Stakeholder analysis is the identification and examination of marketing stakeholder interests, influences, expectations and attitudes as they relate to a project (e.g. rollout of a marketing automation platform, standardized marketing reporting or data quality initiative). Its purpose is to understand the political and people-oriented aspects of the project environment, and the processes and functions that impact (or are impacted by) the project. The result is a better understanding of the stakeholders (e.g. interests, relationships), better decisionmaking and greater project acceptance by stakeholders.

When undertaking stakeholder analysis, use the following guidelines to obtain optimal results:

  • Determine objectives. Before initiating a stakeholder analysis, determine which areas you want to better understand (e.g. what types of campaigns should be designed and in what order, differences in business process by region or product line, degrees of sales and marketing alignment).
  • Interview scripts. Preparation is required to ensure that bias is not introduced and that disparate interviews can be easily combined. Create interview scripts that provide the interview approach and questions for each stakeholder group. Ensure that all questions are asked and positioned in a similar manner. Make sure questions and topic areas correlate to the stakeholder analysis objectives.
  • Positioning matters. The manner in which a project is presented to stakeholders affects their perception of it and, consequently, how they respond to interview questions. To help ensure accurate and complete interview responses, position the project in a manner that is not confrontational to the stakeholders or their department.
  • Talk to people, not their delegates. Perspective can vary, even among individuals within the same organization. Secure interviews with stakeholders, not their representatives, to help ensure that feedback is accurate, and to establish among respondents a sense of personal investment in the project.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Avoid leading or yes/no questions, which negatively impact response quality. To encourage respondents to give greater thought to the issue and provide a fuller response, ask open-ended questions that don’t hint at possible answers.
  • Validate what is heard. What a listener hears is not always what the speaker intends to communicate. To avoid this issue, after the respondent answers, repeat her or his words aloud for confirmation, or send written interview notes back to stakeholders for review and validation.
  • All viewpoints are not equal. The viewpoints expressed by stakeholders are not equally important or applicable. Balance contradictory statements by taking into consideration the authority and expertise of each stakeholder. Prioritize the importance of viewpoints by the total value they will create (value created – [effort + cost of creation]).
  • The interviewer matters. Who’s asking the questions matters, since the interviewee may be more or less apt to share thoughts and opinions with an individual with particular qualities (e.g. level, type of relationship, personality).
  • Always ask “What didn’t I ask that I should have?” Give the interviewee an opportunity to communicate anything important that was not covered during the discussion. This confirms the completeness of the interview and highlights insights that would have otherwise been neglected.