How to Get Your Team on Board for a Data-backed Redesign

Getting internal support for a data-backed redesign can be tricky. Here's how we recommend you approach the challenge.

Some things change, and some things don’t.

For instance: analytics programs have come a long way over the past few years, but it’s still difficult to track return on investment from social media.

Do you agree?

Here’s another: it’s always best to ignore the data and make decisions based on gut instinct.

What? You don’t agree with that one?

Then why do crucial business decisions often run contrary to the principles of data-informed decision making – especially when it’s fairly easy to prove the benefits?

We’ve found problems are sure to occur when there’s resistance to redesign from those responsible to carry out the work. If you’re considering a conversion optimized update to your site, you’re going to need buy-in from all concerned.

In this article, we’ll reveal the points of resistance to data-backed change we’ve seen most often, and we’ll show you how to get your team on board right from the start of the project.

Why do team members often resist cold, hard facts?

There are few things more frustrating in this world than making a logical, fact-filled presentation for a project you are sure will prove valuable… only to see it fall on deaf ears.

“Say ‘Not so,’ and you will out circle the philosophers,” wrote Henry David Thoreau. In the world of business, naysayers can stop a project cold. Your recommendation may be just what the company needs to edge out the competition, but it’s sometimes tough to get the team as excited as you are about the project.

Here are the top reasons why great ideas sometimes have a tough time getting off the ground (and how to fit them with wings so they can fly).

Reason #1 – Many people don’t trust the data

One of the most persistent ‘facts’ in business is that “It’s all a numbers game.” Yet, anyone who’s been in business for long has, at some point, been burned by the numbers.

Usually, though, it’s the logic behind the data that causes the problem… not the data itself.

Consider this example of the “Illicit major” logical fallacy:

  1. All serious online shoppers search using buyer-indicative keywords
  2. 90 percent of our site visitors don’t use buyer-indicative keywords
  3. Therefore, most of our visitors aren’t serious prospects to begin with

This is faulty logic. Anyone who believes this fallacy likely won’t consider a website redesign. Instead, they might focus mistakenly, on search engine optimization.

The Remedy: Be absolutely confident in the data you bring to the table, and be ready to counter logical errors in the interpretation. When you face someone who doesn’t trust data, your first job is to establish the validity of the numbers your proposal relies on. Once all stakeholders are able to see why accurate data is more reliable than subjective opinion, the fog will lift and the road ahead will look much more clear.

Suggested Resource: Setting Redesign Goals Through Data and Empathy

What to do when your team doesn’t trust the #data. Click To Tweet

Reason #2 – Team members are overloaded with data

Marketers today face an unusual problem: the blessing of abundance. High school students now have ready access to the kind of data top executives would have paid handsomely to access a generation ago. It’s a fast, fast world we’re living in.

We have so much data, it’s become like candy on Halloween. Once you’ve eaten enough of it, candy begins to look repugnant. Eat a little more, and you may feel a sudden urge to regurgitate. Anything to excess loses value.

Chances are high the data-driven conclusions you’re so excited about are going to be presented to team members who already have nightmares about numbers in their dreams. Your job is to break through the resistance with logic rather than trying to overpower it with more data.

The Remedy: Know your audience. If you’ve reason to believe (and this is most often the case) data overload is going to be a factor – that eyes will begin to glaze over once you begin spouting off about the numbers – then don’t do that. Lead with logic and back your arguments up with sound, easy to prove data.

Suggested Resource: 6 Simple Steps for Making the CRO Case to the Boss

How to get your data-driven business idea to 'play in Peoria.' Click To Tweet

Reason #3 – Many team members don’t understand your data

You know your data and its ramifications inside out. But everyone responsible to implement the plan may not. Some of them may have been in business for more years than you’ve been alive. Your team may be sprinkled with more degrees than you could find at Harvard, but that doesn’t mean they understand your data. That part is up to you.

Here’s where another logical fallacy can appear to come into play: Argumentum ad populum (appeal to the people). Your audience may very well be convinced that YOU believe your data. You can even bring in case studies to confirm your assumptions. But the people you’re trying to convince know full well that your firm belief doesn’t make it true.

Another huge problem we often see in this regard is failure to define terms and flesh out the foundations. Never assume the other is privy to your acronyms and trade words. You can ramble on about A/B testing, banner blindness, click maps, CPC, and geo-fencing indefinitely.

Team members, though, may not be as fluent as you imagine. They may need you to slow down and carefully connect the dots. Failure to do that kills many blockbuster ideas on the spot.

The Remedy: Speak to your team as you would to any other prospect. If sales isn’t in your skillset, read up on how to make a good sales pitch and outline your presentation accordingly. Don’t treat the proposal differently because this will be an in-house meeting. And never, ever assume anyone knows what you know. Take pains to keep it simple, logical, and direct.

Suggested Resource: How to Make a Good Sales Pitch in 7 Steps

How to get your team to understand and support your proposal. Click To Tweet

Your data-driven proposal can be successful – if it’s presented correctly

Let’s say it’s obvious to you that a website redesign would breathe much-needed life into your struggling online sales. Let’s also say you’ve crunched the numbers, and you’re positive the cost of a redesign will quickly pay for itself.

You know that, but the people you’ll need to count on to take the ball and run with it may not share your enthusiasm. If you go about it too quickly or without proper preparation, you could be seen as more of a gadfly than a godsend.

Here are the bases you’ll need to cover. We’ll present them as a linear progression, but they are not linear in practice. Take them in any order you want; just be sure to address them all:

  • Define the change you want to see happen. Be specific. Make it measurable.
  • Review the proposal to specify the impact it will have on all stakeholders.
  • Prepare an exhaustive budget for the proposal. Leave nothing out. Leave no room for doubt. Then show the return on investment your proposal can generate.
  • Motivate others by appealing to their interests, not to yours.
  • Clarify, clarify, clarify. Be sure your presentation is communicated clearly and includes a call to action that outlines exactly what you want the team to think and do in response.

No matter how certain you are of the plan you’re presenting, it is essential that you pass that understanding on to others. If you can’t do it without their approval and help, then you can’t do it at all.

You may never have thought yourself as ‘being in sales.’ You may even recoil from the “S” word like it’s a rattlesnake wearing sunglasses in a used car lot.

The truth, though, is that we’re ALL in sales. Every day, in one way or another, we’re called upon to ‘sell’ our ideas to others.

You’re at bat.


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Jon MacDonald smiling at the camera for The Good

About the Author

Jon MacDonald

Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, a conversion rate optimization firm that has achieved results for some of the largest online brands including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, Verizon, Intel and more. Jon regularly contributes content on conversion optimization to publications like Entrepreneur and Inc. He knows how to get visitors to take action.