How to Get Buy-in for Your Projects, Plans and Proposals From the First Pitch to Successful Completion (plus free template)
(This article was originally published in the MarketingExperiments email newsletter.)
COVID-19 has necessitated that many marketing departments quickly pivot their plans, and thus agencies and other vendors have to quickly adapt right along with their clients.
So the ability to pitch an idea — that crucial marketing skill set –– is more valuable than ever.
But a successful pivot doesn’t end with the pitch. After getting the sign-off from key business leaders and decision-makers, a successful plan requires execution throughout the company, and also from agencies, distributors, retailers, consultants and vendors.
In other words, after you pitch to the decision-makers, you have to pitch to each and every individual involved in executing your plan.
Not in person of course. At least not for all of them.
To help you do that, we’ve created a simple template that can help simplify and communicate your big idea. While you still might need a full plan in a Word document, a full budget in Excel, an in-depth PowerPoint deck, or a detailed project plan, this template is designed to quickly, clearly and easily communicate the value prop for your IT project, marketing plan, advertising campaign, etc.
After you download the template, here are four key points to keep in mind to increase your chances for success.
1. Win approval from business leaders by creating a company-level value proposition for your proposal
When working internally, it’s easy to overlook the fundamental value proposition questions that you might naturally seek to answer when marketing to customers.
But those value proposition questions should be answered for everything you do — internally and externally — because they are the questions that key decision-makers will also ask, whether they verbalize the question or not.
I would word the internal proposal value proposition question like this:
“Why should the [company/organization/client/department/etc.] invest [money/time/resources/goodwill/etc.] in this [project/campaign/plan/etc.] instead of in any other way?”
The MECLABS Value Proposition methodology can help you answer that question (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingExperiments). Consider these four factors:
Why is your idea appealing to the company? This is the benefit to your company (or client’s company) of launching the plan you are proposing. Here are some questions to spark your thinking.
What’s in it for the company? Will the company make more money? Or perhaps it will save money? Will this initiative help the company better deliver on its value proposition? Or fulfill its mission? Does it support a business transformation that is taking place? For example, could the proposal help your company better appeal to your current or new target market? Does it help your company react to macro-economic and societal changes (for example, COVID-19)? Etc., etc.
There may be many possible actions your company could take to get the appealing benefit already mentioned. What’s so special about your proposal? Here are some questions to spark your thinking.
Is your idea more likely to succeed than other options? Easier or less expensive to implement? Is your company already better positioned to launch this plan than other plans?
If the proposal is not mutually exclusive from other proposals and plans, you should note that. Provide an option to roll it out with those proposals, explaining why they will mutually benefit each other. For example, if your company has the cash to acquire two potential companies, why is that combination of acquisitions a better path to take with the company’s cash instead of any other way it can be spent or held onto for future opportunities.
Note, if you work for an agency, I’m not talking here about your agency’s exclusive ability to pull this off. There will come a time for that (see “credibility”), but first, decision-makers need to understand why they should even launch this initiative instead of any other initiatives that might be able to bring the company the same or similar benefits.
While you are trying to convince someone (or a group of people) of something, be wary of hyperbole. Focus on being clear and letting your idea shine through.
Another element of that clarity is clearly communicating the project scope and tasks. Is this for the entire company? A specific business unit, product line, or division? What does success look like? What is the KPI? How will you (or someone else) audit the results to ensure they are accurate?
Details like this can make or break your idea’s acceptance and ensure everyone is on the same page. Because the goal isn’t just to get your proposal approved, the goal is to have a successful initiative. One key to success is defining it in the beginning so you don’t get to the end of the project and hit your intended goal only to hear a business leader say, “Oh, that’s all it did? I thought it would do [something more.]”
This is a biggie. How many meetings have you been in where a sales leader or agency account executive promised that something was going to be huge? “We’re going to get 10%, 20%, 50% increase in sales!” Start hiring now because when I’m done with this, our biggest challenge is going to be keeping up with demand!”
All that may be true. But why should key business leaders believe it? This is where credibility comes in.
Do you have a track record of success in this area? Do the colleagues or vendors you’re working with? Perhaps the project will be delivered on time because you’ve gotten the company’s most effective project manager to agree to run this project?
What about the overall marketplace? Is there data that supports this decision? Are there case studies that show other companies succeeding from similar proposals? (feel free to search MarketingSherpa case studies)
Does current sales data, A/B testing or customer feedback indicate this is the right direction? Could you begin by launching a pilot or experiment to get more data and build up credibility?
2. Answer the value prop question at many different levels
To get the budget and other approvals necessary to launch your idea, you need to communicate the primary (company-level) value proposition.
However, to get through a successful project from start to finish, you need the skill sets of (and even better-impassioned buy-in from) many different people within and from outside your organization. For example, you may need to get the IT department on board, customer service, product development, sales reps, etc. Externally, you may need to work with advertising and marketing agencies, management consultants, freelance copywriters and graphic designers, distribution and sales partners, retailers, contract manufacturers, co-branding partners, investors, and a whole host of other business partners and vendors.
Most people and organizations will work for money. Sure.
But you get their highest and best production when they understand why it matters to them.
So … why does it matter?
For your products and services, you should have different prospect-level value propositions. For example, some customers may be looking for a car that’s economical, some want eco-friendly, others want a safe car, a sporty car, or a luxurious car. Understanding the different motivations of different customer sets helps you create more targeted and compelling value propositions.
The same is true for your internal projects. Do you need the IT department to build a new tool for this project? What is the value prop? That they get to build it from the ground up in-house and assure it is PCI compliant? Or perhaps you’ve secured enough budget that they get to select three top tools for this field and integrate them? Or maybe the project requires trying something totally new (AI? Machine learning? VR?) that they’ve wanted to sink their teeth into but haven’t gotten a chance to do so yet?
What is the value prop for your advertising agency? Perhaps this is their chance to burn down the budget allotted to them? Or perhaps, you’re really going for a creative implementation they can enter into awards shows? Or both?
Depending on the size of the team involved, you may want to get as granular as the individual level. If you know your team well enough, you can hopefully tap into their individual passions with the way you assign roles for the project, and therefore create a compelling value prop for them.
3. Keep answering the value prop question throughout the project
There tends to be a lot of excitement at the beginning of a project or plan. But that excitement can quickly give way to the drudgery of execution. As a project drags on … six months, nine months, 18 months, etc., the team and company can forget why you’re doing it to begin with.
There is a great leadership maxim — “vision leaks” — that aptly describes this challenge (not sure who first coined the term, maybe Andy Stanley or Bill Hybels?)
If you don’t remind your team of the initial vision, it will leak away over time as they shift their focus to other priorities.
So keep these value props in front of them. When we’re back in a world of physical closeness, it could make sense to print out a poster and hang it up in the physical locations where the teams are working.
If you’re working with a distributed team or teams, perhaps there is a consistent PowerPoint slide you use on weekly team Zoom meetings to remind everyone of the value proposition. Or you could send weekly status update emails to share how the team is progressing to make the value proposition a reality.
Once the project is done, follow up with the results metrics you promised, share praise and appreciation for those who made it possible, and actually show the value proposition(s) coming to fruition.
After all, you may want to do this again sometime. And nothing builds credibility better than coming through on what you promised.
4. Nothing happens without communication
This might seem like a lot of effort. After all, shouldn’t business leadership understand and trust in your ideas? Shouldn’t people just do their jobs?
That would be nice.
Of course, it would also be nice to eat Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream every night for dinner and stay slim, trim and healthy. It would be very, very nice.
But that is not the way of the world. Things don’t just happen. The status quo is a tenacious opponent. Determined people must make things happen. And it all begins with a clear and compelling value prop.
We didn’t get to the moon just because 400,000 engineers, technicians, scientists and factory workers poured their lives into building the technology. And we didn’t get to the moon because three brave astronauts climbed to the top of an exploding 36-foot tall firecracker.
We got to the moon because — before any of that — a compelling value proposition was cast and repeated to spur the passionate use of all those fine individual skills.
Before we could hear “The Eagle has landed,” we had to hear John F. Kennedy say, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.