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We want to thank all of you who recently joined the SWOT Team. You provided excellent advice to the Internal Weakness posed two weeks ago: Help! My CEO is a Roadblock! Read below for your peers' best advice.

In case you missed our first column, joining the MarketingProfs SWOT team is easy; and it may reduce the daunting task of performing a SWOT analysis in your organization for internal strengths, weaknesses, and external opportunities and threats.

Just provide your best advice to the current marketing dilemma. Our new marketing quandary addresses what some marketers call a ‘necessary evil' – telemarketing. You can also submit a dilemma you face.

So, join us. We promise you won't be disappointed. When we tap into our collective experience, strength and hope — everyone benefits. You could win a copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

Best regards, Tamara Halbritter and Hank Stroll

This Issue's Dilemma:

Swot Category – External Opportunity and External Threat

Telemarketing: Dialing for Dollars Is Harder Than Ever.

It's cheaper, quicker, and easier to communicate today than ever before. As a result, both consumers and business people are demanding tighter boundaries to limit access to them. Telemarketing and email marketing receive the most attention, as they are the most pervasive. Do-not-call and spam legislation is being passed in an attempt to shield people from undesired messages. Marketing practices that used to be just annoying are now becoming illegal and less effective.

So, what's a legitimate marketer to do? It is clear that doing the same-ole-same-ole is not working. Telemarketing organizations feel the pinch. Some are trying different tactics to stay in the 'outbound' call business. Yet, it is harder to market to someone who fits the marketing profile, may be a legitimate buyer, but is on a do-not-call-list.

We think we are not alone with this marketing dilemma. Would you ask your readers how they fit telemarketing and email into this new world? What is working? What's not?

— Scott J., Director of Marketing

Previous Dilemma:

Swot Category – Internal Weakness

Help! My Ceo Is a Roadblock!

I was hired by the CEO of a ‘products' company as VP of Service Marketing to help build services revenue. However, our CEO seems to block every idea I have about marketing (well, almost all of them). If I request additional funds, try to get the sales force involved, or work on integrating strategies, my efforts seem to end up with the big head nodding, ‘No.' After listening to my requests and plans, she repeats this phrase to me, ‘Don't try to make this company a services company. We got this far through our products.'

I'm a bit frustrated. There's got to be a way to make her see the light. The entire organization is going through a cultural shift, and there are lots of double messages.

Any ideas from your readers would greatly be appreciated!

—Joan Q., VP of Products & Services Marketing

Summary of Advice Received

Joan, our readers came through for you. As we read their responses, we saw a plan emerge to deal with this explosive issue. Collectively, our readers provided the elements of a 3-step approach.

Their collective wisdom calls for:

• Build a better relationship with your CEO.
• Examine how much responsibility you have in the roadblock.
• Get support from others and sell your case for services to the CEO.

If none of the above work, they also provided alternative ways of dealing with this that are not for the faint of heart.

• Get out of the kitchen, if you can't stand the heat.
• ‘Go for the throat' and find ways around the CEO.

Build a better relationship with your CEO.

The first step is to improve your relationship with the CEO. Whether you sit down and have a frank, heart-to-heart conversation, embark on a strategic planning session, or design an action plan together, it is critical that you earn her trust and see where her head is. Don't hesitate to ask her questions about her perspective, and then truly listen to her responses. When the time is right, you can give your opinion, but try to refrain from doing this until you have built some level of trust with the CEO. Once you build this trust, and deepen your working relationship, you'll be in a much better position to convince the CEO your services selling approach is sound. (Step 3)

One respondent reinforced the message that change is scary for everyone, so if you include the CEO in the design of future plans rather than presenting plans already complete (for possible rejection), you will build a much better relationship. Another person said to focus on profits. Try to develop trust, and then show how the services business will positively impact your company's revenue.

Most respondents supported clarifying her objectives and being sure you know where she is coming from before trying to explain your views. Here are samples of the responses:

Start Small to Build Trust
Determine what gets in the way of your Key Result Areas
Tim Munsell, The Lampo Group, Inc.

Joan, First you need to realize that this is more than just a business culture problem. It is also a personal relationship/trust problem. But also remember it probably has little to do with you, so try not to take it too personally.

1. First, in your shoes, take a minute and write out your Key Result Areas (KRAs) and then bullet how they affect the overall goals of the company.
2. Second, outline how reactions to your ideas affect execution of your KRAs, and the inpact this will have on the goals of the company.

Armed with these two documents (keep them both short and sweet) approach your CEO and ask for a short meeting to make sure you fully understand what is expected of you. Ask if the KRAs you listed line up with what you are expected to do. If they don't, that's a whole different scenario. If they do line up, explain how you are attempting to achieve them and the affect that will have on the overall goals of the company. Then explain how and why you feel like your efforts are being thwarted and the impact that is having on the goals of the company. If your CEO doesn't see the light at this point you have a trust issue.

The best way to counter a lack of trust is to take the marketing that already exists and tweak it little-by-little to build the services side of the business. You may wind up having to start very small and build trust before you can create bigger and better marketing strategies.

Go Toe-to-toe with Your CEO
Get on equal footing and you'll earn her respect
Jack Kontney, Shure Incorporated

This advice is not for the squeamish. Joan— You're actually in a better position than you may think! I'm in PR and need to know reality, before I know how to state (or spin, if need be) a given story for associates and the public. At first, my CEO was unsure he could confide in me (as I was sub-VP in job level). I told him that the only way I could provide good counsel was to be totally frank with him. So I made him a simple offer: Gloves off in the privacy of his office, but total support once outside. I set the stage by stating I would speak freely, but no matter what the outcome, when I left that meeting, I would wholeheartedly support the CEO's decision.

This was pretty scary career-wise (my direct superior thought I was nuts), but I felt I couldn't do my job otherwise. Once I placed myself on equal footing (and only after my loyalty was tested in staff meetings), we developed a very strong relationship. Knowing my ultimate support was a given made me a sounding board for ideas and information that otherwise would never leave the boardroom.

Set up a one-on-one CEO meeting, and be sure to set the ground rules. Then offer specific actionable suggestions that can help you (and the company) reach the desired future state. You'll have to live with some things that don't go your way (no different from your present state), especially at the beginning. But once that's established, you may be surprised at how many decisions go your way!

Involve Your CEO in the Process
Let her help define your strategies and goals
Lynna Huie, TheraCare

It seems that your CEO does not have the ability to think outside of the box, which I am assuming is the reason that they hired you in the first place. During a recent strategic planning meeting, our objective was to find our company's mission statement. We had to define what/who we are and what/who we want to be. Maybe if you involve her in the whole thinking process of coming up with these new strategies, she might not be threatened by you.

Examine how much responsibility you have in the roadblock.

Next, be sure that your own house is in order. A few respondents took the self-examination approach, and made us realize that not all of the responsibility for the roadblock may lie on the CEO. One of your peers spoke about how she was in a very similar situation and realized that sometimes people have lots of problems that have nothing to do with you. She suggested visualizing the CEO being more understanding and approving of your suggestions. Most of those who recommended ‘self examination' advised us to try to see things from the CEO's perspective.

Revise Presentation to Emphasize Products
Do your championing in the context of the original business
Gary Rosensteel, Vevolution

Based on this limited information, it seems that Joan may be creating her own roadblocks. While championing marketing of services may be her charter, this obviously needs to be done within the context of, “How will this positively impact the company's product marketing?” I believe Joan's initiatives need to be packaged within the envelope of improving product marketing. The CEO currently views services as a necessary evil to promote product sales, and probably thinks that Joan just doesn't get it. If Joan will revise her presentation to emphasize her strategy's positive impact on the product side, it will enable her to get approval for some of her initiatives. Once Joan can demonstrate success (e.g. bottom-line contribution), Joan will be able to push-through other strategies based on their own merit.

Get support from others and sell your case for services to the CEO

Now that your groundwork is done, it's time to ‘sell' your ideas internally throughout your organization. Our readers cautioned us that to be successful, you will need to garner support from others.

Several respondents gave sales tools and techniques for building business cases, using surveys, marketing your marketing organization, benchmarking the results of competitors, and presenting case studies.

One respondent said, “Your goal should not be to turn your company into a services company, as much as to complement the product focus with service revenues that also drive product sales.”

Contamination May Be Your Best Strategy
Present small chunks of innovation such as research and testimonials
Michel Marquis, Créativité-communication Michel Marquis, Inc.

Your case is typical of senior executives with a strong Product and Sales (as opposed to Service and Marketing) profile who advocate, “If it ain't broken, don't fix it.” You cannot change the nature of the person, but perhaps you can improve the situation (and learn from it) to some degree.

Therefore, look for complementary features in your individual approaches, and stay away from conflicting ones. I suggest you serve very small bites at a time, not big chunks of innovation (as your creative temper probably suggests). Contamination may be your best strategy. Also, try to enhance the “perceived value” of each small step that you wish to take for the company in the Service Marketing sector. One way of doing this is to use testimonials (make a thorough search for them in your files, or go after them in the field) in presenting your case. Your CEO must be very keen on testimonials, being what some researchers call “a follower” type. Remember that many of your clients are also followers. Relevant demographics help a lot. Selling to a salesperson is not easy. You must only ask a question that she can answer with Yes. And don't forget to close the sale!

Think Growth!
Demonstrate how services investments will generate a high ROI
Fw. Sanjay Anand, CLA

Get case studies that demonstrate the viability of your approach to justify the expense and the transition to a service company. Most companies (including big names like Microsoft and small entrepreneurs like Fred Gleeck) typically start out with products and move into services to support that, since that is where the *real* money is to be made. Running a services organization is a lot of work (I speak from personal experience), but the payoff is outstanding if one is willing to do the right thing at the right time. For example, building the teams, providing the training, ensuring appropriate career paths, etc. To make a long story short: the only way to help a person see the light is to demonstrate (using a combination of case studies and business plans) why the investment will generate a high ROI (over 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, etc.). Think growth!

Some SWOT Team members suggested selling services to the CEO as a team effort (imagine that!) Backed by internal supporters and external proponents, your argument will be much more convincing.

Team Up with Others
Look to internal services champion and large clients for support
Paul Hahn, Business Systems Solutions

You didn't mention a VP of Services, but if there is such a person, team up with the services champion in company and jointly build a compelling case for service expansion that includes (obviously) your projections based on your killer marketing plan. Without some type of team commitment behind your ideas, you're only going to continue butting heads with someone that apparently doesn't get it, nor want to. Another option would be to interview your largest clients for their views on your service business with the objective of increasing their satisfaction for gaining wallet-share. I'm sure your CEO would listen up in the context of increasing sales.

Alternative Steps

Some team members suggested that you might have to face reality. What if everything you tried fails? Here are two ideas not for the faint of heart.

Get out of the kitchen, if you can't stand the heat

Several respondents remarked that having a CEO as a roadblock is not a very effective way of working. One suggested ROI can be fuzzy, but there is hope in tracking metrics—still you may be in for an ‘uphill battle;' another asked Joan if she was ready to ‘stand or fall' for her ideas. Whether you decide to move on to a better working environment, or face the CEO head-on, you must be prepared for a struggle before anyone is convinced.

Bail and Prepare for Next Time
Find a company that supports you in your work
Jacqueline Deasy, Artel, Inc.

My advice to the VP is: Bail. As quickly as you can. A CEO who hires executive- level staff for initiatives she does not support is either a) someone who wants to run the entire company by herself; or b) someone who will not admit that in order to make money, you have to spend it. Neither option bodes well for the VP's continued career at this company. Much better to find a position where one is supported in one's work. Unless you like being an office ornament (until the boss gets tired of your non-performance and decides to terminate you).

When interviewing for the next position, ask “What would you think about options like X, Y, or Z?” Those would show a prospective CEO that you're already bringing solutions to the table, and the response will give you a good idea of how well your new position is going to be supported by the boss.

”Go for the throat' and find ways around the CEO.

For those who are willing to bet everything, one respondent suggested that if all else fails, ‘go for the throat.' Do whatever it takes to get your point across to the company's most influential players. The responses in this category can be summed up as: ‘If you can't play with them, play against them.'

Present Your Plan to the Company's Board of Directors
Go around the current CEO and you may end up the big cheese
Colin Downey, Paykels

I would build a business plan, looking at the service division for what it can achieve and at what cost along with the potential returns. I would then present this plan to the Board of the company as a separate venture; therefore creating a new business. This would potentially remove the current CEO as Joan's immediate boss, and potentially instate her as a new divisional CEO. It would also go around her current CEO and get to the people who really care about what direction the company is heading in for the shareholders and their representatives.

Final Thoughts

We did our best to provide a thorough overview of your thoughtful responses. So many of you responded, it was almost impossible to choose which ones to print. Therefore, if you would like the complete text of all responses for your own analysis, please click here.

Thanks again for your perspectives, your insight and your collective wisdom. We're confident that this SWOT Team effort can solve almost any marketing problem!

Continue reading "MarketingProfs’ SWOT Team Removes CEO Roadblock" ... Read the full article

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.

Tamara is a writer at InternetVIZ and is available for freelance work.