Marketing Strategy · Growth

Marketing & Growth: Experience or Contacts - What's better?

Dr. Geoff DePaula visionary, integrative medicine doc, disruptor

March 8th, 2016

When hiring a marketing/growth partner- is it better to have someone with experience (maybe not in your sector) or contacts (in your sector).  We are in the value-based healthcare sector but can bring some of our offerings (that have a proven and significant ROI) to companies health plan decision makers at no cost (we take a % of savings). it better to hire someone with experience "getting in the door" or who already has many "connections" at medium to large employers (5K + employees).  In this case, the connections/target would be the decision makers of the companies self-funded health plan.

What is better?

Which would you choose & why?

Jessica Magoch Sales doesn't have to be a dirty word. Get more clients without being icky, sleazy, or just plain annoying.

March 8th, 2016

I'm guessing most people would say the contacts, but I have seen time and time again people paying someone for their network or their book of business and being disappointed at the results.  The people who have the contacts and are great at closing are not looking for a job. 
Someone who can get in the door time and again is more valuable long term. A few reasons: 1) When your business shifts (healthcare is volatile) this person will need to shift quickly.  2) When your company starts to grow, this person will have to duplicate his/her efforts in others.You can teach people how to get in doors, but you can't teach them how to call on a network they don't have. If you want to scale, you need to consider the person's sales acumen and if it's a duplicatable process.  3) Finally, what happens when this person walks away with his/her network and relationships? 
My background is in health benefits, so feel free to contact me directly if you need to. 

Angela PhD Hausman & Associates

March 8th, 2016

First, I think it's important to distinguish between marketing and sales. What you're really talking about is using a sales partner to help with growth. And, yes. I think it's important that they have entre into your target market to ease access for sales purposes. They can develop the appropriate knowledge to sell your product into that market. When you talk about marketing, it's less critical that they have specific knowledge about your market or entre into your target market. Sometimes the best marketing strategies are those coming from an entirely different industry. Angie Angela Hausman, PhD Hausman and Associates MKTMaven Angie on LinkedIn Angie on Twitter Angie on Facebook

Ema Chuku Product Developer. Founder.

March 8th, 2016

I would go with experience. 8 out of 10 times one with experience usually have established contacts (killing 2 birds with 1 stone). Mind you, one with contacts don't always mean they have experience 

Dennis Bernstein Business and Organizational Development

March 8th, 2016

Good Morning Geoff, very simply put if you could find someone with connections in this space it is far better than having someone who can "get in the door". Generally speaking "getting in the door" of these offices is very difficult, time consuming and results can be very unpredictable. Some lead generation firms will tell you that they can do this for you but my experience in working with them has proven that they sell an appointment to appease. The thinking is that you should have no problem getting in the door of a decision maker when you tell them there is no cost to them. But there are significant costs ie. switching costs which in some cases outweighs any savings you might have. Are the savings significant enough to make the change or is it just a blip on their P and L. I can tell you this first hand since I have sold that value proposition for some of my clients in the past. We ended up going away from that message and talking about the benefits of our mouse trap not the cost. The reason why you want someone with connections is this old adage "All things being the same people want to do business with their friends, All things being not the same people still want to do business with their friends". People with connections that have worked in and around the industry can make a phone call and get a friendly meeting where they can talk about many things not just your product, they have influence and they can ask those people for introductions to other colleagues without any sales call reluctance because they have done business with them before (even if they haven't done business their is a familiarity with them which makes the process much more smooth). At your service, Dennis

Chris Owens

March 8th, 2016

Well, I'm not sure the question can be answered as either/or the way you laid it out.  There are a couple of questions I would ask myself in this case:

1) Which is your main or most important strategy for growing the business?  Is your strategy focused around marketing and advertising for customer acquisition, or is it more a business development play where you build key connections and get in the front door that way.  The answer is different for each business.

2) About this person's connections: business networking is my wheelhouse, and what I tell people is that person's connections have a DEPTH to them that should be known.  That is, you go from NEVER MET to ACQUAINTANCE to TRUSTED CONTACT to FRIEND.  The later the stage on that scale the more valuable the connection.  I find that many people think networking is like accumulating a mailing list of contacts.  In other words, they have a bunch of people at the level of ACQUAINTANCE and they think they have "connections".  Inquire as to how deep these connections are, so you get the real estimate of the potential value, rather than a bunch of PR on how connected the person is.

3)On the marketing side, ask yourself how important having specific experience in marketing in your field is.  In some industries a person can cross over from marketing one type of business to another without requiring much of a re-orientation.  In other industries, it might require more specialized experience to be able to grab the ball and run with it.  Whether that applies in your case or not, you would know better than I.

Joe Slade FCMO | Marketing Innovator | B2B Marketing Next Practices | Thought Partner| Mentor |

March 9th, 2016

It's not a matter of either/or. Successful business marketers know that it is a process that uses all of your assets to join the buyer on his/her journey. You might benefit more by taking a look at this map.



Sidney Sclar SID the SECURITY PRO at

March 8th, 2016

Good? Better? Best? One can always teach benefits and features to a Sales person. Direct contacts are gold.

Mark O'Toole Marketing, communications & branding to help companies find their rallying cries

March 8th, 2016

What's left once the contacts dry up? Contacts are fleeting, experience is forever.

Rob G

March 8th, 2016

Geoff, your question is a bit confusing/inconsistent:  you ask about "marketing & growth partner" yet the details talk about getting in the door and closing deals in medium to large companies. Are you after building a long-term plan to educate your market and generate demand? (marketing) or are you looking more at a short-term plan to get into select companies to generate revenue and/or prove your product market fit (sales)?  The two certainly are not mutually exclusive, but they are different.  If you are after a long(er)-term solution intent on building demand over a broad swath of prospects i would say find an experienced marketing partner who will help bring prospects/customers to your door (VS 'getting in the door').    If the plan is for near-term revenue and/or product/market fit needs i would say the decision is not 'experience opening doors' VS "many contacts in medium/large employers".  

I'm Just guessing, but i get the impression you are at the early stages of this in which case you are going to open far more doors with happy, referenceable customers than you will with an army of 'door openers'.   When you can provide testimonials from 2 or 3 or 10 'known' companies the doors will open faster.  If that is the case i would be very carefully defining who my IDEAL prospects are - if you are targeting medium to large orgs (5k+ employees) these are long sales cycles and often complex and it is hard to get their attention let alone get them to make a decision and spend money with a startup (again, just guessing).  Use a laser not a fire hose.  this leans toward someone with specific relationships - not a big network, but the right network.  Get very specific and focused to the point where you can identify the 1 or 2 or perhaps as many as 5 ideal companies and their individual decision makers / influencers then devise a plan to reach them.   That typically points to one or more 'partners' who know these decision makers well enough to pick up the phone and have a personal chat ending with a scheduled meeting. It pays to get very focused and get your first few wins and referenceable customers then you can build a longer-term plan to bring prospects to your door. 

Dr. Geoff DePaula visionary, integrative medicine doc, disruptor

March 8th, 2016

Great points Chris & Dennis!   How "well" you know someone is important!

Dennis, You are right on as far as "Are the savings significant enough to make the change or is it just a blip on their P and L".  Our approaches save 9-15% of the TOTAL health plan spend, so it is definitely significant to the P&L...especially as it compounds over 3-5 years.