[Ed. note: The following is a guest article written for Local U by Brian Barwig.]
How many times have you run into the boss' office, buzzing with mind-blowing ideas for increasing conversions, optimizing business listings or purchasing a new SEO tool? How often has the boss shared your enthusiasm? Probably not so often.
Middle managers and digital marketers face this dilemma regularly -- how do you obtain upper management support for your digital marketing initiatives?
First, step back and analyze WHY your game-changing idea was rejected. How did you present the idea to management? What was your execution? Was the message clear? Did you explain how the idea fit into the company's strategy? Did you consider how it might impact other employees or departments?
It is also important to understand your reaction when your BIG ideas get rejected by management, never to be brought up again. Do you return to your desk, slump down, feel bad about yourself and maybe even criticize your manager? This response might make you and your team less likely to mention other potentially big ideas next time for fear of feeling this way again.
It shouldn't be this way.
In order to avoid rejection and attain management support for digital marketing initiatives you need objectives, strategic direction, testing and results. So how do you do this?
Once your idea is in place, it is time to set objectives. What do you want to accomplish? Why do you want to achieve this goal or test this idea? Prepare short, direct answers for these questions because you can bet management is going to ask. The less you stumble and ramble during this answer, the more it will show management how well thought out and researched your idea is and the more seriously they will take you. Anticipate any possible objections and consider how you would respond.
Be solution-oriented rather than problem-oriented. It is better to tell management your idea will help clients because it will drive 25 percent more traffic to their website, rather than saying, "We don't have enough backlinks on our website," or "Our bounce rate is terrible." Come to the table with a solution to the problem and start from there.
More than likely, management will ask even more questions about the objective of the idea, such as:
- What value will this bring to the company and your clients?
- What will be the cost of this idea in terms of money and time?
- How long will the testing take?
- How long will it take to see results?
- What are the expected results of this test?
Come prepared to answer all of these questions and more. Discussing these issues has the additional benefit of bringing management into the creation process. Ask how they would navigate potential issues, especially as it relates to involving other departments. Involve management in the pilot program, strategizing and tracking to help obtain buy-in.
Once management and your team agree on objectives, a process needs to be set in place in order to reach them. Being able to test new ideas, record actionable insights and present a logical flow of information and data allows you to close the knowledge gap between management and your team.
For upper management in an enterprise company, time is valuable and limited. Don't waste their time with a half-baked, unclear plan. Your managers will not believe the matter is urgent, or worse, won't take you seriously if all of the facts aren't presented and laid out coherently. When you present:
- Have a clear goal in mind.
- Present the process flow logically.
- Have clear next steps.
- Be as detailed and specific as possible.
- Don't leave potential problems out of the equation. It's important to address sticking points and have a plan to resolve them.
A good plan of action is to hypothesize, baseline, test, measure, report and repeat.
Be sure to baseline all metrics prior to testing. Your management will want to know exactly how the test performed and if you didn't baseline, how will you know how the results stack up? Metrics to baseline include:
- Incoming calls
- Bounce rate
- Social shares
- Anything else which may be useful to achieving the objectives.
After the objectives are set and the process is in place it is time to begin testing. This is the fun part, where all of your ideas hit the pavement.
The great thing about digital marketing and SEO is that it is all measurable through various tools which allow you to easily track your ROI and report to management with immediate feedback. Through testing and analysis, you can easily stop a test project which is performing poorly and add additional resources to tests which are proving more favorable. During testing determine:
- If your test results moved up or down
- Why the results moved how they did
- What occurred to make the results move
Be sure to report the good and the bad. Not all tests are going to work out the way you think/hoped. Pack as many figures and data points into your presentation as possible, so you can show how much ROI can be generated.
Once the testing is complete, share the results with management. The management team is going to need loads of data to make important decisions and change their mindset. To get a large brand on board, management needs to see that what you want to accomplish will drive a net positive result. Otherwise, they will think your team will be better off spending their time on something management deems more useful.
One of the easiest ways to sell an idea to upper management is to explain your idea with data. Digital marketing trends and ideas mean little to management until they directly impact a competitive advantage or the bottom line of the business. Smart managers care more about data and facts than opinion, thus you and your team need to present your ideas in terms which matter to them, be it ROI, time, resources or traffic.
The easiest way to attain management approval for digital marketing initiatives is to have a clear objective, present your case while providing clear next steps, test and present the results with as much data as you have.
About Brian Barwig
Brian has been involved with SEO since 2005 and has a passion for helping small businesses get found online. You can find him blabbing about all things digital marketing/SEO related on his blog or on Twitter. Currently he works as a SEO Manager at a Fortune 100 Insurance Company (where the thought of 10,500 listings in their bulk feed keeps him awake at night). When Brian's not digging into search, you can find him talking about the Chicago Blackhawks, whiskey and BBQ.
Photo: FreeImages.com/Tanya Harding