January has arrived and the season of resolutions and predictions is in full swing. I have read dozens of articles pointing to future trends, marketplace predictions and anticipated 2015 business implications. So, as a regular blogger in the cause marketing and alliances space, I felt a responsibility to add my perspective to the cacophony. As I racked my brain to add value beyond what has already been shared, I created this series of predictions I can guarantee will impact your success in 2015!
1. INTERNAL BUY-IN CAN MAKE OR BREAK YOU.
Each year, when I facilitate the Nonprofit Leadership Summit, I am amazed at how many people rank “internal roadblocks” as their number one barrier to success. Common challenges include lengthy review processes, varying opinions and perspectives and clumsy or ineffective approval processes. So, when you make your plan for 2015, be sure to factor in plenty of time and resources for securing internal stakeholder input and approvals. We will be delving into this topic and developing best practices at the upcoming Cause Marketing Forum. Come join the discussion, Nonprofit Corporate Alliance Leadership Summit.
2. EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION WILL CONTINUE TO PLAY A CENTRAL ROLE IN BUSINESS SUCCESS.
Basic? Yes. Essential? You better believe it! I am not talking about flashy ad copy or the latest in social media delivery strategies. I am talking about effectively keeping key stakeholders informed about your plan. Your constituents or donors are likely a focus already. And, I hope you are making sure to keep your partners well apprised of your plans. But, don’t overlook the importance of internal communication for effective program execution. In fact, a variety of internal audiences play a crucial role in your success. Naturally, all staff involved in execution of your plan should be in the loop. But also consider other departments, all locations (local, regional national) of staff and all levels of management from senior leadership to administrative executors.
3. LISTENING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF COMMUNICATION.
I once heard a sales trainer suggest that the most effective sales pitches consist of 70% listening and 30% talking. I could not agree more. I know it feels like a real coup to land a 30 minute appointment with a prospect you’ve been courting for months. And so the natural tendency is to cram your “life story” as well as the pitch for all the money you need into that meeting. The trouble is it won’t work!
First, you have to understand their role and goals and then you can effectively find the points of synergy. We will be discussing this and other effective sales essentials at the Cause Marketing Forum in the Developing Corporate Relationships session I am co-teaching with Chad Royal-Pascoe, National VP of Corporate Partnerships for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
4. SUCCESS DEPENDS ON SUFFICIENT PLANNING TIMETABLES.
I see it all the time. Nonprofits want to launch a new strategy or sign a new partner for an event that will happen within just a few months. Consider this – most companies plan their budgets in the fall of the prior year. If you are asking for funds in the middle of a year when the budget has already been set, the likelihood of securing a commitment is significantly diminished. Could you add a five or six figure expense to your plan in the middle of the year?
5. BUILDING STRONG RELATIONSHIPS WITH INDIVIDUALS WILL GENERATE STRONGER BUSINESS RESULTS WITH THEIR COMPANY.
People do business with people they know, like and trust. It truly is that simple. Make an effort to learn more about your point of contact. What is his or her role and responsibility? What is his/her primary focus this year? How will his or her success be measured? What have been the biggest past pain points in fostering partnerships? Find a way that you can add value. Also, try to find something you share in common to establish a personal bond. Build trust by following through on your commitments and making sure you always keep your word.
It is tempting to focus on the shiny new ideas and trends, and I agree you must factor them into your planning process. But, one thing I know is true – for cause alliances success, you must also follow these basic tenants of relationship success!