Top-Shelf Tip No. 005:

"Many successful businesses have a strong commitment to maximizing stakeholder loyalty."

Rt Hon Tony Blair, Prime Minister

The Value Of Stakeholder Interviews, Part 1

If you're undertaking any kind of initiative that involves long-range strategy and communicating to your market, then information you glean from your stakeholders will help guide your way. Consider conducting interviews with your stakeholders whenever you're embarking on business strategy, product strategy, brand strategy, brand positioning and messaging, go-to-market strategy or defining the customer experience. Stakeholders can come from internal sources within your organization and externally from customers and prospects.

Taking the time to thoroughly understand your business-where you are today and where you want to go—as well as your customers and market landscape is the only way to develop a winning approach.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we're sharing these tips on conducting stakeholder interviews from the agency Suite Seven.

Why conduct stakeholder interviews?
Different leaders have different perspectives about where their part of the business is going. Sometimes there are discrepancies among executives' vision for the future of the business that most don't even realize exists. Conducting stakeholder interviews helps make those involved aware of these discrepancies. Plus, often market intelligence and intellectual industry knowledge are locked inside of people's heads, instead of being put on paper or in a spreadsheet. It's also important to conduct stakeholder interviews on a regular basis to keep up with market changes and to truly understand what both today's and tomorrow's customers want.

1. Designate a scheduler. Recruit a person who has some access to and control over calendars (such as an executive administrative assistant) to schedule interviews.

2. Create a master calendar. Create a master spreadsheet of all stakeholders, along with their contact information, interview times and status. Put the spreadsheet in a central location and keep it up to date as details change.

3. Coordinate schedules ahead of time. Reserve blocks of time with the interviewers, to make sure there aren't conflicts that require constant rescheduling—especially if they're outside consultants who don't share your calendar system.

4. Be efficient with in-person interviews. If you're planning to conduct in-person interviews, try to block a day to do as many as possible for efficiency. Be sure to build in a little buffer time between interviews (at least 30 minutes) to account for discussions that go over time, and to let interviewers get their thoughts together.

5. Ask for an hour (and plan for a little more). The more senior the stakeholders, the less time they'll want to spend. Promise to limit the interview to one hour—but be prepared for the interview to go overtime occasionally.

6. Look ahead to stakeholders' out-of-office plans. Account for any upcoming business trips or vacations proactively. Try to prioritize interviews with any stakeholders who plan to be out of the office in the coming weeks.

7. Clarify contact details. Be sure to clarify how the interviewer will contact the stakeholder: calling directly, using a conference line or showing up in person.

8. Head off rescheduling follies. If the stakeholder (or assistant) reschedules more than three times, it may be necessary to ask your executive champion or senior-level marketing leader to step in and stress the importance of the interview. Having that person request the interview on your behalf might become necessary.

9. Send context and questions in the invitation. Include the original request for the interview in the body of the calendar invitation. Especially for senior leaders who don't manage their own calendars, this will provide some context as they—and their assistants—plan their days. Also, you might want to attach a list of questions or discussion topics to the invitation to help stakeholders prepare.

10. Limit the size of group interviews. If you're planning to group stakeholders together or hold small group discussions instead of one-on-one interviews, try to limit the number of people involved. More than two interviewees can start to limit the effectiveness of the interview: it's hard for everyone to get time to talk, and people are less candid when colleagues are present.

Read PCT tomorrow to learn the key questions to ask in stakeholder interviews.

Source: Suite Seven is a marketing agency that builds successful brand, marketing and content strategies for organizations. It helps businesses conduct an in-depth discovery phase that includes discovery interviews, communication and content audits, and competitive analyses. Then, it develops in-depth strategies that provide a blueprint for how to engage with customers.

Compiled by: Cassandra Johnson

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