How to Influence Stakeholders and Clients

Being a successful digital marketing specialist involves much more than having the best digital skills. You need to be able to persuade and influence those around you in order to really excel in this field. Whether you’re agency side or client side, there are always times when you need to influence someone’s decisions or gain their support. Approaching these situations strategically will help increase the likelihood of your desired outcome, whether that’s winning a pitch or securing more funding from your board.

Getting the most out of media requests

Build relationships and rapport

Having good relationships with people is fundamental if you want to influence them. You’re probably thinking of team days or taking clients for lunch as a way to build relationships, but often the most solidifying moments in relationships are built when they are not forced and are not expected. For example, I’ve seen some of the best relationship building happen in the moments at the start of a meeting when people are chatting before everyone arrives, or walking down the corridor to a meeting or on the train to a meeting. Next time you’re in those situations, put down your phone and leave the emails for later, because that time is gold dust for relationship building and will set the foundations for your future influencing.

Building rapport within these relationships is particularly important when you don’t have any formal authority over the other person but need to influence them. People are more likely to sway to your view when they like you.

Plan

If there’s a particular thing you need to achieve with influencing, you should plan out the key stakeholders involved.

  • List people who are likely to be supporters of your idea and who you need to engage and encourage.
  • List adversaries who you may need to work a little harder on in order to overcome their objections.
  • Have empathy and think about the other person and what their concerns, hopes and agenda might be
  • Plan to construct your argument in a way that demonstrates the benefits to them based on their point of view or concerns. Reframe things so that they align better with the other person’s agenda.

There are two main styles of influencing, Push and Pull, with two sub-styles within each. Your plans should include considering which styles you’ll use with which stakeholders. You probably have a naturally preferred style of influencing and recognise yourself in primarily one or two of the four boxes below. The key to taking your influencing to the next level is to be aware of your own style, but to actually move between styles depending on which style is going to be most effective on the person you are working to influence. The kind of language you use might change depending on the influencing style you’re using.

influencing stakeholders and clients

Don’t rely on the facts – appeal to their emotions too

You might think that having facts or stats that rationally prove your argument will be enough, but most of our decisions are made by the emotional side of the brain rather than the rational side of the brain.

We then just use the rational side of the brain to back-up and justify what we have decided driven by emotion. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t include rational argument and facts and stats, but you need to also appeal to their emotion if you want them to make the decision of their own accord.

Using storytelling is a great way to engage with the emotional side of someone’s brain. Try telling the story of a similar situation or of a customer’s experience and demonstrate how your solution fits in the narrative and drives a great outcome. Stories help us visualize things in practice and alleviate fears a little more.

Depending on the style of influencing you’re using, be enthusiastic and use powerful language when you communicate your idea (e.g metaphors, create images with your words, etc). Just make sure you’re not too over the top!. Enthusiasm helps engage with the other person’s emotions.

Build and promote your credibility in your field

People believe experts. Building and subtly promoting your credibility in your field will help your views and recommendations have more weight when you need to influence someone round to your way of thinking. This could take a range of forms, for example:

  • Add your digital marketing exams (e.g Google Ads exams) or awards to your email footer
  • Blog for industry publications
  • Respond to journalist requests on your subject so you gather PR for yourself
  • Let them know about other similar projects you have worked on which experienced positive outcomes as a result of your recommendations

Listen

When you are around the people you want to influence, it’s really important to listen to them. Get them talking about their views and concerns first. This allows you to understand them better and you can then shape your communication in a way that will be the most effective for them.

For example, if your client is concerned about the large upfront cost of the initial work required for restructuring their account, you can shape your discussions around how the upfront work actually paves the way for them to generate more revenue in the long term, so it’s actually a cost that will be offset by the results.

We remember only 25% of what we hear! That means 75% of conversation we have is never thought about again. Start being mindful in your listening approach and really take on board what your audience are saying.

Make sure you show you appreciate what the other person is saying by nodding along or making agreement or understanding noises occasionally. Summarise what they have said to show them you fully understand their view, and point out any aspects of their argument which you think are good. This helps show that you respect the other person and that is important if you want them to end up agreeing with you. Ask the other person further questions afterwards to continue the conversation and learn more about their views.

Whatever you do, do not dismiss their viewpoint as being nonsense, no matter how much you disagree with it! This will make them close off to you immediately. Instead, continue to listen and summarise it back to them to show that you appreciate and understand their view.

Summary

Influencing is a fundamental skill for success in walks of digital marketing. Reading this has probably awakened you to behaviours and tactics that you already subconsciously do when trying to influence. By becoming more aware of these behaviours and making them more strategic, you’ll be able to increase the effectiveness of your influencing and generate more of the outcomes you need.