Marketing and the critical step of buy-inArticle added by Ernest Falkner III on June 29, 2012
Ernest Falkner III

Ernest Falkner III

Birmingham, AL

Joined: September 20, 2010

Inherent in any valid business or marketing plan assessment should be the critical test for buy-in at the stakeholder levels.

We don't think too much about the importance of buy-in because it is frequently overlooked, and often at the peril of the project, enterprise or mission.

Several years back, I wrote some probing articles about the life insurance industry, more specifically about the iconic IMSA designation that the life insurance companies were eager to acquire. Despite all the millions that were spent by all entities, as an agent/broker, did you use the designation in your marketing efforts? Did you take the time to explain it to potential consumers? Did you promote the brand? Did it ever win or lose you a sale?

Looking back, both carriers and agents will have their own opinion about the ultimate success of this initiative given the time and enormous expense of the task. Ironically, today the brand initiative and leadership has been completely changed.

In these articles (published in selective trade magazines), I used the backdrop of the automobile industry where the same initiative was made by auto dealers to gain compliance to new industry guidelines and consequently increase buyer confidence. Millions of dollars were also spent, and yet the last time I bought a car, neither the subject nor the importance of this designation ever surfaced. Maybe you have had a different experience?

The goal in pointing out this dilemma is that the vital step of seeking the critical mass of buy-in at the auto dealership level was really never implemented before the industry program was adopted and enforced (at least we could not find the evidence).

Back to the life insurance industry issue. These published insurance articles were an appeal to the life insurance industry and companies to consider buy-in at the field level (distributors/stakeholders) before millions upon millions were spent on a similar system of compliance and consequent guidelines. The entire process and the initiative was in response to the untold millions that were already being spent by the life industry as a result of unprecedented defense litigation based on alleged fraudulent sales and marketing practices.

Unfortunately, it seems that both of the above industries missed the link between the importance of buy-in and the resulting acceptance and awareness by a critical mass measurement of the affected stakeholders before any major financial initiative was launched.

Buy-in is really a line extension of communication.

Communication is essential to marketing; it is the lifeblood. Buy-in is rarely 100 percent successful, but it should have as its goal a critical mass. Buy-in should take place at the grassroots level where the affected stakeholders live, and not driven as a top-down isolated bureaucratic executive decision.

Back again to the two industries. If salespeople had been properly canvassed, given incentives and educated about the importance of the new designation and the connection to the end-user, the conclusion could have been totally different. And if the executive level had been authentically assured through real measurement tools that the field had critical mass of buy-in — again, a different result.
Here's the opportunity: Business and marketing plans are being constructed daily. There are stakeholders that are affected by these plans up and down the line. In many cases, the subject of buy-in has never been considered, assessed or measured. That might be why so many plans are crafted but never see the light of day (much less success). Remember, the stakeholders are the people who will cause the plan to succeed or fail. The typical guide to most plan execution is based on assumed consent canvassing for a critical mass of buy-in.

If giant multibillion dollar organizations, like those in the automobile insurance industry, can miss and or ignore such an important issue as buy-in and suffer such a massive expense, could it be possible for your organization to make a similar mistake?

Inherent in any valid business or marketing plan assessment should be the critical test for buy-in at the stakeholder levels.

In your planning stage, consider including those exceptional advisors or professionals who understand and employ this most important issue of buy-in. It could save you and your organization untold time and money.

As always, you decide.
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