28 ways to convince your boss about digitalMost of us will have experience of meeting people who are apathetic or downright resistant to digital. This is just a fact of life, but it can be problematic when that person is your boss.

In some companies I believe that generational change will be required before they’ll properly adapt to a multichannel world that includes lots of digital, mobile and social networking activity. Worryingly, I think some of the biggest, most established companies have serious issues in this area. 

It needs to be explained that ‘digital’ does not mean ‘tech’. The internet is largely driven by people and the content they produce. That said, the detail is very important when it comes to optimising the customer experience. Digital is a key part of the overall experience and it requires investment and time. Unless the boss and all other stakeholders buy into the idea of doing it properly - and until they truly believe in it - you’re always going to be up against it. 

Earlier today I gave some thought to the things you can do to persuade a boss with a Luddite mindset to embrace digital, rather than to fear it. I also asked the question to our Twitter followers: “What can you do to make the boss more digitally savvy?” 

Below are a bunch of ideas that will help you to make the boss see the light. For it is very bright and shiny, and will not dim anytime soon.

[PS – I’m going to use the word ‘him’ rather than ‘him or her’ for 'boss' on general editorial principles, and not because I’m sexist]

Prove the business case

This is the first thing to try to do. It should be focused on the financial aspects, i.e. how to generate more money or spend less. It can be about driving efficiency within the organisation too. Show how digital adds value. 

Take the boss to a good conference / event

And not one where you are going to be constantly pitched to by feverish suppliers. Learning-based events are the best. 

Connect him with his peers

You can do this both online and offline. Econsultancy runs roundtable-based events such as Digital Cream (in the UK, Dubai and Singapore) and Peer Summit in the US, which allow client-side people to get their heads together for knowledge-sharing in a relatively informal setting. It works very well.

Show him the business data to prove effectiveness

Ideally yours, or otherwise a competitor’s (which you can glean from annual reports, interviews and case studies). 

Present a case study

You can look at the big picture, or you can go niche and focus on one particular topic. Remember to bring it back to the numbers wherever possible.

Explain that we live in a multichannel world

More than 40% of Boots customers buy online and collect in store. 58% of UK shoppers check products out in store, then buy online. Around 19% of shoppers use their mobiles while out shopping to look up product information, reviews and pricing. 39% of shoppers always research products online before heading to the high street to buy. I have so many more… the point is that consumers don't think in terms of 'channels', and perceive brands as single entities (which they are). Businesses need to wake up to this, and fast.

Overload him with stats

If statistics and trends are his game then download our Internet Stats Compendium and allow him to fill his boots.

Benchmark and evaluate the competition

Numbers aside, you can demonstrate what your competitors are doing. Show the boss websites, apps, Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, Google placements, blogs, and so on. Some of these things will be great (make the boss jealous). Others will suck (tell him that you can crush your competitors like a bug). Find opportunities and mine the gaps. 

Set the boss a challenge to find something they know nothing about

Sit back and watch as he turns to digital channels for the answers. If he finds the answer via some other non-digital process then show how him how digital offers a quicker, easier route to knowledge. 

Demonstrate scale

Show realtime results on Google. Show Twitter trends (choose carefully!). Watch them quickly stream down his monitor screen. If scale doesn’t get him excited then he may be a lost cause.

Talk in a common language

Using the above example, and if your boss runs an old school retail business, then why not describe all this realtime user activity as ‘footfall’? 

Avoid jargon at all costs

Don’t do it. You’ll alienate him, and you won’t sound big and clever.

Identify potential clients via keyword research

Find prospective clients / leads on Google, on Twitter, in forums. Then demonstrate how easy it is to start talking to them. Have a conversation with somebody you don’t know on Twitter by responding to a tweet or searching for a relevant question to answer. Prove how straightforward it can be to interact and influence people. 

Show him the Google data

The actual numbers. Use Google’s keyword tool to highlight how many people search on keyphrases relevant to your business. Make the boss aware of Google’s mindblowing reach. Scale normally raises the excitement levels of senior management.

Now show him your Google Analytics data

Assuming you have a website, that is. In my experience, allowing newbies to play around with your visitor data is one of the more engaging things you can do. Show them what kind of things can be measured, and explain why these things matter. Then you’ll be able to talk about how to improve those numbers.

Talk about best practice

This follows on from the analytics data. How do you reduce bounce rates? How can you convince more people to convert? You might need to make some contextual real world analogies that make sense to the boss. Don’t blind him with science. 

Set the boss a task and empathise, e.g. ‘buy something online’

Watch as he gets frustrated (as we all do). Feel his pain. Explain that these are the barriers that need to be smashed in order to create a great customer experience. Identify the parts of your website that need attention. Websites don’t have to suck. 

Prove the concept first

There are low barriers to entry for digital. Start small, start cheap. Launch a blog. Set up a Twitter account. Plug in Google Analytics if you haven’t already. And then give the boss a presentation on your progress. 

Show the human side to digital

Many digital aliens believe that the internet is a place for techies, or the tech-savvy, when in fact this isn’t really the case at all. There’s also an animal side to digital, in the event your boss is a cat fanatic. 

Bring in an evangelist

You might need a wingman. If you go down this route be sure to opt for a personable, charming, straight-talking type, rather than a hellfire mile-a-minute fearmonger.

Send him great web links on his favourite topics

Vintage cars. Cigars. Golf. Money. You know, the things a boss likes. Whatever floats his boat. Usage is an essential component in attitudinal change.

Send the boss to an Econsultancy training session

This wasn’t even my idea but our Fast Track Digital Marketing Training is about the best thing any beginner can do (we send all of our new non-digital hires onto it). We also provide in-company training if you have a platoon of digital dodgers. And we run training courses all over the world.

Put together a daily digest of web trends / hot stories

“Even if one link a day is clicked on it cumulatively changes culture,” says @neilmajor.

Play the BMW augmented reality ad

“Get him to love it first, and then talk about implementation,” suggests @MagdaFrankowska. 

Show him the ropes

The actual ropes. @David_Abreu suggests that you can “help him learn by doing”. For example, demonstrating how Twitter might work within the organisation by using an internal microblogging service like Yammer. Or perhaps you can publish something onto a blog ("it's easier than using Microsoft Word..."). Be careful though as some people’s eyes might glaze over if you push too hard, too soon (despite how ridiculously easy it is to use these tools). Theory first, practical stuff later.

Buy your boss an iPad

It is a great interface for consuming the web and there’s a lot to be said for gestural user interfaces: they can make the user more at ease. Point and click using your finger is much more intuitive than by using a mouse.

Explain the Zappos story

This is about proving how important the customer experience is, and showing how customer satisfaction leads to loyalty, advocacy and a much more profitable business. The key number is that 75% of Zappos business is generated by repeat customers. And remember that once upon a time they said you could never sell shoes online!

“Get him an Econsultancy membership…”

We think you’re great, @peweedesign. If you go down this route then point him at our beginner’s guides and business cases, rather than the best practice guide to technical SEO.

Multiple tips of the hat to all who responded to the call for ideas on Twitter, notably @jonnychallenger, @WebgainsUK, @Koozai_Mike, @KamPullar, @akronsound, @iancreek, @ryanpaultaylor, @zacklinyoung and @katefairhurst, as well as those named above.

Do you have any other ideas? What worked for you? Please leave a comment below...

Chris Lake

Published 20 May, 2011 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (14)

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A Disappointed Reader

Reads more like five or six thinly disguised calls-to-action to purchase Econsultancy products and services than what the headline promises.

over 7 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@A Disapponted Reader - Really? Well that wasn't the idea, and most of those Econsultancy-based tips were suggested by our readers via Twitter. Also, things like Digital Cream and roundtables are free events for client-side people. Not everything costs money around these parts, and I wouldn't have published this on a Friday afternoon if I wanted to optimise any sales.

over 7 years ago


Nick Stamoulis

You'll never be able to force digital onto your boss. You have to lead them into it. This can involve a little creative persuasion on your part. These are some good ideas to lead the horse to water AND make him drink!

over 7 years ago



Some boss might take this in a positive manner and move accordingly to what we say, but some may draw a line called Ego. Whatever we say about changing to digital, they find some negatives out of it. Sometime after realizes the importance of going for digital and implement the same idea and tell all people that he/she has implemented it. huh!.

over 7 years ago



Did you watch the "Extreme Couponing" show they should have featured "Printapons" which I use and print coupons from online

over 7 years ago


Peter Birganza

I do agree with Patrick. Its fifty fifty chance that by adopting these manners you can convince to your boss. Some of the bosses take it seriously and get egoistic on such a clarifications. Your research is good but there are some points in this writing that are not necessary. I hope you can understand with previous discussion.

about 7 years ago


mr green

That's a huge task . I am sure your boss would jump into digital..thanks for the post

about 7 years ago

Stephen Cullen

Stephen Cullen, Business Advisor (Marketing) at CEIS Ltd

Let's face it, if your Boss still needs convinced of the merits of Digital then he or she is not up to the job and should consider an alternative career. Clearly they are holding their company back never having kept up with the times!

about 7 years ago


Mehdi M

Buy your boss and IPAD?


about 7 years ago


adam qureshi

Excellent article , we often times do technical analysis for pitch docs , the main things we focus on are problems and solutions , the boss/ceo is always concerned with customer retention and increased revenue . If you can communicate in these terms you can make a case to get the budget approved .

about 7 years ago

Steve Harvey-Franklin

Steve Harvey-Franklin, Director at Attercopia

Plenty of good ideas, I tend to agree that you can't force it on anyone. The problem is we're all different, some people respond to logical arguments and stats, others with case studies, for some people it is the challenge that the competitors are doing it, and some people want to buy into a dream.

I guess the key is know who you're selling to and pitch accordingly, if you know your subject, you should be able to think on your feet and change your pitch according to what they respond to.

about 7 years ago


David A. Becker

The challenge is that social media represents a commitment of time and energy without an immediate payoff. The stuff feels risky regardless of the data and math you put in front of an executive.

Having just completed a consulting assignment with a B2B sales-driven organization, I can say that committing to social media and the innovation it requires looses out to near-term targets.

So how can you gain attention and a willingness to test? Ideally your top competitor is using social already. That plays off the fear factor — don't be left behind. If your social media efforts then generate at least one good B2B deal you have perhaps another 12 months to get things right.

about 7 years ago


Hannah Miller

Thanks for the post, you have highlighted some great ideas. We come up against resistance from directors in all sorts of businesses so if you are reading this post feeling like you come up against the same - you are not alone.
Also I think its important to highlight that using agencies to do this can also help you to win the battle.
another great method we have seen that works is taking your boss to a networking event where others will be discussing online activities.

about 7 years ago


Thao Trinh

29. Ask him play Angry Birds on his Iphone !!!!

about 7 years ago

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