COO and CFO Questions

Yesterday, I spoke the executive team and business unit leads at a very large insurance company. It was a long 4-hour session, where I gave a Groundswell presentation, discussed technographics, and gave specific case examples of their insurance industry and financial industry. It’s not my job to evangelize social media, but to tell them about the benefits and risks, and how it impacts their business, or if it doesn’t.

As you’ve seen from my recent post, there are few successes in the insurance industry. While every company must listen, the return on participating may not be right for every company and industry.

I’ve been doing these types of presentations since 2005, so I’m pretty used to the hurdle questions, and am always pleased to meet COO and CFO folks that have a solid business mind, and need to know how social media impacts business.

While many industries like tech, media and some consumer product companies have embraced this movement, many industries. If you’re going to be presenting to your executive staff or to clients, be prepared to answer the following questions, and back them up with data, examples, and insight, not just opinion:

Is this a fad?
What’s the future of these tools?
What are the costs and resources needed to do this?
Does every employee need to participate?
What’s the legal ramifications?
What happens if we do nothing?
What are the risks if we engage?
How do we measure success?
Does this hurt or help customers?
How does this increase revenues or reduce costs?

Simply put, the primary goal of business is about making money, so if you’re proposing a shift in resources, you better be able to back it up. It’s absolutely important that someone in the org challenges you, so you’ll need to be prepared. Lastly, for what’s it’s worth, despite the tough questions, the COO mentioned to me during the break the workshop was going well, and he told me he was actually a techie too, I can’t wait to get a beer with him next time, smart guy.

  • Thanks Jeremiah,

    This is the stuff that I am also coming across all the time, and I think there is plenty of discussion and sharing/learning to be done in this area.

    It is all too easy to get excited about the bleeding edge, and the ‘cool’ stuff that is happening, but at the end of the day, it always comes down to the bottom line… or its just a hobby.

  • Exactly Paul

    While excitement is motivating (I’m guilty too) we’ve got to look at the real value of these tools –or the lack of them.

  • Jeremiah

    A very relevant post as social media become start to become daily business.

    I am not so sure as you that “the primary goal of business is about making money” as you suggest. That is to confuse the simple results of successfully being in business, with the complex activity of being in business. Is this a mere quibble? No, it is a real problem, because it invites simplistic, short-sighted, short-term solutions from executives who should know better but who are always tempted by quick wins.

    As research by McKinsey and others has shown, most businesses that simply focus on making money do not prosper any where like as well as those who focus on the activity of being in business. Being in business means understanding what customers are trying to do, developing the capabilities to help them do so, understanding how to do this profitably and maybe even stitching them all together into an experiential brand. This involves collaboration across any number of, dare I say it, ‘stakeholders’ including the C-level decision makers who control the purse strings, middle management & delivery staff who have to make it work in addition to their daily business, customers who need to get drawn into co-creating, partners who do some of the delivery and others.

    The decision to invest in even a limited experiment in social media needs to consider the implications, involvement and impact on each of these groups. It should be considered as a real-option where the money is in learning about how to make social media work, not just in the more obvious success metrics. Not to do so plays into the hands of the short-termists amongst us who are always looking for another passing fad to attach their colours to.

    All this means concentrating on understanding how social media can drive value creation. Not just on the usual fall back of the business case with its simplistic, rose-tinted ROI calculations that so often accompany the decision to “shift resources” .

    Keep up the challenging posts.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

    Further Reading:

    McKinsey on What Is the Business of Business

    The Financial Times on The Role of Business

  • Jeremiah, thank you for this good, clear thinking!

  • Great stuff Jeremiah. Very typical C-level (and even below!) questions.

    I found it particularly interesting that you mentioned your job is not to “evangelize” social media. Is it completely possible to present absolute objectivity when your bread’n’butter (or at least a large portion of it) is social media?

    Thanks Jeremiah.

  • Gus

    Thanks for sharing this information Jeremiah. I’ve definitely come across these questions myself through my dealing with C-Level people.

  • An organization’s primary purpose is to make money but I think that the beauty of social media is that it allows the focus on relationships & offering excellent customer service.

    So I would beg to differ with the corporate stance that it’s online presence is for marketing. I’ve employed the model where providing excellent customer service results in a great WOM – but it’s organic & transparent. It will take stat’s to prove the value though.

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  • John

    Great question, yes, I must be completely objective, it’s my job to find the truth.

    If you check out my keywords called “challenges” you’ll see that I’m quick to point out the flaws in social media

    And to be completely, honest, the more challenges an industry has (which we call FUD: fear uncertainty or doubt) typically, the more questions clients have for analysts.

    It’s important that I set realistic expectations to clients, so they know what they are getting into. After all, in 6-12 months, they’ll know whether or not I was BS or not.

  • Thanks Jeremiah!

    Excellent points on how to consult CxO level on introduction of Social Media in their organization!

    I can put this to use myself!


    Jeroen de Miranda

  • I’m working through some of the same hurdles now. While some industries see the value-added very clearly, it’s much more of a stretch for others. Especially when the pay-offs are not immediate. It’s not easy to convince a client of a value added, when it may come 3 months down the road. Thanks for the post!

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  • I know every industry is different…but can we get some general answers to these questions?! Or maybe that would defeat the purpose of hiring you in the first place. But , there are some young professionals eager to learn (ahem, me) who would like to get an idea of how to diffuse some of those concerns above. Overall, great stuff. Thank you kindly!

  • I know every industry is different…but can we get some general answers to these questions?! Or maybe that would defeat the purpose of hiring you in the first place. But , there are some young professionals eager to learn (ahem, me) who would like to get an idea of how to diffuse some of those concerns above. Overall, great stuff. Thank you kindly!