Do You Really Know Your Stakeholders? Four Questions to Ask

3 min read

Think fast: who are the people who have a genuine investment in your business? Don’t think about people who have invested money in you, but rather those whose actions directly relate to your business. These are your stakeholders: the people or groups of people who have interests that align with the services your business provide, and the people you should be reaching out to in your marketing.

However, it’s not always easy to figure out who these people are, and once you do, it’s hard to figure out their impact on your business. We’ve put together a few question to help you narrow down your focus and target those key people.

Is this person a truly target stakeholder?

Look at your past business experience to figure out who your stakeholders are. While this may sound obvious, it’s not. Businesses often fall into the trap of thinking that the people or organizations who are served by their business are their stakeholders. But if you’re an education technology startup that teaches kindergarten math, 5-year-olds are not your main stakeholders — they have no buying power! Instead, look at people who you’ve interacted with: they may be teachers or principals interested in your product, parents who homeschool their children or are looking for after-school help or even businesses who provide daycare for their employees’ children. Your stakeholders may not be obvious, but they’ll naturally arise when you see who has shown interest in your product.

What does this person do on a Friday night?

This may sound silly, but the best way to find out how a person will behave at work is when they’re doing anything but working, so try and imagine them on a Friday night. Is your stakeholder going wild at the clubs or watching a movie at home with their family and kids? Do they make a healthy homemade meal or get pizza? These personal habits will determine how you want to market yourself to them. Getting inside their heads will help you identify what messaging resonates with these stakeholders. From there you can finely target your content to make it relevant to their lives and needs.

What keeps this person up at night relating to your brand (and how can I help them?)

For this question, take a clue from the sales world: to sell your product, you need to be able to identify a pain point that your stakeholder has and figure out how you fix it. You need to find a reason that they want to invest in you — a reason strong enough that they lose sleep over it! Along with this, find out exactly how you can help them. What part of your product or service will most help to solve their problems? If you can’t find something that this person is losing sleep over related to your brand, they may not be your target audience.

How much do they impact your organization’s future?

A stakeholder who initially seems important may be less so (or vice versa) when you take into account how much they impact your organization’s future. Your primary stakeholder — the one to whom you should be focusing the majority of your marketing efforts — are those who can impact your organization the most, whether through financial investment, positive publicity or even through providing powerful connections. It’s often the case that this primary stakeholder isn’t the direct target of your organization, but rather a related person or entity with similar goals. In this step, it’s easy to lose sight of reality and try to compensate for that direct target, assigning them impact that they may not actually have. Resist the temptation and let yourself be surprised at which stakeholder emerges as the most important!

Knowing your stakeholders is one of the most important elements of creating a strong marketing plan. Let us know: how do you reach your stakeholders?


Photo Credit: David Wilson, Flickr via Creative Commons