Getting Buy-In for User Research


Whether you’re building a product or trying to better understand your customers, user researchers often face push-back when it comes to advocating for more user research. However, we are living in a quickly changing world, and not only are users’ and customers’ opinions rapidly transforming, so are your stakeholders’ vision and priorities. 

2020 is an ideal time (though oddly so) for making the case for investing in user research. To succeed in doing so, it’s essential that you first think of your executives and leadership as your users, and then use research tactics you already know. 

Understanding Your Stakeholders As Users

What is often the overall information you want to get at when you conduct user research? My guess is that it’s to build relationships, extract deep sentiments about your product or service, and gain clarity on the pain points of your users. You’ll use the same process to make your case for user research. 

First, work to get an understanding of what business problems your leaders face and what they want to achieve: 

  1. Conduct stakeholder interviews to ask them what their concerns are regarding the product or area of the business. 
  2. Find which questions are being answered quantitatively and show how qualitative research can either bolster or add more context to these results. 
  3. Show them with uses cases how user research has improved efficiencies and informed better decision making in the past, either at your company or another. 
  4. Pay attention to what the stakeholders find most concerning and focus on that. 

Showing the Value of User Research

Many times, leaders recall a time when they invested in user research but don’t believe they received any information that resulted in concrete value for the company. Your job is to come prepared to speak their language. This might be different for each stakeholder, so use what you learned during your interviews to see what type of value will be most convincing. Is it return-on-investment? Is it a better product? Is it having better information to drive good business decisions? 

Use some of these tactics based on this knowledge: 

  1. Demonstrate the value of user research with a small sample size. For example, perhaps conduct a small survey among one department and share how the results could be used to improve daily operations. 
  2. Show that it can be done without a significant investment of time and money. Have a sample project budget that outlines the necessary investments in time, tools, and resources. Be honest about the budget but ensure it aligns with the size of the company–a budget for a scrappy startup is simply going to be leaner than for a larger corporation. 
  3. Show that competitors are performing user research and demonstrate what they are gaining from it. 

Ingrain User Research Into the Fabric of Your Company

Once you’ve done all the work to get the go-ahead for a user research project, here’s how to hit it out of the park and ensure you’ll get buy-in for ongoing user research:

  1. Have a well-researched plan, timeline, and budget and make sure that you stick to it, unless you can make a good case to pivot. 
  2. Include stakeholders in every stage of the research process, including inviting them to meetings and sessions. Seeing the user interact with the product or customer experience can be extremely compelling. 
  3. Communicate your progress often and highlight the value you’re generating using the metrics agreed on at the beginning of the project
  4. Use storytelling best practices to ensure your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. If you want to learn more about how to do this effectively, watch our webinar about the Science of Influential Research.

Getting stakeholders on board for ongoing user research can be a daunting task, but once you help them truly understand the value it brings to your business, you’ll see it becomes not a “nice to have,” but an essential part of the company’s success.

Want to learn more? Check out our recent webinar on the Science of Influential Research.