We asked GrowthX advisor, Odile Roujo, former President of Lancôme International, about what advice she would give startups who want to pitch corporations in the European market. Here is what she shared with us:
1 – FOCUS ON HUNGRY CORPORATE CLIENTS!
There are cycles and shifts in every industry that make people aware of the need for disruption. It is key to evaluate and make the case for a change to their current practices.
Take the example of hospitality: Booking.com and Airbnb make CEOs and their Executive Comittees eager to take risk and move fast. They’re open to new ideas and innovative technological solutions and they invest a lot in their own platform and partnerships (fi Accor group).
The bigger the danger, the faster we move.
Paradoxically, “data poor” industries, such as consumer product goods (as depending on transactions and retailers) can be more advanced than financial institutions, telcos, and other “data rich” industries, fighting with silos, and layers of IT in their architecture.
If you think about Coca Cola or Procter, they’re moving fast as global companies, encouraging best practices in their markets and brands, centralizing key decisions for tools and taxonomy.
2- SHARE STORIES!
If you meet CEOs and their executive team, you’ll make them touch your innovation. Tell them a compelling customer story. It’s helpful to develop a process to listen to their feedback and develop empathy with their final user/consumer.
You could be impressed by their millions of customers, amazed by their presence in so many markets, and astonished by their budget spending.
There are also plenty of ways you inspire teams and C-level executives. They’re excited about meeting with you in the Silicon Valley, they like the way you manage with no heavy hierarchical layers, your ultra cool offices, your messages full of energy and showing new opportunities, they admire your free spirit of pioneers.
The executive team’s debrief will give your startup an awareness to a larger team. However don’t underestimate the need of a quick follow-up with operational teams with your product experts and not only your sales team. People will forget about your product quickly when someone is not their to have the right answer to their questions.
The narrative and the follow up are essential.
3 -IDENTIFY YOUR CHAMPION!
Choose your champion in the company. This should be a decision-maker connected to the business, endorsed by the CEO, and respected by his peers.
Who is the best contact in the company for aligning business and IT solutions?
On one hand, CIOs are accountable about the IT reliability. They want to build a solid and secure data hub to explore data, give access to it in a readable way, and find the right solution to store and use information.
On the other hand, most CEOs trust one person in their executive committee to move forward for a better customer experience. They know it’s key for a change in the culture, fighting silos, open to the ecosystem of start up, agile (test and learn), and transversal.
Depending on industries and top managers, you could have different scenarios:
– Scenario 1: “The Adventurer”
A strong CDO (Chief Digital or Chief Data Officer) supported by the CEO, working well with his peers, managing a small core team and the huge transversal community, including profiles from different parts of the company: IT architects, data scientists, business owners, developers, designers, etc.
– Scenario 2: “The Legitimate Leader”
It can be the CMO, as having the spending around the CRM and media/digital, or the Head of Customer Experience, else the Head of Sales/On line.
If the leader works well with his counterparts, it’s a key factor for success.
– Scenario 3 : ” No One and Everybody”
Unfortunately this happens more often than we would think. For instance, your sales team could assert your startup has built a great relationship with your client (the person in charge of the proof of concept/use case), unfortunately after the first experiment with excellent results, communication could come to a deadlock.
If the team around the CEO is not aligned, scalability is impossible, as is agreeing on tools, KPIs, or priorities.
For having advocates sharing good feedback about your product/service:
-Trial – ideally free trial- is key : it helps to connect to many teams with similar needs and reduce iterations
-An open architecture with robust API can also help for rapid decision making
-Lastly, flexibility and scalability : depending on who buys, the structure of pricing can be built with an adaptable structure instead of just volumes (« if …then » scenariosds).
So, let’s take the “sandwich” image to be successful : once you have identified your champion, spend energy with your team at every layer of the company to make sure that the team is convinced by your offer and what you deliver.
4 – ACT GLOBAL AND LOCAL AT THE SAME TIME
Think for one minute about the value of location for your business. It’s the same for your client: Data is in the market!
Sure, data belongs to the customers first. They trust a company, a brand and employees to respect privacy and security, but who is in charge to maximize performance for the customers and generate value for the company? Operational teams.
Most global companies have decentralized budgets and decision-making process and most of the time they centralize the hub data, KPIs and reporting and analysis tools.
Corporate teams are role models, they help to align markets and areas behind the strategy of the company. They choose partners and technical solutions.
But they can’t do everything (even if they won’t tell you as part of the game).
You need both parts of the apple when you’re in contact with a Big Company.
5 – AVOID BABY SITTING…
Many Big Companies have created their own incubator. They love what you do. But at this stage, they don’t have enough time from their key decision makers and business owners to focus on the implementation of action plans and delivering their performance for quarterly business reviews and results.
Don’t expect too much of corporate teams in charge of incubators.
They’re still learning how to work with you and help you to find final customer target as the same time as nurturing their own innovation culture. So don’t baby sitt them, you don’t have time for that.
Meet people and decision makers, ask feedback about your products and services, improve them with fast implemented use cases, but don’t ruin your life pitching plenty of people and trying to convince them.
As a conclusion – yes, you’re small, they’re big. But they need you, just show a lot of empathy, respect who they are as a team, with their key challenges and own priorities to improve their customer experience and performance, and you’ll become soon their best ally!