Need a Data Solution But Facing a Tight Budget? Here's How to Convince Budget Holders to Increase Spend on Data Within Your Company

December 20, 2023

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When your company is cutting budgets on everything, convincing decision-makers to invest in data solutions, instead of (or in addition to) marketing and advertising, is not an easy task. But it’s doable if you adopt a framework called SLEEP.

Navigating the complex terrain of executive decision-making is a familiar challenge for every professional if your job is more hands-on than managerial in function. Is your mission convincing C-suite executives of the necessity and value of data solutions? This task requires more than just collecting enough evidence that data is useful; it demands an understanding of the executive mindset and strategic presentation skills. You can refer to my blog post on the executive mindset here. In this article, however, I want to dive deep into the details and introduce you to the SLEEP framework—the one I often use in my marketing communications with amazing success and efficiency.

How Executives Differ from Hands-On Roles: Stages of Awareness

But first, let's take a step back. Data professionals are very different from executives in several respects, as I outlined in my previous post. But what does this mean in terms of building your communication strategy? It means that executives are often less problem/category-product aware.

In marketing, we use market segmentation by the stage of awareness all the time to build a content strategy for the company. But this can very well be applied to any communication strategy—including the strategy of presenting your project/solution to the execs.

What Are These Awareness Categories?

There are 4 different stages of awareness:

  • Unaware
  • Problem aware
  • Category aware
  • Product aware
awareness segments

The fact is that most executives you will have to deal will belong to unaware and problem aware stage. What does this mean in practical terms? This means that you'll have to build a communication strategy to address these stages of awareness. And that's exactly where SLEEP jumps in. As SLEEP is a framework I use to build communications with Less Aware Audiences.

SLEEP Framework for Less Aware Audiences

SLEEP stands for Simplify, Lead, Engage/Entertain, and Pick. Let's delve deeper into every part of it.

SLEEP framework


In the previous post, I covered in detail how you should simplify your message while talking to executives: no terminology, no references to features. Use only simple things that are relevant to them: ROI, revenue, sales numbers.

Right now, I want to offer several simple tips on how you can use simplification in your visual presentations as well. Nothing fancy, just simple rules of storytelling with data based on Gestalt principles.

I’m pretty sure that most of you are familiar with them. However, let's quickly cover the most useful ones here:

  • The Principle of Proximity: You see rows or columns based on the space between the dots.
  • Principle of Similarity: Objects coloured in the same colour are perceived as belonging to one group. On the other hand, it’s impossible to stand out if visually you are attributed to one group.
  • Principle of Enclosure: An object enclosed in a shape is perceived as belonging to a different group/entity.
  • Principle of Continuity: Several objects positioned in a line are perceived as belonging to one group.
Gestalt principles

So, if you’re planning to convince your exec to invest in the necessary data tools, use these principles to present graphs and charts that deliver the insights in the simplest way possible.


Now, the question is, what insights to deliver? You don’t want to offer your executive a ready-to-follow solution. Because, guess what? Bosses don’t like to be managed. What they like is to be guided to the solution that they would consider completely theirs. That’s exactly why you would probably like to present them with the following insights:

  • The big picture: What are your competitors doing? Have they already invested in similar solutions? Maybe the solution you’re advocating allows you to gain a competitive edge in a field that is becoming more and more important for your customers? Highlight this!
wider perspective with data

  • Goals: How the solution’s capabilities intersect with your company’s goals and objectives.
align with objectives slide
  • Forecast over time: Show how exactly your revenue/sales will grow within the next 6-12 months with the solution you’re advocating.
promising better future with data
  • Use the Fear-Of-Missing-Out (FOMO) effect: Show how your sales and revenue would have looked like this year if you had invested in this tool 12 months ago.
FOMO effect in presentations


Bosses, like everyone else, love to be entertained. Using caricatures for funny analogies always helps to keep them engaged. Throw in 2-3 funny pictures after a slide with the numbers. The attention span of a modern human is quite short—every 5 minutes, they need to look at something that would be engaging/entertaining for them.


Executives love to make decisions. And feel that they made it wisely. Actually, it’s not just about bosses, we’re talking about a general human bias called the relativity principle. As humans, we can’t make a decision if we’re presented with only one option. We need to consistently compare things to feel good about the decisions we make. You might think this is definitely not your case, but how about a little experiment? $189 for Eftyhia—is it a good deal or a bad deal?

a gift in a box with a bow plus a price tag $189

If you’re not of Greek origin, you probably have no idea what Eftyhia is. But because I mentioned Greek origin, your brain might be rushing to a conclusion that it could be some Greek food maybe. Then it’s a bad deal (probably) because almost $200 for something you’re about to eat doesn’t sound attractive. But what if it is not a plate but a truck of food? Or maybe it’s not food at all?... On and on it goes. As you can see, you always need a reference point to figure out how good or bad the deal is (by the way, eftyhia means “happiness” in Greek, and it’s just not for sale 😅).

So, to make your boss’s brain busy, you have to offer them some options to compare.

Also, consider this: your previous slides with all the telling and convincing data have propelled them from an ‘unaware” and ‘problem aware’ segment to the ‘category aware’. So by now, they are supposed to know that to solve their problem, they need a solution that does X, Y, Z. But they are not yet product aware! They need to decide what product specifically they need to choose to make their troubles go away. Present them with several options, again, using core design principles to guide them to choose the solution you believe is the best. Comparison charts that are usually provided by the vendors come in handy in this context.

two comparison charts

I actually presented my SLEEP framework at one of Aimondo’s webinars, together with two more speakers who covered the topic of securing budget approvals for data tools from two different perspectives: a data analyst’s perspective and an executive’s perspective. If you’re interested, you’re welcome to watch the whole session here:

And leave your comments to let me know what you think! You’re also welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn or X (former Twitter). Just check out my author’s page to find links to my social accounts.

Ana Bibikova, a Head of Marketing at Aimondo

Ana Bibikova, a Head of Marketing at Aimondo


Ana is a rare breed: T-shaped marketer with a wide experience in eCommerce, B2B, B2C and B2B2B marketing. Writes about unconventional strategies for exceptional growth.

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