The tension in the room was palpable. The CEO was clearly an unwilling hostage to the situation; that seemed clear. Amy and I were invited to this meeting by T, the vice president of marketing. He wanted to pursue a more aggressive marketing campaign to help his underperforming potential monster technology.
We were in the conference room chatting with T and his coworkers when the CEO entered and sat down stiffly without a word. He bore the pinched, angry expression of someone who had not been to the bathroom in some time.
I smiled and introduced myself and Amy, with our puckered friend grunting his name and nodding. He then had an exchange with T in fast Hebrew, which was way beyond my ken. T looked at us and thankfully shifted into English, presenting the company, its history and its products.
Sensing the deference everyone – except T - paid the CEO, I directed most of my attention to him as I looked around the room, responding, "Yes, T, thank you. I've already familiarized myself with your technology…"
"What can you do for us? I really don't see why we need your services," the CEO interjected. He was clearly a man who preferred to be elsewhere.
"Well," I smiled to him and took a deep breath, "as I was saying, I familiarized myself with your technology and looked up some of your competitors. The speed and accuracy of your technology blows your competition away according to independent analysis! Really, congratulations, you have the most outstanding numbers in your field, amazing stuff. Unfortunately, when I Googled your industry and products, your name never appears before the fifth page. In the long run, it doesn't matter if you have the best product if nobody knows you're there."
A heavy silence fell over us. The CEO turned red and the veins on his forehead and neck protruded.
"Our job is to craft the kinds of materials that will put you in front of key decision makers in your target industries, garner you valuable third-party validation, drive traffic to your website and generate sales leads," I continued after several long seconds, trying to get as much out before he either had a stroke or became apoplectic.
The CEO and T spoke in slightly less agitated Hebrew. The CEO stood, thanked us, and left. T looked at me, slightly stricken. "I can't believe you said that to him…thank you!" His colleagues were grinning as well. We started to receive projects from them every few months, case studies, trade show support, the occasional press release.
We didn't get the back story on this until two years later.
I was speaking with T during a briefing on a new product and that first meeting came up. "I never told you this, but we had a screaming match in the lunchroom in front of everyone before the meeting. It was one of the rare times I was able to scream louder than him, loud enough that he could hear me," smiled T. "He really didn't want to take that meeting, as you probably perceived."
If nobody knows you're there. Rendering one's self invisible or maintaining one's invisibility to the market. Why? Companies generally aren't built in stealth mode. You've got to get your messages out. Who you are, what you do, why you're the best. Let 'em know you're there!