How to get stakeholders on board with your campaign

Having the freedom to do any campaign at any expense might sound like a marketing dream, but for most of us, it just isn’t realistic. We have budgets, and we have stakeholders whose job it is to make sure that these budgets are allocated in (what they believe is) the best possible way.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is what provides us with guidelines, boundaries and the ability to have an easier time by staying within the brand’s safety zone. But what about when it’s time to challenge what’s been done before to do things a little differently?

Why change?

Is there any point of doing things differently?

You might already have a digital marketing plan that is getting you good results against the KPIs you’ve previously set. So maybe you don’t need to make any huge alterations to your campaigns right now, but eventually – whether it’s in a week, month, or year – you’ll need to mix things up.

External factors do and will effect your brand and the work you do for it. Think along the lines of your competitors (and on search engines this will include more than companies who offer a similar product or service) trends in customer behaviour, and all of the ups and downs that Google (and to an extent, the rest) like to surprise us with.

Hmm. We can never stay still, can we?

If your campaigns are already a bit “meh” then you’ll already know the importance of spicing up your marketing activities. Whether you’re trying to increase revenue and/or visits, gain a few cheeky backlinks, or you’re simply trying to get more visibility and recognition as a brand, making smart changes to your digital marketing strategies could be your solution.

Obviously it’s more complicated than that, but you get my point; the safety zone may feel all warm and comforting, but it’s never going to give you the thrills of exploring the unknown. And who knows what wonderful things could be waiting there?
Sunset beach

What are the barriers to change?

You might be lucky enough to have incredibly trusting stakeholders who are flexible enough to let you take on new ideas and directions. However, most of us need to put in a bit more effort to get sign-off on anything that might be seen as “risky”.

Each organisation has its own quirks and processes, but there are some similar themes that you’ll find across companies in terms of the barriers that you may face when it comes to making changes…

Nobody has tried it properly before

I frequently attend meetings and sit on conference calls where I hear decision makers dismiss ideas that could work brilliantly for their marketing efforts. Often, this simply comes from fear of the unknown.

DSCN2075

Because there haven’t been disruptors in the marketing team previously, or an agency has come in and pitched exactly what was asked and hasn’t used their skillsets to make improvements, any activity has just ticked along as normal.

If you are the disruptor, whether internally or from an agency, you should expect many, many, conversations just to get things off the ground.

Facing the unknown

Fear is normal in businesses of any size, but particularly so for those SMEs where taking bigger risks needs to equate to bigger returns, as failure to meet expectations can be felt more keenly by the team.

You might be told, “this is the way we’ve always done it” or, “that’s not how we do things here”. If you’re well off the mark, you might need to rethink your concepts, but if you’re brave and sure, you can try to modernise this thinking.

Team structure

Some businesses have teams that work closely together, and others have very distinct departments that operate within themselves and rarely look externally. When projects span many different areas and need input from marketing, PR, and legal, team structure becomes an important consideration.

One challenge I’ve frequently faced working in content and digital PR is that many internal PR departments have a very traditional approach, and don’t particularly like it when an agency comes in with ideas about how to incorporate more digital opportunities.

Lack of resource

Time and money are always going to be potential roadblocks for you, but they should be discussed and considered because you’re going to need to respond to any concerns from your stakeholders in this area when you pitch your ideas.

Brand values

Along the lines of “this is the way we’ve always done it”, brand values can sometimes override everything that you want to do. Having a defined set of brand values can help all communications and activities to adhere to the appropriate tone of voice, but this can also mean missing out on opportunities.

I once carried out keyword research for a brand and presented them with data that was initially met with horror; the terms I identified were never ever used on the website (they definitely should have been, and eventually they were phased in!).

How you can get people to support change

There’s a great post on Moz all the way back from 2013, but the concepts are just as relevant now as they were then. Adria Saracino wrote about how to get your boss to care about content marketing, which she said is also about the idea of “how to be good at getting what you want”.

Of course, in order to get good at what you want, you need to be prepared to put in the hard work. Here are just some of the areas you’re going to need to consider…

Data will be your best friend

Small decisions can sometimes be made on best guesses or even just a hunch, but you’re going to need more than that if you’re going to be pitching your campaign to decision makers.

“I think we should do a content marketing campaign because I reckon it could drive more visits” is never going to convince anyone involved.

So what kind of data will you need? It’ll need to tell the whole story, and it’ll need to be presented clearly and without your bias (e.g. don’t remove important data because it doesn’t help to sell your story, or you’ll end up being bollocked in the long run!).

Here are some ideas for the kind of data you’ll need to gather, depending on your campaign:

  • Cost (internal/external)
  • Time resource required by each person on the project
  • Market need/want – search volumes, forum thread and social media mention count, trend statistics
  • Potential reach – e.g. Facebook audiences
  • Key metrics for similar examples (try Buzzsumo or Moz Content if you’re talking content)
  • Competitor backlink profiles & currently visibility
  • Any relevant Google Analytics, Google Search Console reports (and all the other tracking tools you rely on)

Develop people, not just ideas

I wrote earlier about facing the unknown and the fear that can go hand-in-hand with this. There are ways you can try and alleviate some of these fears by actually developing the skills of people in the team and your stakeholders, including:

  • Bringing decision makers to a conference so they can be part of the discussion rather than just seeing one side of it
  • Bringing decision makers to exhibitions; speaking slots here are often based on brand case stories and could feature your direct competitors
  • Holding internal training sessions before pitching your big idea

Make competitor insight your secret weapon

Don’t just copy your competitors, but you should definitely know what their marketing team is up to, or what they’ve done in the past.

Are they at risk of being penalised for spam? Are they getting awards for excellent campaigns? Essentially you will need to investigate where they’re falling down, and what they’re doing really well.

Opportunities can be found in the failings, and ideas can stem from the successes. Again, have the data and facts to back up what you find.

When I showed one client what their main online competitor was doing with bloggers, they were shocked into taking action. They had no idea what they were doing before that as they’d never taken the time to look; it didn’t sit within their core activities or the way the team previously operated in silos.

Make it simple, but don’t dumb it down

Simplification is an art. You’re going to need to find the right formats to present your campaign change ideas to each stakeholder.

Some people prefer a summary, others need visual aids, and others need hard data to analyse. Don’t give all people everything; instead, tell the story as will be best understood by each decision maker.

Get collaborating

It’s no secret that each person in an organisation wants to feel valued and in control of the work they do, so be careful that you’re not stepping on too many toes or being condescending in your approach.

Huskies

To get more people on board early on, why don’t you seek out those who could become ambassadors for your ideas? This works best when you can come together from different teams and areas of the business, as it shows a wider strategic thinking, as opposed to being known as the disruptive marketing team!

Compromise with a test

You might not get everything you want the first time you try, but can you settle for doing a test campaign instead?

If you don’t have enough data to back up your concept, or your stakeholders are still reluctant, you might have a better chance of getting sign-off if you scale back your ideas a bit.

I’ve worked with clients on their first ever blogger events, and their first forays into paid social media advertising, and the results from these have led to carrying out the concepts that were originally presented.

Think of it as a slow burner, but it can still be effective in the long run.

How do you do it?

These are my tips for how to be good at getting what I want. I won’t lie; they don’t always work when there are other factors in play during the decision making process, but at least I know I’ve done everything within my power to try and progress a great idea into a reality when met with these circumstances.

It’d be great to hear about how you try to drive change within your organisation or with your clients. Leave me a comment below, or join the conversation over on Twitter with your ideas.

Hannah Butcher

About Hannah Butcher

Hannah has been working in the digital marketing industry since 2009, specialising in content and outreach. Hannah is the Lead Influencer Marketing Strategist at Melt Content, and will be speaking at BrightonSEO in April 2017.

  • Cheers for that Hannah, some great insights.

    In response to your final question, “It’d be great to hear about how you try to drive change within your organisation” , I read something earlier in the week on Medium that I think you will enjoy. https://medium.com/the-mission/this-fbi-hostage-negotiation-tactic-makes-you-a-better-leader-a4afe919c18d#.6blfgrt6z

    Anyone that reads your article and gets this far down the page should click on the link as its about hostage negotiation, and how the negotiator makes the captor feel like they have been heard, in a bid to move forward and release the hostage. Its a tactic that appears like it could be quite useful in moving things forward in a business environment when two stake holders have opposing views.

    • Hi Andrew, thanks for your comment. What a great post you’ve referenced; I’ve just read it and it’s really interesting. I think I need to get my hands on a copy of that book!