Boardroom buy-in: How marketers can win CEOs’ support

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

In many financial institutions marketers continue to battle against perceptions of marketing as the “colouring in department” and as a cost rather than a growth driver.

It can be difficult to demonstrate the correlation between marketing investment and results, and with budgets often hanging in the balance, it is imperative that marketers find ways to prove that their efforts are effective.

A big part of the challenge is in speaking the right language, the most important being finance.

“For every pen portrait or brand awareness campaign presented in a gloriously designed powerpoint deck, there is a CFO saying: ‘That’s very pretty, but what does it mean to the bottom line?’” explains Michael Richards, MD at alan. agency, a b2b agency.

“If financial services marketers want to prove their worth, and get their budgets, they must talk the language of the boardroom; moving away from marketing jargon and being laser-like on business impact and value creation.”

Antoni van Huissteden, CMO at critical administrative services provider TMF Group, adds that it is important to not lead discussions with an opinion, but with facts.

“You don’t go into a conversation with the CEO saying I think that we should be doing this – you then get the counter-question: why do you think we should be doing that? Answering that you have a gut feeling isn’t going to get you far.”

Michael adds: “Marketers should agree metrics and KPIs up front – including lead generation, sales, talent retention, competitor tracking and brand health. Likes and followers are fabulous, but only if they come with a tangible and provable business value.”

Doing this convincingly means understanding the overall business strategy and where marketing fits into it.

“Put yourself in the CEO’s shoes,” says Jason Ball, founder of B2B marketing agency Considered Content. “What are they obsessed about? What keeps them up at night? Topics are likely to include actual and projected financials, investor pressure, how to reach growth milestones, what to do about competitors and how to attract talent.

“Marketing can help by demonstrating a clear understanding of these goals and explaining how a wide range of value-creating activities can contribute. These will encompass end-to-end demand generation, pricing, distribution, customer experience, innovation, talent acquisition, investor relations, customer insight, vision and values, culture development and more.”


Capturing the KPIs

Antoni says that it’s important to have robust processes for capturing these types of key information.

“You could get away in the past with saying, look, this article got X many visitors on the website and therefore it performed better than this other article which had Y visitors. [This would be] very high level metrics from Google Analytics or your website data.

“That doesn’t cut it anymore. You now need to combine data sources and basically tell the complete story. If you have an article that has those X website visitors, how do those visitors move through your marketing funnel and interact with other pieces of content and other activities? It means having multiple touch points with a client or with a prospect measuring all of those tying it together.”

“You can measure everything you want, but if you’re not able to tie it back to revenue and deals won, then in a lot of organisations, the sales guys and girls are going to be seen as the rock stars that bring in the big bucks.”

Jason of Considered Content says the specifics of what marketers need to deliver on will vary.

“[Metrics] may come down to simply selling more stuff. It can mean opening up new segments and markets, or even creating whole new ways to go to market. But the end result is fundamentally about business growth. This, however, runs counter to the lingo that many B2B marketers use. This tends to revolve around the business of marketing rather than the business of becoming a more successful business.”

At TMF, Antoni says, marketing tracks every stage of the journey through the website, which he serves as the main shop window to the world.

“We track everything that comes through the website. We have a whole lead flow process, so if someone lands on the website, they make an inquiry with us that gets directed into our CRM system. Sales picks this up, they rightfully have the conversation and get the prospect to become a client.”

This robust attribution process means that Antoni and his team can confidently point to the number of leads they have brought in.

“[We can say] they’ve converted this percentage to qualified leads, this percentage of the qualified into opportunities and at the end this is the revenue that directly came through marketing activities.

“Yes there was a salesperson involved and yes, that salesperson needs to get all the credit and limelight they deserve, but it started out with a marketing activity.”

A company that has signed a deal can be proven to have read an article, interacted with an email campaign or interacted with social posts on LinkedIn.

“If we tie that all together, we can comfortably say that everything that we’ve done holistically, the multi-channel approach has worked and has brought us this deal.”

Antoni adds, however, that it shouldn’t all be about revenue.

“I don’t think that a marketing department should just be measured on how much revenue or how many leads and opportunities do you bring in? It’s also about, for example, how many mentions do you get in tier one, two and three media specific to your industry.”

Michael Richards also believes that there is scope to think beyond financial KPIs.

“An analytical approach to marketing doesn’t have to mean an end to the creativity required to touch people’s emotions and elicit behaviour change (buy from us!).

“Instead data can support creative by defining when and where marketers should target audiences and with which messages and what value will be achieved. Once the marketing team and board are speaking in one language and one voice – well, that’s when the really game-changing ‘colouring in’ can begin.”

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