|John V. Cinquino|
Someone told me recently that the Chinese symbol used to represent crisis is the same symbol that is used to represent opportunity. Think about that. Crisis equals opportunity. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it's true, and I can prove it. Let me share with you a concept my team and I put into practice that helped us have our best year in 14 years. And, keep in mind, we accomplished this during a time of general economic instability when most brand budgets were cut. It can work for your business as well.
In the past two years we saw numerous executives at our clients laid off. Many were senior-level marketing professionals who were icons in their respective categories. We lamented losing such great relationships and it would have been a great loss if we simply wished them good luck and ended it there.
But we didn't. A little research revealed these individuals shared some very favorable traits. They were all highly revered veterans with tremendous respect and vast networks; they were the super-influencers.
So I developed a sales initiative for my team called the "Super Influencer Program." This program was designed to be a driving force behind sales introductions. Our aim was simple -- build an army of brand ambassadors who would be able to tap into their own networks of influencers to the benefit of our business.
Like most marketing firms, we needed to generate new-business leads but were not satisfied from the results of traditional means. The "Super Influencer Program" provided us with a platform that utilized already-established resources. A platform designed to run parallel with the firm's already existing lead generation program.
Five super-influencers were selected because of their superior ability to have true influence over market shape and direction at a macro level. Positioning was critical -- the number of super-influencers had to be kept at a minimum to avoid over saturation of talent. The program is designed for the elite so selection must be kept exclusive.
What we tasked them to do was simple: Navigate their massive network of contacts and set up meetings with key people on our behalf. And, here's the defining element to this entire program, I asked them to make a personal introduction (not a referral) and to join me at the first meeting.
The results have been remarkable. Our firm has met with numerous high-ranking professionals, including the chief marketing officer of a global consumer-electronics brand and the director of communications at a leading New York hospital. These are meetings that might have taken us years to secure, or never would have happened at all, without the program. A very notable victory was winning an account in the medical space for a pain-management institute. This single achievement was worth nearly 10% of our annual billings.
Would this program have worked with a strong economy? Maybe, but then again, our contacts probably would have maintained their jobs. I doubt they'd have as much incentive to help us broaden our reach. We gave them the opportunity to earn a commission on our victories, and all they had to do was help an agency they already respected by opening up their vast networks.
Why the "Super Influencer Program"? The sales function is one of the most challenging roles in business development and to date too many businesses are dependent on antiquated methods of generating new business leads. The "Super Influencer Program" is based on a foundation of peer-to-peer relationships. Not new relationships, but relationships that have been established, cultivated and exercised. It creates an outside of the box method of generating business leads that might not been possible through traditional routes.
So the next time a crisis hits turn it into an opportunity. Make this happen. Find your super-influencers to generate new business leads, but don't look too far because the super-influencers you are seeking may already be in your corner and ready to help.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
John V. Cinquino is president-chief strategy officer at Cinquino & Co., Woodland Park, N.J..