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.