In a more complicated world its not only customers that we need to get on side and inflence its also a whole array of stakeholders who directly or indirectly have an influence over your businesses success. Understanding and managing stakeholders is aimed at developing advocates for your business rather than blockers of progress
Successful business people are masters at stakeholder management, not only focusing their attention on selling to the end user but also recognising the people and organisations who can exert incfluence and deliver competitiive advantage be it through their networks, foresight, infleuence in the market place. Developing your networks and getting to know the ‘key players’ in your industry is essential to success and growth – rarely will a business achieve high growth with out exetring such infleunce.
The ‘key players’ not only open doors but they help you make more informed and better judged decisions. Incorporating their opinions into your decision making process can add a degree of foresight and intelligence that would be difficult to gain through standard research techniques.
Stakeholders come in two main categories, those directly involved in your business or internal stakeholders and those external to your organisation but whom have an influence over it. Understanding stakeholders helps to identify the organisations and people with influence and what you must do to win them over.
There are broadly three steps to deciding how best to manage stakeholders:
TOOL: Stakeholder Analysis
Stage 1: Identify your stakeholders:
Brainstorm all the people, organisations both internal and external to your organisation who have can exert influence over your future and success.
Stage 2: Categorise your stakeholders
The influence a stakeholder can have on your business will vary greatly. Its almost impossible to focus time and effort getting all stakeholders on side hence the necessity to identify the key players.
Use the below grid (adapted from Meldlow’s Power–Interest Grid) to group your stakeholders based on their interest in and influence over your business. This process will help you to identify which stakeholders can have the biggest impact on your business and who you should be focusing your effort on.
Stage 3 Develop your stakeholder management plan.
Now you understand the categories your stakeholders fit into its now essential that you can develop a plan to mange them and get their influence working for rather than against you. The level of management will vary for each category:
Key Players: it goes without saying that this is the core group and that you must focus on getting them behind your vision, mission and products and services. Turning this group into proactive advocates for your products and services will have a major impact on your businesses.
Attentive spectators: in the age of social media this group should not be dismissed, there are groups of individuals attentively spectating and airing their views to thousands over social media platforms, a good PR and social media strategy is essential to engage and win over this group.
Passive influencers: This group are currently uninterested, it is however wise to understand what interests this group as when the opportunity presents itself you can spread the word and awaken this group to your business proposition.
Passive spectators: This group currently has little influence on your business. You should however keep a watching eye; they may follow the crowd and get involved in conversations (e.g. over social media) or grow in influence over time.
One critical question when developing your Stakeholder Management Plan is ‘what’s in it for them’, the altruistic notion that people will get involved and become advocates for your business because it’s ‘the right thing to do’ may in theory be enough of a driving force, the (perhaps sad) reality however is that people have competing pressures and need a good reason to commit time and effort into a relationship with you and your business – hence you’ve got to understand ‘what’s in it for them’ and if possible fulfil their needs.
The below table is a useful tool to outline the key stakeholders and how you will manage the relationship.