Cialdini and Web Analytics – An 8-step Taxonomy for Convincing Stakeholders to use Web Analytics

How many times do we hear a new web analyst in an organization ask the following question: Why don’t stakeholders care about my numbers? One of the main reasons why stakeholders in the organization don’t use your numbers to drive their decisions is because they don’t see the utility of doing so. Before you were hired, these stakeholders where drawing conclusions and taking decisions without using your numbers, so why should they change their ways? Why should they care about you? Why should they make the extra effort to understand the numbers you are crunching? The answer relies on the fact that you haven’t taken the time to convince, educate and train these stakeholders to the benefits of web analytics. In other words, you haven’t acted as a web evangelist! You have acted as a simple employee. But your new task is all about persuasion, and one way to influence stakeholders is to base your argumentation on what the well-known psychologist Robert Cialdini defined as “the six weapons of influence” in his book entitled Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. These six weapons are: (1) reciprocation, (2) commitment and consistency, (3) social proof, (4) authority, (5) liking, and (6) scarcity. This can be accomplished by executing the following 8-step proposed taxonomy, but also by taking in consideration challenges and potential pitfalls that must also be overcome.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Step 1 – Show to the person who has hired you your commitment to the implementation of web analytics within the organization

First, you need to convince someone higher in the hierarchy of the benefits of web analytics, for instance the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Generally, this person has had an influence on the decision to hire you, which implies that his/her willingness to support web analytics should be higher than anyone else’s. One of the best ways to convince/reassure this person to support web analytics is to show your commitment to the cause. However, don’t restrict your focus to the CMO. Since we are talking about web analytics and more broadly of analytics, your data can be valuable to several other areas of the company, like the department of: sales, customer service or finance. It is important that you have the buy-in of several different leaders.

Step 2 – Use the Chief Marketing Officer as a figure of authority

Once you have convinced the CMO to support you, it is important to rely on him as a figure of authority and also as someone credible (social proof), to convince others in the organization to adopt a web analytic perspective. Thus, the CMO must always be presented as a member of your web analytics team.

Step 3 – Empower the Chief Marketing Officer

The CMO has committed (commitment) to help propagate web analytics and one way to take advantage of this commitment is to empower him. One way of doing so is to give him access to data and analyses available through the software the organization is using. For instance, if the organization uses Google Analytics, it would be suggested to give him access to reports as a user. Furthermore, if the CMO has access to reports and figures, he/she will then better be able to understand the importance of web analysis and how it is related to the organization’s objectives and strategies.

Step 4 – Prove to other stakeholders that web analytics is a must-have

Once the CMO is on your side, it is time to convince other stakeholders in the organization. One way of convincing them is to show what your competition is doing (social proof) to make them realize that web analytics are no longer a luxury in an organization; it’s a must-have. In this way, even though the organization in the short-run is still making profits without caring that much about web analytics, in the long-run, not using web analytics will be prove to be a major drawback.

Step 5 – Present your own data as a competitive advantage

It has been argued that the biggest competitive advantage every organization has, is its own data. In this way, taking advantage of this scarcity in terms of information available is one way to outrun competition. The uniqueness of the data held by the company could also be an interesting opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of multichannel indicators in a holistic fashion, showing the links of web analytics to strategic objectives in the organization. In the best situation, using these web analytics coupled with internal databases comprising indicators such as satisfaction index would be the Holy Grail of analytical integration.

Step 6 – Reciprocate by getting to the root of things

Once the utility of web analytics has been praised, the next step is to implement these web analytics with the help of stakeholders. One of the best way to act would be to propose stakeholders that in exchange (reciprocity) for their discovered confidence in web analytics, you would give them the results that are the most related to their objectives by getting to the root of it all. In this way, taking some time to discuss with these stakeholders the potential causal relations is a must-do. Asking questions and cogitating with stakeholders about why the trend of a number or a KPI is going down or up is the best way to find causal relationships but also to build workplace relationships.

Step 7 – Take the reciprocation and commitment one step further

Once you have discussed with stakeholders and produced reports for them, the next step is to get them more involved with web analytics. Since you help them, they will feel obliged to reciprocate and commit a little more to web analytics. This is the moment where you should start to train them by speaking their language, not the web analytics language that is way more complex and can sometimes get intimidating. Once they become more aware of web analysis, you can create a glossary of most important technical terms to remember. One way to train them is to review key trends monthly; this will engage stakeholders in customers’ behaviours and attitudes, so they can strive more effectively for a customer-centric corporate culture. This behaviour, as opposed to having metrics always monitored, explained and distributed by the analytics manager, will greatly increase the level of ownership for continuous improvement across the organization.

Step 8 – Go for the big shot using social proof and liking

Once you have convinced stakeholders, the final point is to go for the big shot by writing a clear and concise email to your Chief Executive Officer (CEO) insisting on how web analytics are becoming part of the corporate culture and strategic goals. Although the CEO may not be the first person to read the proposal, if it’s well-written and well-reasoned, integrating the progress made related to the previous 7 steps, it may be the best way to capture his/her attention through social proof and liking and to show how the organization and the industry is changing.

Robert Cialdini
Robert Cialdini


Unfortunately, accomplishing this taxonomy can’t be done without overcoming some challenges. One of the main challenges the web analyst faces is to fight against the fear of change. This fear of change is even more present if the organization is making profits and if members are older. How many times have you heard the famous sentence from senior stakeholders: “I have done my work this way for 25 years and it has always been good”. The initial answer that would come to my mind would be: “So what”? The world is changing and so is the industry … ? But this would not be the best way of making friends inside the organization. In this way, controlling the fear of others by preparing a more “politically correct” and less sensitive answer would be more appropriate. One way to achieve this objective, would be to give examples of best practices that integrate web analytics (social proof), and how web analytics can be integrated to the “older” way of doing things.

Potential pitfalls

As it is often the case, one of the main traps a web analyst can fall into is to look more like a scientist in an Ivory Tower, than a true integrated member of the organization. The web analyst needs to discuss with other stakeholders in the same way as other stakeholders need to discuss with him/her to take more informed decisions. The worst thing that can happen is being too data driven, because, as we know, there are humans affecting these data. Thus, the internal and outside influence should be taken into account. These internal influences are actions provoked by the organization and may include: (1) marketing programs driving traffic to the website, (2) website changes (i.e. navigation, changes to homepage), and (3) operational failures (i.e. out-of-stock items, problems with checkout process, site performance issues). On the other side, outside influences, as the name suggests, are actions taken by agents outside the organization. They can be from competitors (i.e. competitive marketing initiatives) or part of the macro environment (i.e. seasonal changes, legislative changes, public opinion, fuel prices). Not taking into account any of these two types of influence can give you the reputation of a scientist conducting Ivory Tower research.


In conclusion, the proposed 8-step taxonomy mixed with the challenges and potential pitfalls should serve as a guide for web analysts looking for a way to propagate the good news about what web analytics are and what they do inside their organization. Even though these 8 steps don’t guarantee success, they can be of great help in improving chances of success. I would conclude in saying that one necessary but not sufficient condition for success is that before convincing others to the benefits of web analytics, the first person you need to convince is yourself. Once this is done, the 8-step procedure takes courage, willingness and time. But just before taking action, take a minute or two to sip a cup of green tea, relax and tell me what you think of this plan!

Jean-Francois Belisle

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5 Questions You Must Answer in a Web Analytics Kickoff Meeting

Web analytics are now a necessity for nearly any type of organizations. However, selling the usefulness of a new web analytics team to other stakeholders in the organization is not necessarily an easy task. In this post, I am proposing you the ingredients of a successful web analytics kickoff meeting within a company that has never used web analytics before, through answers to the following 5 questions:

1. Why was this team created?
2. What will this team do?
3. What will this team not do?
4. How can other departments help “your” team to help “them”?
5. What do you want other stakeholders to remember from this presentation?


Furthermore, to maximize the effectiveness of answers to each of these questions, they are embedded in a hierarchical form following a specific order.

Question 1 – Why was this team created?

This is the most important question to answer in any web analytics kickoff meeting. Overall, it is necessary to emphasize that this team was created for two reasons: (1) as a request from other departments in the company in search for measuring and monetizing the success of the company, and (2) as a response to the fierce competition from other organizations which are using these web analytics tools to achieve success. In this way, it is important to highlight that this team was needed as the result of both internal (other departments) and external (competitors which are using web analytics tools) pressure.

Question 2 – What will this team do?

As the words “web analytics” suggest, some may think that the main objective of this team is to “measure, measure and measure”. However, the real objective of the team should be to “measure to help other departments”. Here are, in five points, what the team’s objectives should be:

1. To help the organization concentrate their marketing efforts at the right place, at the right time, and to make the right decision;
2. To show other departments that web analytics are not about crunching data for crunching data, it’s about crunching data to meet an objective, an objective that is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based) and is related to the company’s business objectives;
3. To show that a web analyst is not only analyzing web metrics, but also multichannel metrics such as financial metrics related to other databases available inside the organization;
4. To show that web analysts are acting in a constant improvement perspective by digging in the data to find out what works and what doesn’t (i.e. PPC campaigns);
5. To propose solutions to other departments via short reports or presentations, in a concise and straight-forward way, using common words, as well as a personalized and adapted dashboard (including between 5 and 20 KPIs) for each department to achieve their objectives.

Question 3 – What will this team not do?

Even though it is important to show what the team can do, it is also useful to show what the team will not do. In this way, in two points, the team will not:
1. Tell other departments what to do, the team will only propose solutions;
2. Take decisions for other departments, even if the team has the data, the other departments are the nearest from the field and are in the best position to decide.

Question 4 – How can other department help “your” team to help “them”?

Even if every member of the team is autonomous, all of the objectives proposed in “Question 2” could only be maximized if other departments help “your” team to help “them”. Thus, here are in six points how to encourage a flourishing win-win relationship:
1. Help your team answer the questions coming from other departments by giving the team the right details and the key objectives that are SMART;
2. Decide together (your team and other departments) which KPIs to use to measure objectives;
3. Take in consideration your recommendations, and discuss the flaws of some results;
4. Let the other departments feel free to give you feedback on specific results by letting you know what are their latest activities, so that data can be analyzed keeping in mind that there are real humans navigating on these websites behind those numbers;
5. Let the other departments feel free to contact your team, if they have a question concerning the computation of some metrics;
6. Let the other departments feel free to exchange any ideas; even if at first it might sound crazy, nearly everything can be measured.

Question 5 – What do you want other stakeholders to remember from this presentation?

Finally, this presentation will not have achieved its ultimate goal if the stakeholders do not remember the following four major points highlighted by the answers to the previous four questions:
1. Your team wants to create a sustainable win-win relationship with other stakeholders in a friendly atmosphere;
2. Your team’s main objective is to crunch data to answer stakeholders’ SMART objectives;
3. Your team is not there to decide for others, it is there to propose solutions to others;
4. Your team will perform better if other departments feel free to discuss with you on anything concerning the data, from the link between your metrics and stakeholders’ objectives to actions taken that affect the data.


To conclude, I hope my reasoning to answer these 5 questions is giving you some insights that will maybe serve as a guideline to help you implement a web analytics team within your organization if it is not already implemented. Briefly, whatever your usage of this post is, keep crunching for objectives, not crunching for crunching.

Jean-Francois Belisle

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