How marketers can get stakeholder buy-in for digital transformation

DMF · OPINION / 2nd November 2017

Digital transformation is the investment in, and development of, new technologies, mindsets and business and operational models to improve how we do business and compete – while delivering new and relevant value for customers and employees in an ever-evolving digital economy.

At the heart of any digital transformation is a strong digital strategy. Yet, in order for your business to adopt digital, you’ll need buy-in not only from the C-suite, but from colleagues and other stakeholders too. Without meaningful support from change leaders, C-Suite execs and front-line teams, your digital strategy will amount to little more than cool ideas.

We know that getting stakeholder buy-in for digital transformation can be hard. Delegates from our last two events have all stated that it is the number one stumbling block for their organisation embracing digital change. Yet marketing technology now available encompases everything from experience platforms, to content, to data, analytics, hosting, commerce, customer services, compliance and not just IT, sales and marketing, and it cannot be ignored.

So, with that in mind we decided to share some of the tips we impart to our clients about how to bring stakeholders on board, and how to keep them engaged with digital transformation at every stage.

1. Recognise your company’s weaknesses

You won’t change the heart of your organisation, unless you understand its legacy technology systems and any related sticking points it may have.

2. Work out what your stakeholder motivations are

Often the person you’re pitching to is someone who is really worried about how they are going to make next quarter’s numbers – so you need to understand that person’s mindset, and sell in how your proposed changes will help to make their job easier.

3. Simplify what you’re trying to sell

Don’t expect people you’re pitching to to know what you’re talking about. You have to bring concepts to life – show them pictures, diagrams, or bring along a prototype – or create a video of real customers using it. If you can show something tangible stakeholders are more likely to sit up and listen.  

4. Bring outsiders in from another sector

The more leaders spend looking inward, the less they see the outside world. And the less they see the outside world, the less they see the need for change. So invite experts from outside your industry in to your business to talk about how the world is going to be different in 10 years; or the future of AI, or millennials and changing consumer needs.

5. Include everyone from the start

In order to successfully get key stakeholders to buy in, include them in the process from the start. This means inviting compliance, legal as well as colleagues on the front line of your business.

6. Keep everybody informed along the way

Maintaining constant communication throughout the process is essential. Make sure stakeholders can participate in the dialogue at any time. Take in the good and the bad and consider your team’s opinions, and invite stakeholders to offer solutions to key problems. Conduct regular meetings as part of building an ongoing trust-based relationship.

7. Develop the business case

Be ready to answer the hard questions about what the investment will cost, what the returns will be and when you can expect to see results. Use research and data to inform your idea and show evidence. Model the ROI based on quantitative data and other business intelligence and sector research.

8. Use what you already know about your stakeholders

If you know Board members want numbers, show them the results of a successful digital initiative you’ve trialled. If you know your colleagues are emotionally attached to a past purpose, focus your efforts on creating a new and meaningful vision. The pain points will always be your biggest problem, so this should be an area where you put your biggest effort.

9. Dispel the fear of change

People need to understand how they fit into your digital strategy – whether their jobs will be impacted – how the technology can help them work faster and smarter. If you really want people on board they need to believe that digital transformation is the right thing to do.

10. Show how digital can benefit all areas of the business

New innovation and products can add value to your customer experience and will differentiate you from your competitors. But investing in digital technologies isn’t just about transactions, conversions and revenue. Some stakeholders will be more focussed on driving operational efficiencies and streamlining processes, this can free up staff time to spend on more valuable areas within the business.

ORM’s view

In the face of digital transformation, companies should focus on evolution, not revolution. No one likes change. To make it easier on your teams, bring everyone into the process.

We are great believers in collaborative working – having people from all sections of the business including legal, finance and tech, as well as agency staff, on board from the beginning. This can help improve internal buy-in for digital change.

From our experience, when you have a broad set of people from across the business in co-creating solutions, it’s easier for the internal team to believe in what they’re doing and easier for them to champion and drive digital transformation forward with their colleagues. The more diverse a team, the better chance of influencing other stakeholders from across the business into supporting the transformation.