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Stakeholder management tips for b2b marketers

5 min read

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There’s no question about it - b2b marketing is a tough gig. While some things change at warp speed on the technology front (think machine learning, AI, and real-time bidding), some things remain exactly the same - including the need to manage your stakeholders.

In fact, the stakeholder management piece has arguably become more complex in recent years, thanks to the education required around the new technologies and techniques that get results.

Stakeholders need to be informed, bought-in and need to visibly see the impacts as they happen. This is just as time-consuming as keeping abreast of all the new bells and whistles and deciding how they apply to your business!

Yet, failing to do this properly can mean marketing initiatives could be delayed, de-prioritised - or worse - completely derailed.

Today, we’re answering some of the top stakeholder queries from clients and colleagues, to help you get your stakeholders on-side and get your brilliant marketing initiatives recognised.

Why are marketing stakeholders so painful?

99% of the time, it’s because they don’t understand how marketing works today.

While everyone’s a marketer in their own minds, most b2b business stakeholders have the majority of their experience in old school tactics like PR, trade publication advertising, golf days and tradeshows.

Not to say these tactics don’t work - in many cases, they still do, however mostly when paired with more contemporary, digital and content-driven methods.

Still, marketing is one of those lucky departments whose work is judged by every stakeholder in the business, so it’s your job to know what good marketing looks like, educating them and selling them on the process.

How do I bring stakeholders round to my way of thinking?

As the in-house marketing expert, it’s your job to navigate the obstacle course of stakeholder approval. Here are some tips to help you put your best foot forward:

1. Align yourselves with them

It’s important to start on the right foot, because it sets the scene for the rest of the project.

This means:

  • Making sure the right people are involved.
  • Establishing trust by communicating clearly, and often.
  • Ensuring those communications are based on the metrics or benefits those particular stakeholders are interested in (e.g. think IT Director vs Sales Director requirements).
  • Making sure you agree with stakeholders on what their level of involvement will be (hint: a RACI matrix is good for this).

2. Sell your idea

Remember that these stakeholders are probably not in-the-know when it comes to marketing, the same way you’re practically clueless about the latest trends in their profession. So you need to take two steps back, set the scene, and explain the reasoning behind your brilliant plan.

To do this:

  • Set the scene. What is the current state of the market? What is everyone in the industry doing? How are our customers researching and buying solutions? What is the process they go through?
  • Explain how it gets done. What will you need to make it happen?
  • Explain how you’ll measure success. How will you prove that it’s working?

3. Make a strong ally

Identify a senior stakeholder who can champion your idea - without this, it will be very difficult to influence change and keep you on track. Our tip: choose one who holds the respect and influence of others.

Then, you’ll need to help them:

  • Understand what it is what you’re trying to do.
  • Be clear about what’s in it for them - and the business.
  • Be willing to commit to helping you make it happen.
  • Have the time, energy and motivation to be your sounding board.
  • Being strategic, taking into account the overarching business strategy and always explaining the ‘Why?’
  • Making data-backed recommendations.
  • Showing and not telling: communicating solid results and how they link to your original goals.
  • Communicating clearly in terms of benefits or outcomes that are relevant to each stakeholder, and to the business goals.
  • Defending your decisions when you need to (in a diplomatic way).
  • Being a team player (even when you don’t get your way).

4. Be credible and consistent

It’s all about trust, in the end. And that means consistently:

  • Being strategic, taking into account the overarching business strategy and always explaining the ‘Why?’
  • Making data-backed recommendations.
  • Showing and not telling: communicating solid results and how they link to your original goals.
  • Communicating clearly in terms of benefits or outcomes that are relevant to each stakeholder, and to the business goals. Defending your decisions when you need to (in a diplomatic way).
  • Being a team player (even when you don’t get your way).

5. Always rely on data

If these stakeholders are of the opinion that marketers are all fluff, show them what ‘data-driven’ really means:

  • Use your marketing spider-sense to make assumptions about what will work.
  • Use the results to help you make decisions and gain further favour with your stakeholder group.

6. Fight for the customer

Part of being strategic is knowing how what you are suggesting will impact the customer. And Customer is King. So if you side with the customer, using clear and compelling data, you can’t really go wrong.

7. Keep a level head - even with the trickiest of stakeholders

Some things are just outside of your control - like if one of your stakeholders is being particularly difficult because of their own personal agenda.

Some signs of a difficult stakeholder:

  • They say they’re in support, but try to derail or delay the project (eg. by finding issues with another’s opinion, or creating unnecessary work).
  • They refuse to accept your advice on a particular decision, or acknowledge the negative impact of their preferred course of action (e.g. loss in sales, burning leads, making uninformed brand decisions that could alienate a segment of customers).
  • They create a toxic environment (e.g. by putting you down, being rude to colleagues or starting unnecessary arguments).
  • They attempt to influence stakeholders with their own personal agendas (eg. some stakeholders might support you in a one-to-one situation, but on seeing that others don’t agree in a meeting situation, they ‘join the club’ and throw you under a bus! Nasty).
  • They don’t do their share, and then blame others for it.

In this case, it’s important to be direct and nip it in the bud. Deal with this issue now or it might snowball later:

  • Ask the stakeholder what they need from you to get buy-in and commitment to the project.
  • Make sure you communicate calmly, clearly, and professionally. No matter how rude or aggressive stakeholders sometimes get, keep a level head and try to progress what you can in the moment, and circle back to what you can’t.
  • Ensure that there is a central document with clear actions and timelines that everyone uses together - so it is clear who is doing the work and who is not.

There you have it! If you enjoyed this blog post, you might want to check out our other blog posts.

 

Brand chemistry is a strategic content marketing agency that goes the extra mile to deliver results for our b2b clients. Take a look at our client case studies to find out more.

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