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I’ve got my evidence, but how do I convince my stakeholders?

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When marketers are all following similar strategies, have similar tools and technology, it is marketing execution that gives the edge.

In a nutshell

  1. To convince your stakeholders, you need to think of them as customers - or, better still, as people.
  2. Taking this approach opens up the full marketers' toolkit of persuasive techniques.
  3. Here, TRA partner Karin Glucina shares five marketing and behavioural principles for the internal art of persuasion.

Having an always on evidence base allows marketers to have the highly tuned antennae that allows the bold and quick executional moves that win. We’ve recently discussed this with marketers as part of our roadshow, Finding Your Edge: Evidence, Strategy and Marketing that Makes a Difference (you can register for the webinar version below).

One of the most common questions from our audience has been, “I’ve got my evidence, but how do I convince my internal stakeholders? It’s a big question, but if we rephrase it as, “how do I use behavioural marketing principles to persuade internal stakeholders?”, it actually becomes quite simple.

It did get me thinking though, why aren’t more people using key marketing and behavioural principles in the internal art of persuasion? Are stakeholders that different from customers?  Aren’t they all people?  

So, let’s substitute the word stakeholders for customers, and think about all the tools in our toolkit.

If we were trying to persuade customers...

1. We’d first understand the context in which they make decisions

What are the broader issue on their minds? Obviously for senior stakeholders, there are many wider business concerns and plans. These always need to be understood and acknowledged. This is their cultural context. But are there wider cultural currents that are influencing them? 

One of our clients recently was concerned that they weren’t doing enough internally and externally to embrace te reo. The issue wasn’t that they didn’t want to do so but were struggling to work out how to do so in a way that was authentic to who they were. Senior leaders were obviously going to be more receptive to new marketing initiatives that acknowledged this challenge openly and solved it, rather than one that didn’t.

2. We’d understand their influencers and norms

Who are their peers, and what are the social norms within that group? What does that mean for how we might influence? We often using the herding instinct when trying to change people’s buying of social behaviour, but do we think about it enough in internal behaviour change? 

3. We’d understand their personal biases

And what this meant for any rational, emotional, or prejudicial positions they might hold.  Once we understood those biases, we could address them. We don’t assume customers are going to be persuaded by rational arguments, so why would we assume the same for stakeholders.

You can’t reason someone out of something that they weren’t reasoned into in the first place. - Mark Twain

As Mark Twain said, “You can’t reason someone out of something that they weren’t reasoned into in the first place.” The trick is to know when to use reason or emotion when persuading stakeholders.  And if their biases are prejudicial (beyond emotion or reason), then you have to work around them.  

4. And of course, we would understand where they are on the ‘funnel to action’. 

The conversion funnel is one of the most basic tools in any marketer’s toolkit. One of the mistakes I’ve made (too many) times when using evidence to influence stakeholders is to assume I’m converting someone to action when in reality they’re not even aware of an issue. If this was classic marketing, we’d be very clear where customers sat on the funnel, and what the ‘job to do’ was.  And our messages and channels would be tailored accordingly. 

5. We’d think realistically about what we can achieve

It’s very hard to take someone for detractor to advocate in one go, but often we expect to be able to do that internally.   But let’s remember even the smartest people have limited bandwidth and can suffer from cognitive overload.  Convincing through bite-sized chunks is likely to be a better strategy than trying for zero to hero.  

So next time you’re thinking about how to use an evidence base to persuade internal stakeholders, don’t forget all your marketing tools. After all, the job is the same.

Learn more about evidence-based marketing in our webinar.

Watch our webinar, Finding Your Edge: Evidence, Strategy and Marketing that Makes a Difference.



Headshot of Karin Glucina, Partner at TRA in black and white
Karin Glucina

New problems need new solutions.

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