Adding Trusted Sharing Conversations to a Consulting Process
Case Study

Context:

Melissa Stanz, a local marketing consultant,guidedour start-up company (Trusted Sharing) through a strategic marketing process. Her method usually involves two in person half-day sessions leading team members and advisors through a series of questions to help the group come up with the basic elements of a plan. In the first session, they articulate a Vision, Mission, and a set of Core Values; and in the second session, they identify the Target Market Groups, Benefits and messages for each market group, their Competition, and key Marketing Strategies.

WHAT We engaged in a series of online marketing conversations before and after an in person conversation with a smaller subset of the online group. Our consultant setup two online sessions with 15 advisors prior to and after a seven-person day-long conversation.

WHEN Fall, 2015

WHERE Asheville, N.C.

WHO A local consultant Melissa Stanz, working with Trusted Sharing.

Our company liked this approach and suggested we add a Trusted Sharing flex-time conversation before each live session, and she agreed to try that. Together we designed the two asynchronous conversations so that each set of questions (e.g., related to Vision, Mission, and Core Values, etc.) was contained in a separate section of the conversation called a Host Post.

Process:

Everyone contributed valuable ideas in the asynchronous conversations and the consultant’s skillful questioning guided the group through the process in each section. Her 20 years of experience with strategic planning elicited the kind of information necessary to generate an effective marketing plan. It was also very helpful to invite participants several days before the start of the Trusted Sharing conversation, and then to remind people on the starting date. We made a point of allowing enough time for the group to answer each new set of questions, and to come back and read others’ replies. In our case, we allotted 3-4 days for each type of questionplus a couple of days at the end.

At the end of the process, everyone expressed excitement because they had accomplished so much. The extra feedback from their asynchronous conversations on Trusted Sharing gavethe face to face grouplots of great material to work with.

On the day of the half-day live session following the first Trusted Sharing conversation, 7 people showed up -- team members and advisors – including 1 advisor participating by video from the West Coast. And of course, we included all of the contributions made by the larger group during the asynchronous Trusted Sharing conversation. Melissa then guided us through a very effective process which combineda wide range of contributions from the asynchronous Trusted Sharing conversation, and then grouped those and came up with a final draft for our Vision, Mission, and Core Values.

We then repeated the process with a second Trusted Sharing conversation and follow-up live session working on the next set of questions related to target markets, benefit messages, competition, and key strategies.

We also posted and discussed the results from our live sessions in an asynchronous feedback conversation so those that were not able to attend the live sessions could comment on the finished product.

Results and Benefits:

Our group observedfive main benefitsfrom adding a Trusted Sharing conversation prior to each live group session:

Melissa Stanz, our consultant, said that Trusted Sharing was such an efficient addition that it reduced the time spent on the in- person strategic planning by 40-50%.  She is eager to use it in the future, especially with geographically dispersed clients. She felt that the online introductions coupled with the interactive conversation on Trusted Sharing helped generate an exceptionally high quality product.
  • First, this method included many more peoples’ ideas throughout the entire process (before, during and after) because of the asynchronous contributions to the project. (This was because the Trusted Sharing conversations allowed people to participate on their own schedules over a several day period.)
  • Second, this online format of collecting information was much more efficient and less labor intensive for any one person. Over the course of a month,Trusted Sharing was able to collect ideas about 8 different topics from 15 people. This approach created a more powerful result because of its ability to integrate various strands of thought throughout the various conversations. (More people were able to contribute and refine insightful ideas and that enriched the final product.)
  • Thirdly, because of the asynchronous nature of the conversation, participants could wait until a clear insight came to them and then respond with their most developed thoughts. Introverts who take longer to formulate their thoughts could compete equally with those who respond more quickly and both could contribute equally without the time restrictions of an in-person meeting.
  • Fourth, there was a stronger sense of trust and familiarity within the face to face encounterbecause of their exchanges online. Our consultant said she usually walks into a room not knowing anyone and has to spend time with introductions and collecting ideas. In this case, she walked in with a clear idea of who she was working with and where to go because of their online conversations. The process she usually uses in an in-person format takes one or two days and she was able to reduce it to 4-5 hours because of the use of Trusted Sharing to gather information and refine it through interactive conversations before and after the face–to-face session.
  • Finally, the asynchronous Trusted Sharing conversations allowed the in-person group to come in with their ideas already somewhat developed and they could start out more focused, thoughtful, and energized during the live sessions. They were excited about how much they were able to accomplish in the end.

This is a great example of how Trusted Sharing can add valuebefore, in-between and after same-time group events.With Trusted Sharing’s new “Template” feature it is very easy for a facilitator or consultant to replicate a successful conversation by saving and re-using the same basic structure and process for a new set of clients.

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