“Are you mad because we’re going two weeks without a webinar?” Nancy asked.
“No, not mad.” I said. “Well, I’m not thrilled, but I think we understand how it happened and we’ve agreed on some policies that should ensure it doesn’t happen again. So no, I’m not mad.”
While many policy-generating episodes strike like lightning, others produce their effect through accumulation. For us, this above-referenced situation was the latter. First, one of our contracted sponsors changed their mind at the last minute and wanted to move the event date; then, a week or two later, it became apparent that a different contracted sponsor would not get us the information we needed to produce their event in time. Because of how late both revelations occurred, we were unable to produce other events in their place. (We produce one webinar per week, usually Thursdays, and begin production and promotion at least a month out). Thus, two revenue opportunities lost forever. With our business model, such cannot happen.
This got me to thinking about the nature of what we “sell” and how each product requires a different commitment from the buyer/sponsor. When it comes to banner advertising, the process is pretty simple, straight forward and transactional, much like banking. Nancy sends the specs, the customer sends the ad. Nancy sends the invoice, the customer sends the check. End of story, very nice and clean. But when it comes to our other offerings, the interaction is more complex. With the White Papers, and especially the Webinars, we need a partner on the other end that:
- Understands our process and requirements
- Understands their deliverables in the process
- Appreciates the significance of our timelines and due dates
When a customer looks at the amazingly detailed spreadsheet of results that Nancy sends over — revealing the exact numbers that each and every one of our Webinar and White Paper programs has produced — they love the data. When they see the results, she works to make it crystal clear that our process has produced those results. “This is the way we got those, so that’s how we’re going to do it for you.”
When a sponsor can’t or doesn’t want to do it that way, what’s the point? Who wins? Nobody. In fact, we both lose. Either the event doesn’t get produced at all, leaving everyone frustrated, or it gets produced but with a compromise somewhere along the line that yields commensurately compromised results. If that happens, not only is the customer not happy, but we aren’t either, because that amazing spreadsheet Nancy maintains starts to look not-so-amazing at all. And everything spirals downward.
I think every single person in this industry is familiar, to a greater or lesser degree, with what’s commonly known as the “Epic Way” of doing business, in which Epic makes sure a potential customer can do what they need to do in order to make the project successful. Epic has long understood they are not selling banner ads but webinars, and they need the other side to come through on its deliverables. Only in doing so has Epic built a business known for successful implementations, 90 percent of which is assured by their prequalification process before a contract is ever signed. And so, all spirals upward.
But what’s this to me, you ask? A lot. I’ve heard many CIOs talk about the need for a real “partner” on the other side of a system implementation. I’ve even heard a CIO say he will pull back on supporting a project, or not go forward at all, if there is no firm commitment from a clinical or operations person who heads the department in question. To do so anyway is surely a recipe for failure, he said.
Just as it takes two to tango (ask Argentine Tango King Ed Marx), and a few more to produce a solid webinar (ask us), so it takes many more to make a successful IT implementation (which you well know). Don’t be under the illusion that if you build it they will come. In fact, you likely need them to build it at all, and, as Shafiq Rab says, “If you have them build it with you, they’re already there.”