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Kaitlin Yount
Senior Director of Product Marketing, Trust at LinkedIn August 25

First of all, I’m super transparent about the genesis of my idea. In my experience you’ll lose credibility quickly if you aren’t upfront about the fact that you don’t have a ton of data to support an idea you’re passionate about. Hopefully, you do have at least some good reason for your instinct. Have competitors successfully done something similar? Do you have research or user feedback that would tangentially suggest your idea will work?

Next, be precious about the problem you’re trying to solve, but not about the specific implementation you have in mind. In other words, you should aim to convince stakeholders that there is a problem worth solving, not to convince them that solving it with an email (for example) is the only possible way to do it - there’s never only one way to solve a problem.

Finally, see if there are any cheap, easy ways to test your idea. Can you get some users or customers on the phone quickly? Can you do a quick test in product or a copy change that would give you data on whether there might be demand for your idea?

Sonia Moaiery
Vice President, Product Marketing at Clearbit | Formerly Glassdoor, Prophet, KraftMay 4

I always start with positioning ideas as hypotheses (a fancy term for your hunches). This approach is helpful to show stakeholders that you’re open to their input/feedback, and potentially being wrong. When you have hypotheses, you come to the conversation saying “here’s something I have a hunch about, but I don’t have enough data yet to tell me this is a good idea or the right thing, I’d love to hear your thoughts or help me poke holes in this”

I think about building consensus in three stages to bring stakeholders along the journey with you so none of your ideas feel like a surprise by the time you get to the last stage:

  1. Shopping around your idea / planting the seed - These plant-the-seed conversations are most effective 1:1, it’s a safe space to throw around hypotheses, pressure tests and debate with your stakeholder. This is your chance to understand their goals, potential push back they’d have and even potentially get access to systems or data that help you prove/disprove your idea. Before you have this conversation, try to understand more about this person's function, their goals, team vision etc. Use all of the insights from these conversations to refine your hypotheses and get really sharp on potential impact you can create and the risks since your data is limited.
  2. Building a draft proposal or case - Write up a draft of your proposal - key word being draft. It’s best if you can follow up on those 1:1 on conversations with “hey stakeholder, I wrote a work in process proposal for that idea we talked about and I sharpened it up after talking to other colleagues too, I’m following up with it here to get your thoughts” The key is to ask for their input to progress to the next stage of Consensus Building.
  3. Consensus building - this isn’t necessarily one meeting and you’re done. You may have to jump back and forth between #2#2#2#2 and #3#3#3#3 a bit. This might look like bringing together a group of stakeholders to review a more final proposal, asynchronous feedback etc. By the time you get to this stage, the hypothesis and idea isn’t new to stakeholders and you’re aware of any potential challenges your stakeholders will have.

Lastly, data doesn’t always have to be charts and graphs from big surveys you fielded or hundreds of interviews. There is so much customer voice lurking around your org -whether it’s NPS data, sales feedback, anecdotal stories from customers, win/loss feedback, industry reports and trends, dashboards on user analytics/behavior. There’s a lot you can unearth with what you already have but be careful to not only cherry pick only things that support your idea, but take advantage of the existing data that might be siloed across teams in your org.

Madeline Ng
Head of Marketing, Google Maps Platform at Google December 18

Start by understanding your stakeholders. What are their overall goals? What are their concerns regarding your proposal? And who in your organization influences the decision makers?

Once you know what you need, I would determine if there is a way to have more data to support your idea. It may not be definitive, but even directional data is powerful in making arguments. 

For example, if you are advocating a new messaging approach, are there ways you can test it with lower risk? If you are trying a new marketing channel, are there industry benchmarks you can turn to to explain why it matters to your audience?

And finally I would ask yourself what kind of "yes" you require. Would a conditional "yes" suffice? Try and figure out what you need to move forward incrementally and have that in the back of your mind when you're making your argument.

Natalie Louie
Product Marketing, Senior Director at Replicant | Formerly MobileCoin, Zuora, Hired, Oracle, ResponsysMay 5

I mentioned this in a prior question - treat each stakeholder like one of your “personas”. Understand their role, what their pain points are, what their goals are, what words they use and what’s important to them. Do a 1:1 with them, get to know them, their OKRs, interview them and find out how you can help them and work with them. Once you have a clear idea on how to deliver value to them, incorporate that into how you work with them, message them and position your work to them. You already do this as a PMM for customers and prospects, so applying this same tactic to internal stakeholders works just as well. 

Whenever you role out a new idea, strategy, message or piece of content, label everything “draft” and share it with stakeholders in advance of any meeting where you plan to present something new. Having these smaller meetings or 1:1’s to get their early feedback and buy-in is key to get everyone on the same page individually vs. introducing new ideas at a larger meeting where people can be influenced by group think -- i.e. someone doesn’t like it and others, who wouldn’t feel that way on their own, start to jump on the bandwagon. Successful people already have buy-in on their ideas before a meeting vs. presenting their ideas for the first time at the meeting. This isn’t feasible for every decision because it takes time, but for the big ones -- this strategy has worked very well for me.

Also socialize ideas earlier, the longer someone is exposed to an idea, certain words and strategies -- the more time they’ve had to process it and start weaving it into their thoughts and initiatives. Eventually, they will start taking ownership of those ideas too. You have to be patient, the bigger the idea, the longer it will take to be adopted. 

Find an executive sponsor and senior level person (your power persona) and get their alignment -- this is key is having them also drive the same ideas and strategies in their org that are aligned with you. 

Data can also be found anywhere - they can be stories, quotes, examples and best pracitices from other industries. Data can be qualatative and quantatative. The more research and interviews you do, you can collect your findings and summarize them into your own data chart to use to build consensus.  

Alex Chahin
VP of Marketing at Titan | Formerly Lyft, Hims & Hers, American ExpressAugust 20

A quick thought experiment: Imagine you're launching a new product, and you only have the time and budget to run a quick quantitative round with your customers. Would you do it?

In my experience, the product marketers I've worked with would jump at the opportunity.

I say this to point out that just because data is limited, it doesn't necessarily mean it's bad. For instance, maybe limited means it was only one study, but you had strong sample size and statistically significant differences in answers. This should be seen as pretty reliable information -- quality trumps quantity.

That said, I can see how some stakeholders might still be skeptical if they're coming from a place of a different hypothesis or perspective than you and the research are. There are a few things you can do to help:

  • Lean into people skills: Similar to one of the other answers on this thread, invest time in making the results feel more real and showing the humanity behind the insights (e.g., quotes from open ended questions, clips from interviews, etc.). You can also build consensus by having some one-one-one conversations prior to a broader shareout to help create momentum.
  • Contextualize with other internal data: There are certainly ways to show something is a trend or audience truth without needing to conduct more research. Check out another answer on this thread for some ways you can use things at your disposal within the company to show your results aren't just related to this particular study (e.g., trends/quotes from customer support tickets, NPS answers, ratings and reviews on your products, etc.)
  • Contextualize with other external data: You can also try to show something is a trend or audience truth by showing how it fits in the broader picture outside your company. What are competitors doing? What do market reports say? What are people talking about on social media related to your industry? Digging in here can also help you show that your findings aren't just limited to the study you have but can be extrapolated.