3 things you should do before asking for stakeholder buy-in

Getting stakeholder buy-in can be hard, especially if UX is new to your company and especially if your executives haven’t yet familiarized themselves with the benefits of conducting UX research. There is no quick and dirty path here. Simply put, as a UX researcher, it is your job to demonstrate the advantages of conducting user research. Here are some tips that will help you on your journey of getting stakeholder buy-in:

Thoroughly understand the problem.

Make sure to step out of your comfort zone and talk to anyone who has insight into the scope and landscape of your problem. Interview your stakeholders, not just your product manager. Understand their priorities so that you can align your research goals with them. This way, they will see that their needs are directly addressed through this research and will be more inclined to approve. Your research should be assisting the top priorities of the company.

Conduct market research.

Show your stakeholders that you have already done everything that you canwith the information that’s already out there. This includes accessing reports from online, asking your marketing team for paid reports, and spending at least a few days gathering intel from various trusted sources. If you are working with websites or apps and have access to SimilarWeb, use that for competitive landscaping and benchmarking.

Show them how you will use this information to inform your extended research. By using already existing information to guide your research, you will be able to dive deeper. For example, use market research to guide your hypotheses and interview questions.

Don’t be afraid to do some data analysis.

Do you have access to a database with performance metrics, insights into user behavior? Query it, or work with a Data Analyst to query it together! Well rounded UX researchers don’t just focus on qualitative data. How might your company’s quantitative data help inform your research?

By pre-emptively investigating the quantitative data, you will be able to answer the following questions: What problems are left unsolved; what questions are left unanswered by our quantitative data? This also shows why the qualitative element is important, for example, “we know that conversion rates went up, but we don’t know why, so in order to continue to improve the solution, we need this kind of insight”.

Show them what you will get out of the research.

While building empathy is important, this cannot be the only reason. Show your stakeholders why they need to spend $500, $1,000 or $10,000 on your research project. For example, how will the insights you gather lead to a more useful and usable product? How does this convert into KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)? Will your conversion rate increase by 0.5, 1, 2, 10x?

Also consider if you have worked on any other products where usability testing and/or user research has already led to a successful product improvement or A/B test? If so, mention it in your proposal.

Define the deliverables.

Ok, so you estimate that your research will lead to a 5x improvement in conversion rate. Great! Now, what evidence can you provide?

Show them that they will have access to videos and summaries of insights with meaningful charts. Outline that the team will create prototypes that will be tested and iterated upon, which will then lead to the final product. Manage their expectations.

Quick note about creating the deliverables: Don’t assume that “they already know”, but also don’t go into too much detail. For example, your stakeholders don’t need to know that there will be 4 design iterations. They don’t need to see your raw notes from the interviews. Summarize. Synthesize and analyze the data so that they can see digestible content and quickly make informed decisions.

Have a concrete plan and provide a well-researched, detailed budget.

Your plan should provide a scope. Show them that you are not trying to tackle too many things at once. What is your hypothesis, your problem statement? (Use the “How might we…?” method!) Consider what will make this research successful. How might you fail?

How many users do you need to interview? Why is this number sufficient? What does your interviewing team look like? Why do you need 1, 2, 4 people to conduct this research? Also explain the need for materials, digital and/or physical. Plan for no-shows and delays.

Provide a cheap, average, and expensive option for services and/or platforms that you might need. Highlight the pros and cons of each. Make a recommendation for using one and explain why.

Make sure your budget is comprehensive and detailed (your CFO will care about this). However, don’t forget to make a synthesized recommendation. This will be the slide that they pay attention to and if they have questions, your more detailed slides will have the answer.