Measuring the Value of an Executive Briefing Program.
I would hazard a guess that not many people pay much attention to the mechanics of an Executive Briefing Center (EBC). Briefing center staffs talk to customers in person, every day. They take the high level message that the content teams prepare, blend it with insight from the Account team and lead the conversation with customers. They are on the spot to try and make the company’s message relevant and pertinent to the customer.
While ‘valuable’, the whole EBC process can be vaguely unsatisfactory. EBC teams repeatedly asked themselves the same questions:
- How much value did we bring today?
- To whom did we bring the value?
- How do we define the value we bring and how do we measure it?
- How do we correlate the customer’s goals with our own goals?
- Did we help build relationships that are valuable?
- Why ask these questions?
While several other organizations across the company are also asking these questions, it’s difficult to come up with specific measurements of value for EBCs. There are a lot of hunches, promoting things like:
- “90% of customers who attend an EBC close business.”
- “Briefings speed up the sales cycle.”
- “Briefings allowed for relationship changing opportunities.”
- “95% of briefings resulted in up-sell opportunities.”
Great points, but really, who gets credit for these statistics? It’s hard for anyone other than the sales team to claim these wins. And in an increasingly integrated world, where do EBCs play in the ebb, flow and implications of continuous customer interaction?
Many briefing programs are silos. They support sales and they report to sales organizations as often as they do Marketing. Where briefing programs do report to marketing, they tend to remain as separate silos available on demand to support individual sales campaigns. Hence the difficulty in defining and measuring value. Writing on the Traackr blog, Eva Papadimitriou listed the eight key attributes of the ‘modern marketer’ and I followed with interest to see how many of these attributes are embodied by EBCs.
- Face of the Company? – Definitely.
- People at Heart? – Absolutely.
- Open Ears? – The most important attribute.
- Eyes on the Prize? – Yes!
- Vision-oriented? – Of course.
- Flexible Thinkers? – You have to be.
- Getting our Hands Dirty? – Oh, not really.
- Ideas with Legs? – Who knows? It’s difficult to measure anything except volume.
The last two points listed might be the most critical when it comes to proving value. Somewhere, something would have to change in order to yield measurable value.
It’s time to modernize the mechanics of your EBC.
It’s time to bring the EBC in from the cold and modernize its mechanics and focus entirely.
Charged with managing and delivering the customer’s briefing experience, the EBC gains tremendous marketing insight, both inbound and outbound. Customer roles, interests, challenges and reservations are the fare of the day at the EBC. In administering these 1:1 events (Seth Godin, anyone?) EBC’s are in a unique position to gauge the posture of both the customer and the sales team and to observe how they are relating to each other. This is wholly un-captured insight. It’s like oil rigs burning off natural gas simply to get to the oil below – there’s plenty of value in both.
An age-old question has always been how to tap this well of insights and how it might be channeled back into the marketing organization. Having reviewed this challenge for a long time, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve been approaching it the wrong way. So: back to Seth Godin’s ‘Permission Marketing’. Permission marketing is “the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.” So the permission generated at the EBC, is permission to engage and brief the customer, not the permission to channel these and other insights back to marketing. Even if it were, it would be too subjective, too inconsistent, too intrusive and almost impossible to scale.
Instead, the EBC’s biggest value to marketing might be as a proof point for data gathered, personas generated and predictions made elsewhere. In fact, we could view the EBC as a marketing enabler and reconstitute the ‘EBC-as-a-Service’ – a much more dynamic marketing function centered around Customer Engagement – on and offline – whose value is more closely associated with marketing and customer experience metrics than with direct revenue impacted.
I’m making a leap here from the administration of single customer briefing visits to a wholesale Customer Engagement Program (‘CEP’) mandate, in effect across the entire company. It’s based on the unique insight EBC teams get of both their own organization and the customer, understanding the connected eco-system of Responsibilities, Authority and Opportunities that co-exist. A well-placed individual working inside the EBC, with a knowledge of the company’s Marketing Services Catalog and Account-based Marketing plans is in a strong position to use all that natural gas to good effect!
The basis for this idea comes from an understanding of the ‘Customer Journey’. If a ‘customer’ – the sum of all touches from within a company that buys from your company – generates multiple touch-points of varying degrees of maturity with you across all the sales and marketing programs you provide, the permission you have been granted is to report on, analyze and correlate the resulting data and generate predictions about what opportunities exist. So you need to:
- Understand your company’s multiple touch-points including…
- How the touch-points have been engaged and
- How you co-ordinate the responses most effectively to support an Account-based approach.
A dynamic ‘EBCaaS’ – better termed a ‘Customer Engagement Platform’ (‘CEP’) – will become a scalable, high volume proof-point for marketing personas. The ‘CEPaaS’ becomes a platform that actively supports Eva Papadimitriou’s eight attributes of the modern marketer not through the day-to-day functions of EBC administration, but through cross-marketing collaboration and enablement that allows for a dynamic re-imagination of:
- How the EBC/ CEP gathers and informs customer profile data from sales teams.
- How the EBC/ CEP builds and informs agendas for customer briefings.
- How the EBC/ CEP advises Sales teams on who should be attending briefings based on a) sales objectives and b) customer insight from available marketing data.
- How the EBC/ CEP can suggest progressing from a briefing to a workshops or Peer-Peer roundtable.
- The critical objective of the briefing switching from exclusively closing motions to those motions that influence continuous customer evaluation. This supports EBC/ CEP as a more consistent relationship enabler.
- The EBC/ CEP as a representative persona as the sum of all customer touch-points, orchestrated to generate the most compelling and influential customer engagement experience relevant to every attendee, regardless of focus or goals.
In this model, the EBC is less a customer touch-point itself, than a platform for testing other marketing assumptions. It has a critical role to play in validating Personas and predictive marketing. It further supports wider marketing goals of aligning customers to business objectives, and ensuring that customer segments are engaged regularly, in a dynamic and scalable way. Finally, it enables the marketing organization to tap into the thousands of real customers who walk through the doors of the EBC every year, allowing for actionable marketing insight through validation – or disproving – of emerging assumptions.
In coming posts I plan to go into the design and function of the Customer Engagement Platform in more detail and welcome comment and insight.