Win at Web Analytics: Top 7 Ways to Influence Your HiPPO

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Welcome to the first in my series of posts to help web analysts ‘Win at Web Analytics!’ These upcoming series of posts are designed to reveal some useful web analytics insights, and teach some great foundations that you can apply to any type of web analytics work.

This first ‘Win at Web Analytics’ post discusses HiPPOs. Not the animal that wallows in dirty water – but a different kind of animal found in the workplace. A HiPPO is the ‘Highest Paid Person’s Opinion’ if you believe Avinash Kaushik’s original definition , or ‘Highest Paid Person in Organization’, if you believe Eric Peterson newer interpretation.

But why do you need to influence your HiPPO, you may ask. Well, they can often be a major obstacle to web analysts and overrule their findings. HiPPO’s beliefs are often wrong, thinking that they know the customer need’s the best. They are particularly problematic when they are responsible for many other departments, not just web analytics (believe me, I have met my fair share!) Here is how you can try and influence your HiPPO…

The Influence Basics – Read these First:

1: Read ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. Even though this Dale Carnegie classic is now pretty dated, its still considered to be the grandfather of the ‘influencing’ world. It still has some great wisdom that even applies to the web analytics world.

2: Read ‘Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion’This book by Robert Cialdini is one of the most enlightening business books I have ever read. Pretty soon your HiPPO could be eating out of your hands by using the great principles in this book.

3: Become an Office Politics Expert. To succeed with influencing your HiPPO, you need to be well versed with office politics in general. Here are some great articles and websites that well help you own your way to influencing your HiPPO (and helping your career!):
Play Office Politics Without Getting Dirty
How to Improve Your Skills at Office Politics Daily News

Now Arm Yourself With These Tools to Help Influence Your HiPPO:

4: Analytics Testing Tools. Testing is a great new phenomenon that allows you to prove your web analytics hypotheses and suggestions. Instead of telling the HiPPO that you think your suggestions will work, you can now actually show him results based on your suggestions. If you are on a budget you can easily make use of Google’s Website Optimizer tool (free!) to do multivariate testing (testing more than one thing at once). Or if you have a bigger budget you can try Offermatica. How did we ever survive without these tools?

5: Great Charts and Tables that perfectly visualize what you are trying to convince your HiPPO to do. Remember, a graph is worth a thousand numbers – HiPPOs are very busy and often don’t have time to read and thus become very visual creatures. If you are looking for a great book on creating great graphs and tables, go grab a copy of Stephen Few’s ‘Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten’. It’s an excellent introduction.

6: Benchmarks and Competitive Data. Giving your HiPPO industry standard reports, benchmarks and competitive data can be an enormously powerful weapon to influence your HiPPO with. That way they can see its not just your opinion – that experts and data backs you up.  There are some great websites offering competitive data, which is particularly relevant for dealing with web analyst HiPPOs – and are great examples.

But remember, now you know how you can influence the HiPPO, it doesn’t mean your own opinion is correct or any better. Well, whose opinion matters the most in web analytics? Simple. The customer! And what is the best way to find your customers opinion? Regular clickstream analysis only gets you so far- you need something that leads me to number 6:

7: Web Surveys. These qualitative tools can help you get straight to the horses mouth – the customers opinion, and help see how correct you and your HiPPO’s opinion is. If you are on a budget you can use to run your web survey’s – if not you can use Question Pro or Opinion Lab, which are more expensive, but more versatile solutions. And what questions should you be asking? Heres two big ones – ‘What Was Your Reason for Coming to this Website Today’ and ‘Did You Succeed at This Reason – If Not, Explain Why’. Simple, yet powerful, revealing questions.

And lastly… but not leastly…. don’t forgot to smile! You will be surprised how far this may actually gets you! Try it next time you are talking to your HiPPO – you should be pleasantly surprised when they smile back! 🙂

I’m curious to know what people think of these 7 ways – and if anyone has any other great methods for influencing HiPPOs….