A Forgotten Hurdle …..
I was in Los Angeles last night, and I had dinner with a good friend, and previous co-worker from my former company, Advertising.com. We got into an animated discussion on a wide array of topics, one was centered around the single concept of, “CREATING VALUE.”
Why does one company succeed and another fail? (2 companies that look, act, smell, and compete in the marketplace)
Is it luck?
Strategy and Execution?
A combination of the three?
As Andrew Weissman says, “value creation comes from a strong sense of mission, as well as copious amounts of caffeine.”
Well, I’ve added one (or two) major element/reasons why some companies SUCCEED, where others fail, or simply never realize their potential.
(I must admit that I had completely forgotten just how important this particular aspect of WHY certain companies succeed, where others fail, until my dinner last night – and my friend from across the table said three letters to me……..)
Not the term that is familiar to most, Chief Technology Officer -- but, rather......
CTO stands for – “Conversion Tracking and Optimization” – and before I lose you, let me tell you this will NOT be a post about technology – but rather a key undervalued ingredient, of why I believe some companies succeed, where others don’t.
CTO! Damn CTO. As soon as he said it, in between bites of his Cobb Salad, Calamari, and Popcorn Shrimp……..I started to sweat.
“What did you say?” I asked him, as I almost spit out my Pale Ale on the table.
He replied casually, "CTO."
Those letters struck me like my 3rd grade teacher disciplining me on multiplication tables – it immediately invokes emotions, coupled with a “strong momentary pit in the stomach.”
CTO was the single term in my existence that made me a better communicator.
Because, CTO was about one thing for me. OVERCOMING OBJECTIONS.
In 1999 we developed(Advertising.com) a model that delivered results to advertisers. Leads, Sales, Clicks, Downloads, Sign ups, Views, email addresses, surveys……..they were all sold to advertisers in a manner that meant the following.
“An advertiser only paid us when we delivered a result, thus, each of our marketing partners had ZERO risk in our fundamental business equation…..we delivered sales, leads – and they paid us on what we delivered.”
But, without accountability (specific counts of how many sales we drove on our advertisers websites) there was NO WAY to measure our performance and effectiveness. We were at the mercy of our clients to tell us how many sales we drove to them? With delays? With trust factors? It was NO way to build a scalable business platform……..
CTO meant we needed to put our technology (code) on a advertisers website.
(we also had to optimize the placements, of what MEDIA website drove the sale, so our technology could pinpoint sources of web inventory that would drive more results)
Here is what CTO taught me in a nutshell.
A clients conversation with me, in 1999…went something like this:
“Andy, I like your business model, but we cant put your CTO pixels on our website – there is ZERO chance, it will NEVER EVER HAPPEN. I’m not going to allow you, to put any coding or tags on our website – even if it makes you more effective. You will just have to trust our counts, and rely that we are going to partner with you -- but your CTO pixels on our site are a non – starter.”
I replied……”I understand…..but”
Client gets louder, and interrupts me – “I’m going to go with Flycast, or Phase 2 Media, or another network that does not want to put their CTO tags on our site. Bye Andy”
I’m cringing as I type this……remembering these conversations.
But then….I got good at responding.
I got really good – at explaining precisely why “Conversion Tracking and Optimization” benefits the advertisers more than they could imagine. I got really good at OVERCOMING OBJECTIONS – in a changing fluid, and evolving market……
We got good at educating our employees, and sharing knowledge on best practices – thus, helping to “institutionalize” the focus of, overcoming real client objections, to CTO.
Our culture at Advertising.com enabled people across all departments to share information, and engage challenges DAILY…..through a morning all hands on deck, war room meeting.
Our culture created an atmosphere where sales people did not compete for commissions, recognition, or territory – but rather for something more important…..the ever crucial fundamental motivator, of knowing that you, personally --- were helping to CREATE VALUE, where none previously existed.
Empowering each employee with a fundamental guideline of the business. DAILY.
And, that my friends is a simple yet often overlooked element of what helps differentiate successful companies from their competitors.
Let me summarize:
1) Sharing common client objections, WITH EVERY EMPLOYEE. Making the "client concerns" -- EMPLOYEE KNOWLEDGE BASES. Learning that if your clients have questions, objection and concerns about your business, SO DO YOUR EMPLOYEES.
2) Understanding precisely, WHY clients have objections to your business concept - may consist of:
a) your message and technology suck. (which I know our's at the time did not)
b) your business model/technology is AHEAD of the market, which requires you to sell at a COMPLETELY different level)
Advertising.com was (is) AHEAD of the marketplace in ideas, technology, and most of all - execution and strategy.
A great piece on the company, AND CREATING VALUE - written by our Financial Guru, Mike Woosley is HERE.
We also (as a company) excelled at a little known commodity, called "overcoming objections" -- and specifically CTO -- was the concern that required the most attention.
CTO was a forgotten hurdle in my past life.
A "forgotten hurdle" (objections to a concept/technology/idea) that is overcome, and conquered successfully, certainly helps shape us individually -- and makes us better people.
But, can that translate to making ENTIRE COMPANIES more effective and productive?
I think so, because we are living it again.
Social Media, and USER GENERATED content, present so many unique opportunities to CREATE VALUE, and move the market forward -- that some of the same "objections and concerns" are present once again......
The concerns are different, and more advanced, but they are still present, in this evolving landscape of internet media, and monetization.
And, that single hurdle of INSTITUTIONALIZING objections and concerns -- ACROSS THE ENTIRE COMPANY, helped us to yield, and deliver tremendous results.
I believe that it was a core element, (and little noticed) to what made us successful, where our competititors with similiar models, FAILED.
Value Creation comes in many forms......
CTO, and all of it's baggage that it presented to me at the time, made me a better communicator, and most of all - instilled my belief that CLIENT CONCERNS on your business practice need to be -- company opportunities to BOND.
That is what we are doing.....and I'm proud to say --- it is working.