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Aug 06, 2007
Blog Post

Tour of Talent: Why Marketers Should Go on the Road to Visit Vendors' Offices

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, Content Director

In 2004, the marketing team at Ciena Corp., a global telecom equipment supplier, had a major image problem with management.

As VP Global Marketing Bill Rozier explains, "Marketing was seen as a press release and trade-show team, a tactical group with marginal business value. At best, marketing was a 'cost of doing business.' "

Today, just three years later, the same marketing team has a seat at the executive table, is invited as a key player to all sales meetings and is credited with building a fully qualified sales funnel of $120 million.

How do you go from nobody to superhero status so quickly?

One of the many factors Bill cites is his in-person partner meetings. Every July, just as the teams are prepping ideas for their big end-of-year push, he and handpicked staffers go on a personal tour of key vendors' offices.

He calls it his "Tour of Talent."

Why not make vendors come to his office instead? After all, he's a busy guy and they are supposed to serve him, not the other way around. Bill says you simply don't get the same benefits from the "vendor dog and pony show." He explains, "If you're really talking about your relationship as a partnership, then you should put the effort into visiting them."

That in-person meeting can turn you from one of many clients into a most-favored client and build communications that can make-or-break you when things get insane during the height of promo season. Plus, you'll get to dig deeper into the vendor's organization -- meeting the juniors, techies and creatives who serve your account -- instead of just the principals.

Although Billís meetings have a formal agenda, he says the most valuable interaction is connecting on a human level -- laughing and breaking bread together.

So, while he and I heartily endorse all the technology that can help keep a team connected throughout the year, from shared analytics dashboards to video conferencing, for true success you have to go eyeball-to-eyeball at least occasionally.

I think this is tough for many marketers because as a breed we are not very outgoing animals. We tend to be readers and writers, introverted thinkers, rather than social gadflies. If you're that great at socializing, you're probably an account exec or in sales!

Personally, this weighs on me, because, of course, I have to hang out networking at MarketingSherpa Summits. I'm probably an absolutely prototypical marketer -- sometimes I yearn to run up and be alone in my hotel room instead of networking with all those customers and partners at the cocktail party.

Yet, when I force myself to conquer my nature and meet people eyeball to eyeball, that's when the magic happens. That's when together we come up with new ideas for research projects, better ways to help people and a big rush of fellow-feeling. I walk out of each cocktail party on a total high, determined to serve our readers even better now that I *really* know them.

My advice? Copy Bill and meet with your key vendors in person at their locations. And, while you're out there, see if you can fit in some customer meetings, too. (Note: not just hiding behind that focus group mirror.) Your entire world view changes once you have hung out in person with your partners and customers.

You can never be too busy for the kind of value this will bring you. Never, ever.

BTW: If you would like to meet Bill in person, he is speaking at Sherpa's B-to-B Summits in Boston and San Francisco this fall. I'll be there, too. If you see me gulp as I enter the room, now you know why.

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