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The first step to a successful website testing program is ensuring that you have buy-in from your executives.

However, executive buy-in is important not just for getting your testing and optimization started, it's also crucial for ensuring long-term success both for the testing program—and for those involved in it. (Execs are also in a position to share your testing successes with other people and departments in the organization that you may not reach normally.)

Executive stakeholders will naturally ask questions about how testing is helping the bottom line. For example, a VP of Digital Marketing may want detailed information on how the optimization of lead forms has changed the quantity and quality of qualified leads coming in. Even just simple optimizations of your checkout or registration flow, product pages, and calls to action can help generate more business and increase revenue.

Despite all the potential upside, approaching executives can seem like a nerve-racking proposition and a huge amount of additional work. The intent of this article is to make preparing and talking with your executive team much easier. Accordingly, it's divided into four parts to help you prepare, plan, and ask for stakeholder support for testing:

  1. Selecting executive stakeholders. Determine who is required for getting buy-in for your testing program and who are the optimal executive sponsors to monitor continual testing plans and results.
  2. Research. What materials and information should you have before even approaching an executive stakeholder? This section will help describe all of the preparation research to do ahead of time.
  3. Collaboration. Based on the information you find during research, share that knowledge and talk to colleagues from other departments (Finance, IT, Marketing, Product Management). Getting buy-in from cross-functional roles will be crucial later on; moreover, the questions each person brings up will help you address many of the questions you are likely to face from executives.
  4. The "ask." Many successful sales professionals have heard (and likely used) the phrase "always be closing." Here is your chance to close and approach the appropriate executive stakeholders to get buy-in for testing.

1. Selecting Executive Stakeholders

Before even jumping into research, you may be wondering who is the right stakeholder, or set of stakeholders, from whom to get buy-in. Because of the dynamic nature of organizations, myriad possible roles, and varying company size, it's difficult to give one answer that applies to everyone.

However, here are some tips to help you find the right stakeholders:

  1. Determine who has budget responsibility for specific functions (such as digital marketing, IT, and finance) and also for internal tools the company uses.
  2. What are the metrics those people use to define success? How do others define their performance? In the end, although we are all measured by different metrics, some are more "data-driven" than others. For example, if one of the stakeholders you are approaching cares deeply for (or is measured by) your company's Net Promoter Score (NPS) metric, then be prepared to talk about how testing, targeting, and personalization can actually improve that NPS score.
  3. Determine the optimal number of stakeholders. Though you may have to brief multiple people for buy-in, you may want only one or two of those stakeholders on your "executive sponsor" team. I would suggest that two executive sponsors is the optimal number, with one executive more marketing-focused and the other more finance-focused. That approach creates good contrast and allows for perspective into distinct areas of the business that will support your testing efforts.

Although this planning phase may take a significant amount of time to complete, it will streamline the remainder of the process for getting buy-in. Next, it's time to jump into research.

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image of Jeffrey Vocell

Jeffrey Vocell is the product marketing manager for Web and mobile optimization solution provider SiteSpect, where he's responsible for strategy and communication of product messaging.

Twitter: @JVocell