Use this simple tactic to get employees at every level to buy-in to a testing program

I was on a panel a few months ago with some savvy folks, chatting about the successes and failures of experimentation and personalization. We talked big picture about cultures of experimentation, including tips n’ tricks for what to test, how to test, and some of the biggest wins (and losses) when deploying optimization programs for companies of all sizes.

When we got to the Q&A portion, someone asked the age-old question I can’t believe is still being asked…


“How do I get buy-in for a testing program within my organization?”


A lot has changed in the 7+ years I’ve been a part of the CRO agency world. It seems one thing remains the same – we’re still asking that damn question!

That means we haven’t really discovered the answer. Perhaps there’s an angle you haven’t considered - read on to learn more.


Rewind back to the panel and the attendee’s question.

Fellow panelist Pete Koomen, CTO of Optimizely, stated that implementing a testing and personalization program often has to be a “top down” directive. He went on to say that a good first step is to show executives how much more money they stand to make if they implement a program (or lose if they don’t).

While the “top down” approach is generally the reality at larger organizations, I believe “bottom up” or “middle up” can be effective in flatter or smaller organizations. Both approaches are definitely more effective with data.


Where the “directive” comes from is only one piece of the puzzle.

The person(s) whose buy-in you need will vary depending on your organization. Maybe you’re a mid-level manager working to convince your CEO about the merits of a testing and personalization program. Perhaps you’re an executive who needs buy-in from your mid-level managers. Or maybe you’re a product manager who needs to get your designer or developer on board. Regardless, your method for getting their buy-in should be the same – having a good old-fashioned conversation.

I’d be willing to bet some pennies you just thought to yourself, “you mean to tell me I read this far and THAT’S the big secret?’

Yep, and here’s why.

Changes of all types create uncertainty, fear and whiplash and cause people to dig their heels in and resist, throwing tantrums and roadblocks wherever possible (in personal and professional settings).

If you’re nodding your head at the familiarity of the above scenario, I urge you to have an honest, 1:1 conversation with the person you’re trying to get buy-in from. Your goal is to listen more than you speak and gain a clear understanding of what is really at the heart of their resistance.


The TL;DR is this:

The people you’re trying to get buy-in from likely do not have a problem with a testing program. They have a problem with how a testing program will impact them and their day-to-day work. You need to solve that problem before you can get buy-in. [click to tweet]

I won’t go all armchair psychologist on you, but fear is often a big driver of friction so finding out what someone is afraid of might be a good starting point.


Common reasons for resistance to a testing program, or any new initiative, include:

  • fear of irrelevance, inadequacy or being replaced
  • more work being added to their plates, but not more resources
  • fear they will be “exposed” and their “failures” will be put on display for everyone to see
  • the new initiative isn’t factored into their annual goals or compensation (“why give it my time and effort?”)
  • no clear understanding how increased responsibilities will impact their day-to-day or help the company

The above list is intended to provide a starting point and some themes to listen for during your buy-in conversation.

Once you identify a person’s fears and frustrations, you can begin to develop and implement solutions. Sharing these solutions with your team and following up on a routine basis to resolve issues that arise will ensure your team “feels felt” and increase and sustain the buy-in needed to achieve the goals of your testing program.

And it all starts with a simple conversation.


If you’d like more resources on this topic, want to knock around ideas for solutions or care to share outcomes from having this conversation in your organization, please get in touch.