New Business Development: Culling Digital Media Walkers from Talkers

In this case, experience does not matter...

In this case, experience does not matter…

Introduction: Determining who has the experience and understanding necessary, to lead New Business Development in a Digital Marketing / Agency or Client company context can be a tough thing to get right.

To make identifying those who’ve got the commitment and understanding that are necessary to do the job, I offer a suggestion on how to make the first cut. I suggest you cull those that “do”, the Digital Media Walkers, from those that “don’t”, the Digital Media Talkers. My lens for this article is for the most part, focused on an individual’s personal relationship with Digital Media, past their job.

Representing the greater whole
New Business represents the greater whole. New Business sits in front of a prospective Client, pulls it together, articulates issues, as well as navigates and engages with, many different pockets of deep subject matter expertise – on both “sides”, the Client, as well as within their own Co’s.

Getting smart
Early on, as digital media became more complex, with more moving parts to connect, I wanted more hands-on knowledge, allowing me to better understand and cogently explain, a lot of what my company, as well as digital media offers the digital marketer.

I decided to become a Digital Media, New Business Walker. I was going to use personal interests as the subject matter and content to fuel my participation. From soup to nuts, I’d figure it out, from buying URL’s to setting up WordPress blogs, and creating an ETSY store.

The Elephant in the room
Increasingly, I saw it was left to Clients and ecommerce pioneers to “stitch it all together” to make revenue. Agency prescribers didn’t live on a pay for performance scale; revenue was the Clients hassle. Having built a small ecommerce presence myself, I didn’t understand the disconnect: Revenue drives all, and is the ultimate metric – yet we Agency folk rarely spoke of it.

Are you all in?
Frequently, I interact with New Business Development talent; people whose work affect businesses deeply. Oddly they never speak of client revenue, ROI, profit, they don’t know the Client’s stock price; haven’t visited their site. They do not connect their work with client success or revenue, for the most part. Metrics are invented and “codified”, their connective tissue to the financial health of a Client company, is tenuous at best.

Many have no personal skin in the digital media world, no investment or commitment to digital media, past their 9->9 workday. They’ve no understanding from a first-person perspective, on how to stitch it together to make money, or how to make social media perform as a platform and toolset, even at a small “personal” business level. At work, they handle their specific piece of the puzzle, “the relationship/ conducting the orchestra” aspect of New Business, and punt to subject matter experts, when anything gets in the least bit specific.

Culling Walkers from Talkers
When I run across a New Business person (but this could be applied to any digital title) I do a little homework. The goal is to identify Digital Media Walkers from Talkers. It’s simple, and I suggest if you are considering hiring a “digital anything, especially a leader” that you follow suit.

I ask myself broad questions such as:
Does the expert have a personal website?
How does their site rank in terms of the content or subject matter?
Do they come up on Page 1?
Do they own their own name in a URL?
Have they activated: Twitter, FB, IG, flickr, Tumblr, Yelp, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Pheed, eBay, LinkedIn, a Blog?
Do they have followers/views in any channels?
Do they have an online ecommerce presence?
Do they have CMS experience?
Have they created an editorial calendar?
Have they built, or maintained a WordPress site?
Can they read a simple site traffic report and explain it in layman’s terms?
Do they understand real world analytics?
Do they have an AdSense account?
Have they managed keywords?
Have they ever written, designed or launched an email blast?
Is “digital media” a job, or their life?

You get the idea.
I’d not expect everyone can check every box, but if you have the goods, it’ll be clear.

An impartial audit
No matter your affinity for their particular subject matter, the [y/n] checklist gives an impartial view of a persons “digital investment”. If their “personal time” thing is quilting, I’d expect to see that they’ve participated in some quilting groups, shared pictures of some work, have their own site, or have some platform in place to share their work. If they are a reader, watch collector or film buff, I’d expect to see a picture, an interaction, maybe a critique or two, if they are a foodie, a Yelp review, maybe a Flicker foodie account?

My expectations are that someone who is committed to Digital Media/ New Business, has substantive hands-on experience, as well as an established personal, digital presence – that they be a Digital Walker, investing personal time and effort into gaining experience, earning “cred”.

What does a Walker look like?
If you are a digital “New Business person” and haven’t hassled with passwords, buying a URL, writing content, using CPanels, installing a Widget into your WordPress site, or getting an AdSense or YouTube account straightened out: you are a Digital Talker, and as such, aren’t qualified to lead New Business Development – Enterprise, SMB or Org.

In this instance, it really is less about “channel activation”, rather its more about the persons ability and willingness to mix it up, to express themselves. If you are active online, chances are good, that you are writing, thinking, focusing, interacting, honing writing and communication skills. Conversely, if you are a ghost, nowhere to be found, you are looking “in from the outside”.

Who has the time for this?
So, Hiring Manager, why take the time to make sure the executive, charming, well spoken, six-figure earning New Business person in front of you, is not a Digital Talker, and can stitch together the million and one things, a basic Internet marketer or social media maestro, must consider? Why ask, when many of the items in the list aren’t on the surface, anyway, seemingly relevant or mission critical to that person’s executive day-to-day job.

Well, the competitive stakes, the complexity of digital media, the necessity of navigating across organizational layers and specialties, and the investment in talent, make it just too important for that person not to love it, or be personally involved.

The ability to get granular, understand even at a high level, how things work and why – and be empathic from a consumer/ user perspective – helps immeasurably – especially in Business Development. Yes, the ability to connect, lunch it up, conference it like a pro, as well as build relationships is important, but personal dynamism does not take the place of love, personal knowledge and a deeper understanding of digital media.

Get on it! Get it on!
I hear the New Business Talkers howls in the halls…. WHAT! I don’t have the time for that.. It’s not relevant to my job… I work on global business… You don’t understand … My URL name isn’t available… I have no need for any of those channels, LI is enough… I don’t need my own URL…I don’t have a subject,… I am an EVP… I am not a writer… I can’t use a camera… it’s confusing… I’m busy traveling…. Who do you think you are!

In Closing
It takes a lot of time and energy to be involved in digital media at a personal level – you have to love it. It is a long-term, time-consuming effort, to assert your place, to earn your own voice; a personal voice across channels. Taking your own medicine, building it yourself and thriving, is a powerful accomplishment, especially at the Exec level. Earning your cred by, “Walking It” is a strong competitive New Business advantage in a world chock full of Talkers.


  • Take a look – hire digital leaders who love and live Digital Media, who’ve made a personal investment.
  • If Digital Media is your game (yeah, YOU New Business Person!), be in it, get on it and get it on!
  • To be able to explain much of what digital media offers, it helps immeasurably to live it.
  • New Business people should be knowledgeable, knowing how and when to tap subject matter expertise to pull it together.

Thank you for your time!

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