Test to “Yes”

Check mark (image courtesy of PNASH)

I recently participated in a panel discussion and was asked about my experience gaining approval for new digital-marketing programs within a company that isn’t specifically tech focused.

It was a good question, and one I could speak to while thinking of a range of specific examples from a decade-plus in Internet/digital marketing, starting with a long-ago justification for e-commerce sales and progressing through the rise of paid-search, YouTube, social media and now mobile.

The basic formula I’ve found to work is:

1. Employ data over emotion

Use industry benchmarking and data points (e.g., “in 2012 U.S. mobile commerce sales increased 99% over prior year, to $21 billion”) to appeal to logic.

Enthusiasm is great and often infectious, but think of it as a support to the underlying factual argument.

And when you have the urge to shout, “of course we need to invest in X, it’s almost 2013 for God’s sake!!”… Resist. Resist. Resist.

2. Propose tests with limited risk

Pitch a course of action that starts small, with a modest budget and an exit plan.

“We’ll start with a 3-month test that will only cost $10,000. If it’s successful — as defined by hitting xyz metric – we’ll expand. But if doesn’t hit the goal we’ll stop.”

3. Persist, diplomatically

We’d all like a quick “yes,” and maybe you’ll get lucky and receive one. But to avoid frustration, start with the assumption that you’ll need to revisit your proposed idea numerous times and gain support little by little.

Revisit the topic diplomatically:  choose your spots wisely; tactfully share articles that support your recommended course of action; and be enthusiastic about your proposal but treat the other perspective with understanding.

If what you’re suggesting is a good idea, most likely the opposition will give way.

4. Humility in success

When your test is successful – as demonstrated by the data, of course – embrace the “we.”

“It’s great that we tried this, because the results have been fantastic; what we did has helped the business.”

No one wants to be reminded that they opposed a good idea or weren’t forward thinking. The biggest gain is in making everyone feel like one of the winners (and in fact, if the test helped the business, they are).

5. Retain the humility

When your next good idea comes around, more likely than not you’ll be starting from step 1 again.  But with the right approach you can test your way to success over and over.

4 thoughts on “Test to “Yes”

  1. Josh
    Excellent plan for gaining support for any department’s program in a business organization. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experiences.

  2. All great points, Josh. I particularly like #3, as I often feel people get turned down once and never try again. Good ideas not only need time to become accepted but also need the right situation (often a test — going back to point #2 on your list) in which to succeed.

    • Thanks very much for the feedback, Phil. My experiences introducing new ideas — even some that seem really obvious now but weren’t so to everyone at the time — definitely supports what we’re talking about.

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