Tue, April 05 2011

9 Things to do when you’re right but your boss thinks you’re wrong

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

When I give speeches, I often hear this:  “Your advice sounds great, but there is no way my boss (or board or program staff) will go for it.”  Sometimes the most frustrated folks add, “Can you come talk sense into them—please?”  This is also the topic of much of the email I receive.  I’m asked, how do you get colleagues to love a message, the new website design, social media or the redesigned logo?  What’s a nonprofit marketing professional or fundraiser to do in the face of angry internal opposition?

There’s no doubt about it: Your hardest market to crack is often your own office. 

So how do you convince your colleagues that your way is the right way? 

Here is my answer.

1. Do not, repeat, do not, have an argument on ‘the right way’ to do something.  You will lose.  Remember: You’re a marketer.  Use all those marketing skills on your own colleagues!  This is about persuasion, not proving you are right.

2. Do not, repeat, do not, argue the merits of anything based only on your opinion.  This isn’t about your world view, it’s about your colleague’s world view - and the world view of those you seek to reach.

3. Make it your colleague’s idea.  For example, present your bosses with a range of options and ask their opinion.  They might come up with something close to what you wish - and all the better, because it will be their idea.  When my girls were small and tantrum-prone, I didn’t say, “Would you like to get dressed?” in the morning.  I would say, “Would you like to wear the pink dress or the yellow dress?”  They might pick the blue dress, but who cares, they got dressed. 

4. Frame your idea according to your colleague’s goals.  Which sounds better: “We need to Tweet and have a Facebook page because social media is really important!”  Or: “I am very committed to hitting your goal of doubling the size of our community of supporters online this year.  I’d like to try these three things to make that happen for you.”  Include social media as part of a plan speaking to your boss’s priorities.

5. Frame your idea to match a competing organization’s success.  Nothing gets a colleague’s attention like a similar organization beating your group to a great idea. 

6. Make it about your donors or whatever audience is in question.  Film, transcribe or otherwise record reactions of your target audience and put that in front of your boss.  Then say: “I loved your idea of having a 5,000-word history of our organization on our home page, but darn it, visitors are getting confused.  I guess we need to make it shorter!”  Then show your boss how donations doubled when you made the change. 

7. Try a pilot.  If your boss hates something, try it on a small scale.  Ask permission to attempt one wee experiment.  Proof of concept is a good way to win support.

8. Change the messenger.  Maybe it’s you!  Figure out who has the ear of your boss—and ask them to make your case for you.

9. Report every success - and give your colleagues credit for those successes.  Positive reinforcement is the most persuasive approach of all.

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