from increased patient and staff experience, through to operational performance gains or cost savings. What’s in it for them? Usually if it means good things for your organisation they will buy into it, but if you can be specific about how their area of work will be affected even better. Remember, you need to understand the difference between a feature and a benefit and be able to clearly articulate them, people BUY benefits, not features.
  3. Do use research to test your concepts before you try to sell them. There’s nothing like proof that your customers / stakeholders / industry opinion formers already like a concept before your launch it to help make the decision to use it.  It is important to ‘let go’ and let others shape the final proposition to secure greater buy-in.  Seek these people out, groups like unions, staff side, volunteers etc are invaluable in this respect, ignore them at your peril! 
  4. Show how your campaign will make a difference to your organisation and its stakeholders. How are you measuring the campaign, how effective has it been, what statistics can you use to demonstrate who has been reached / touched by your marketing activity? Use Google Analytics, web hits, sales figures, visitor numbers, staff engagement levels, media reach, social engagement and so on. There are no excuses not to measure! And in my opinion, nothing beats grabbing a brew and sitting down with the customer and ask them how the campaign has performed for them – DON’T over complicate things!
  5. Do use strong design concepts, visuals and video when presenting your work. You might be convincing your Director of Finance, alongside the Chief Exec and HR Director etc, so ideas that are quick and easy to understand, with a well-researched strategy will have the most impact.  Keep out of the detail and get the key messages across. These people are bombarded all day long with messages from people ‘pitching’ for their attention, they can often sniff out a good or bad concept quite quickly – don’t use whistle and bells for the sake of it, keep it relevant, innovative – but above all, remember KISS.

Phil Woodford is Associate Director of Corporate Affairs at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which has over 5000 staff across five hospitals.  His portfolio includes corporate communications, Freedom of Information, membership recruitment, board support and advice, as well as charity and fundraising activities.  Twitter: @Phil_Woodford

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