Building Executive Support

Throughout this blog series, I have talked about the importance of building executive support for your digital analytics program. This started with the identification of business objectives so that your analytics program could be aligned with the priorities of your executives and the organization. The other technique we discussed was making your team a profit center (or a thermostat) instead of being a cost center (or a thermometer). While these approaches will help, there is additional work that you need to put in to get the full support of your executives and stakeholders. In this post, I will outline some strategies I have employed to do this in the past.

The first thing I like to do in the area of executive support is to make sure the executives know when the analytics team can help and should be brought in. For example, executives should know that if a new website project is being worked on, they should insist that the analytics team be involved to show whether the project was successful or not. By building this into the mindset of the executives, you can avoid the common situation of the analytics team being brought in at the eleventh hour of a key project.

One way to do this is to make sure executives understand for which data points the analytics team is the system of record. For example, the analytics team should be the system of record for metrics such as Visits, Unique Visitors, Campaign Visits, Customer Journeys, Website Fallout, etc. When there are cases where the same metric is stored in multiple applications, it is important that you clarify which one is the system of record. For example, when I worked at Salesforce, we had a metric called Lead Form Submitted, but the official lead count system of record was our internal instance of Salesforce. There were many times that people attempted to use the Lead count in Adobe Analytics as the official metric and I had to discourage that and point them to Salesforce.

It is also important for your executives to understand the key metrics for your digital properties. While they don’t need to have fifty metrics memorized, you should get them to internalize your most important metrics. When I worked at Salesforce, I was often frustrated that the senior folks in the Marketing department didn’t even know the basics of our website. So, one time, I gave them all a pop-quiz on our topline metrics and conversion rates. For example, I presented a multiple-choice question asking them to pick the correct website lead form conversion rate. I forced them all to raise their hands to answer A, B, C or D and most of them got it wrong. Many were embarrassed that they didn’t know something so important, but that was my point. Sometimes, shaming people a bit can go a long way to getting their attention!

One of the most powerful techniques to attaining executive buy-in is to incorporate data that they care about in your digital analytics implementation. While website data is great, there are some data points that executives care much more about. At Salesforce, for example, getting new customers was everything. While the website was useful to drive new leads, sales had the attention of the executives. Knowing this, I decided to look for ways that my team could positively impact sales. One way I did this was by adding IP lookup data to Adobe Analytics. This allowed me to see, in some cases, which organizations were on the website and what they were looking at. I combined this with a list of target accounts from sales and was able to send alerts to the appropriate sales reps when their target companies had hit the website and show them what they clicked on. This was very well received by sales who felt that it helped them “strike while the iron was hot” as they put it. This got the attention of the sales leadership team and helped build my team’s perception at the executive level.

One other approach to executive buy-in that I often advocate is putting digital analyses into financial terms. This concept is best illustrated through an example. Imagine that you work for an online retailer and you determine that only about five percent of money being added to the shopping cart is being purchased:

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While this doesn’t seem great, you could imagine an executive shrugging this percent off and moving on to other things. But what if you showed the same figure in terms of financial impact:

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Imagine saying to your executive, “our customers left over forty million dollars in the cart and I can show this to you by product or product category…” I think most executives would stop in their tracks and think about what could be done to get some or all of this money. Even though it represents the same five percent, the simple act of showing it in financial terms will likely spur more action. You could even use this to justify more resources using the logic that recouping just 1% of this is $400,000! Also, this technique isn’t limited to eCommerce. If you work for a travel company, you can show the amount of money researched in flights vs. booked flights. If you work in insurance, you can model how much money made it halfway through the quote process vs. how much was actually bound to policies. There are ways to employ this approach in almost every industry vertical.

Action Items

Your homework for this post is to:

  • Make a chart or table that shows executives which key metrics they should care about and identified the system of record for each.
  • Find ways to get executives to know your most important metrics.
  • Determine what data your executives care about the most and see if there are ways to incorporate it into your digital analytics implementation or at least incorporate data that will help support those metrics.
  • Look for opportunities to show your digital analytics data in financial terms to get the attention of your executives.

In the next post, we will talk about building and maintaining your digital analytics team.

We’re here to help you through this.

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