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5 ways to win over a traditional marketing executive

5 ways to win over a traditional marketing executive Jim Nichols
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We all sell for a living, and one of the toughest challenges can be getting a traditional marketer to approve concepts and budgets for innovative digital programs. Some try to slam concepts through, and often fail to get buy-in. Others recognize that winning the budgetary affections of a traditional marketer requires some finesse -- like a well-choreographed dance.


Here are five steps that can help you dance your way to consistent wins.



Channel Arthur Murray


The late, great Arthur Murray popularized ballroom dance in America. His legacy is a company that now has more than 260 dance education studios worldwide. And what they do in those studios is teach dance in ways that are fun, supportive and step-by-step. Pun intended. Teaching that ensures that the new dancer feels their own progress with each lesson.


Most traditional people have tons of curiosity about digital. They read the trades. Their kids are Snapchatting and Instagramming all day. They get its power on an intellectual level. But you can't dance if no one takes the time to show you the steps. It's the same with digital. That traditional marketer won't get into what you are selling without getting out on the metaphorical hardwood and trying.


If you want to sell a Pinterest program, get your boss on Pinterest. If you want to sell a big tablet initiative, get them to agree to give up their PC for a day, and lend them your iPad. Trying to sell in an app? Show them a competitor app. Digital is participatory, not passive. By making participation part of your pitch, you will be amazed at what you can push through. That traditional marketer will thank you for your efforts. There's a difference between not being capable of dancing, and not knowing how.

Do the "foot in the door" two-step


Here's a dance every change agent has to know. It's often easier to sell a traditional marketer on a concept first, and then talk money later. Intuitively, many digital initiatives are so inherently rich and game-changing that they get people excited. If you work for an online travel agent, for example, who could argue with the value of having your loyal customers having an app with then 24/7 so they can buy tickets, rooms, and car rentals at any time?


Without the pre-sell, you are asking people to take money away from something they understand and put it against something they may not really "get" at first glance. But if you do the two-step, they get used to the idea -- and get behind it -- before the checkbook has to come out.


Sometimes, we digital people want to move so quickly that we try to ram everything through in 10 minutes. But innovation often takes a little finesse to sell. Ideas excite both the rational and emotional sides of our brains. Spreadsheets are usually compelling to only one side. Sell the concept first. And gain agreement and commitment to the principle. That's your foot in the door. Then go back a little later for budget.


Master the strategic line dance


Some people can get excited about digital programs because they are groundbreaking and cool. And some digital people think that sometimes experimenting with new technologies should take priority over strong strategic alignment. I personally disagree with that, but understand why others think differently. But no matter for our purposes here.


What's important to remember is that for someone not fully convinced of the power of digital, ensuring that your recommendations have a strategic foundation is important. Focus on recommending programs that have a tight strategic fit -- that are clearly capable of helping your brand meet a critical business challenge. Get in line with the brand strategy and you'll get some good time out on the dance floor.

Ask for one dance, not their full dance card


Rationalize the size of your request with the extent to which a strategy or tactic is proven to work for your category. A $50K test is a lot easier for a traditional marketer to buy into than a $1M full year program.


One of the best things about digital is that there is usually a way to do a proof of concept before you make a major commitment. Credit all the years when budgets were lean for the willingness of even large companies to accommodate small(ish) test budgets.


What's critical here, as with all digital programs but especially here, is that you establish success and failure measures before a program begins, and have a robust measurement system in place to do the counting. Most companies prefer a third-party to verify results -- otherwise the vendor is "grading their own papers."


Sweep 'em off their feet with a languorous habanera


There's nothing more annoying to a traditional marketer than being told they are obsolete dinosaurs. I am 1,000 percent convinced that digital would have gotten budget traction a lot faster if we hadn't positioned it as something that was going to thrash ho-hum TV and Print overnight. Newsflash: people watch more TV than ever.


If you have disdain for your traditional peers -- newsflash: your disdain shows. They can feel it. Get over your arrogance. Recognize that all media, traditional and otherwise, have strengths, and that digital is just part of the story for a big brand. Think about innovation and the ideas you want to implement in the context of the entire marketing mix. How does digital make the overall plan better?


And recognize that that dinosaur you need to convince probably knows a lot about a lot of things that you don't know. You don't slap a dance partner in the face and then get them to cut a rug with you. Dance with them, respect their knowledge and perspective. And never be a wallflower again!


Jim Nichols is vice president of marketing at Apsalar.


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"Many thumbs up to ideas" image via Shutterstock.

Jim Nichols is VP of Marketing for Apsalar. Jim has 20+ years experience in over 80 different categories, including developing successful positioning and go-to-market plans for more than 40 adtech and martech companies. He joins Apsalar after...

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