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Executive Sponsorship

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Identifying an executive sponsor

Executive sponsors are people in different departments who might be able to help you with your digital transformation program. An effective executive sponsor is someone who:

  • Is respected internally and has influence within the organization
  • Understands the key goals and outcomes of the strategic approach for the business, and supports them
  • Has executive goals that align with the objectives of the approach
  • Understands the internal politics within the company
  • Has a personal investment and interest in digital transformation

Role of an executive sponsor

The role of an executive sponsor is to:

  • Champion digital transformation. If you don’t have company-wide support for your digital transformation project, people won’t buy into it and it’s unlikely to be successful.
  • Secure board approval and budget. You’re going to need a budget and board agreement that you can use resources that could be deployed elsewhere.
  • Facilitate internal decision-making. You need decisions to be made, so you can move forward.
  • Invite key stakeholders to the table. Key stakeholders need to understand how the digital transformation of the company is going to support their objectives and help them meet their needs, especially if they are being asked to contribute any sort of time or resource or budget to that initiative.
  • Help to remove major roadblocks. When you help people understand the benefits of digital transformation, you help to remove major roadblocks to your program. Because when people don’t understand, they tend to retreat and say, “No. Things are just fine the way they are.”

Securing executive sponsorship

To secure executive sponsorship, it’s important to:

  • Understand the company’s priorities
  • Understand executives’ priorities and involve them as early as possible in the process
  • Understand the challenges
  • Understand this year’s charter and immediate priorities
  • Understand and speak the language of the people who are making the decisions

Leveraging data to help gain executive support

You can leverage data in order to gain executive support by using:

  • Quotes from experts. Quotes from experts may or may not be effective. It depends on who the experts are and what the industries are, and how receptive your potential sponsor will be to those people and to those words.
  • Industry data from respected sources. Industry data from respected sources can be very effective. Perhaps other people have done what you’re doing right now, or something similar, and you can demonstrate the impact of those actions on those companies.
  • Brand examples from the same industry. You can back that up your business case with brand examples, hopefully from within the same industry. If you’re a true innovator, and no one has done anything like this before, it’ll be a harder case for you to make. But then you’ll have a first mover advantage, and you can make that case, too.
  • Company’s own data. If it’s available, look at the company’s own data. Look at what worked well, and what didn’t, in the past.

When meeting with executives, come prepared with data that they will accept. Don’t bring data or information that’s totally left field for them, where they might say, “This doesn’t apply to us,” or, “Well, that’s only for them.” You’ve got to know the people that you’re talking to, and you’ve got to know what their priorities are, and what’s going to resonate with them. If you come in with the right data, and with evidence to back up why you want to do whatever it is that you want to do, then you’re setting yourself up for success.

Internal promotion to drive momentum

Securing an executive sponsor is very important. But the executive sponsor not the only person who will be making decisions and determining whether or not your program is a success.

It is your job to promote internally what you want to do and why you want to do it, and to tie those outcomes back to company’s goals. Digital transformation isn’t something that’s done by someone in a room on their own. It’s something that’s accepted by everybody; it’s something that is woven into the fabric of the company. Using internal promotion to drive that momentum is incredibly important.

You can highlight and promote your program internally by:

  • Continually acknowledging your executive sponsor’s support. Give credit where credit is due. Sometimes give credit where credit is not due.
  • Tying outcomes back to the company’s overarching goals. People have to understand that your digital transformation program is important to the company as a whole.
  • Reporting on business impact. When it comes to reporting on business impact, don’t just focus on your successes. Report on things that have happened that have been good, but also things that have happened that you could do better.
  • Communicating results internally through multiple channels. It’s important to communicate your results internally. There are lots of different ways to do that, depending on the culture in your organization, including: executive summaries and reports; newsletters; Intranet; updates in monthly meetings; town hall meetings; internal marketing events.
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Kristin Shine

Kristin Shine is Founder and General Manager of Shine Healthcare and Science Consulting. She advises clients in the healthcare space on digital strategy development, business development, strategic communications, and commercial partnerships.

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

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The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

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    Digital Leadership
    Kristin Shine
    Skills Expert

    This module probes the critical areas of digital leadership, digital strategy, and digital transformation. It is aimed at all marketers willing to establish personal leadership and shows how you can become a digital leader by learning from best practice. It covers topics on executive sponsorship, digital adoption, building effective digital teams and training, facilitating collaboration, and digital centers of excellence. It also covers processes for bringing a digital strategy into a mainstream market and how to manage a digital strategy to maturity. It concludes with topics focused on evaluating and reporting on a digital strategy, including metrics to track, stakeholder reporting, and establishing an executive digital footprint.