“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – Sir Winston Churchill
With your permission I’d like to step outside my normal marketing topics today and share with you a recent experience in my life (that I believe a lot of my readers deal with as well) and a subsequent conversation I had with a good friend and mentor of mine, Michael Crain of Smart Business Evolution. I hope you can learn as much from this experience as I did.
As an online marketer I deal with a lot or personality types. My firm handles clients in a dozen different countries and twice as many time zones. We’ve worked on marketing campaigns targeting everything from C level executives with discretionary incomes exceeding the six figure mark, to local salon services for housewives and tattoo conventions. But one of the most difficult experiences I’ve faced in my professional career was dealing with a company whose marketing executive never wanted to relinquish control.
This particular client is a fairly sizable business offering professional services to an upscale demographic. They have a great product and reputation and through years of dedication and a number of traditional marketing activities have developed a strong brand presence in their industry. They understand exactly what their clientele wants when it comes to seminars, print mailers, and other direct marketing pieces. The one area they were struggling to break through was online marketing. They just didn’t understand why their success offline wouldn’t translate to success online.
The executive team asked my company to come in for a consult and after several meetings we laid out our ideas and expectations. They loved it. The entire room of highly educated, high profile partners and executives was ready to commit to a long term strategy with our company. But the second we were directed to the in house marketing team the deal fell apart. In short, the marketing director just didn’t buy into our product and didn’t want to relinquish what they saw as control to an outside firm. We were stonewalled and even though the partners at the firm saw value in our services, they had enough trust in their marketing director, who had little trust in us, to go against their hearts and heads and reject the offer.
Dejected, confused, and a bit angry, I asked Michael Crain of SBE his thoughts on the situation and how he felt we could have altered the outcome. I am a firm believer in top-down selling but I already recognized our biggest mistake was to eliminate trust with the marketing director by working directly with the executive team. My question was more about how to handle a difficult personality type. Michael listened intently and then told me about his Newman theory. Based off the Seinfeld antagonist Michael explained that while the character was fiction the reality is most, if not all of us, have our own Newman’s to deal with in daily life.
The first suggestion Michael had was to focus on creating a win/win relationship. In my experience we had focused on creating a win/win relationship with the company – but we failed to foster a win/win scenario with the marketing department. If our online marketing campaign was an immediate success the company benefited, but the marketing team that had been trying for months to “figure it out” would have looked incompetent. Furthermore they would have lost control of their budget as the executives displaced dollars they had previously committed to other proven activities and transitioned those budgets to my company. The in house marketing team had as much at stake personally as professionally.
Working with the marketing team to strategize the plan and then present it to the executive board would have been a better solution. It would have allowed them to play an active role in the process and keep a sense of involvement and purpose. Looking back, while working with top executives seems like the right power – it isn’t always.
Crain then told me about how there are four main personality types and strategies for dealing with each of them. I’ll spare you the details here but you can find more information on the Smart Business Evolution website here. In short, I was working against a dominant personality type – one that needed to feel in control and was largely motivated by fear. Instead of providing that person with a sense of control and reassuring them that their input was important, my company fueled their fears by working “over” their head with an executive team that was more extroverted in their personalities.
So what does this have to do with marketing strategy and theory? Simply put, sales is an important part of the marketing game. Understanding our audience’s needs is about more than market analysis and psychographic segmentation. It’s also about developing powerful one-on-one relationships with even the most difficult personality types and turning them from detractors into brand ambassadors. If you can do this, I’m convinced you’ll have the strongest and most loyal fan base on the web.
Have you ever had to deal with a difficult personality during negotiations? How did you fare?