Communicating the Value of Marketing – 5 Ideas to Get Your CEO on Board

Jeff-Winsper-headshotBy Jeff Winsper, President, Black Ink

Great leaders are known for simplifying complexity, which makes it easier for the management team to focus on improving the execution of the company’s vision.  This is an innate ability to be a decisive problem-solver. Whether it is a war general in the time of battle, or the President of the United States setting policy, making the right choice at the right time is imperative to improving the outcomes.

CEOs face the complexity of running a business each and every day, of which they have a greater degree of probability for making the best choice,  so it’s the CMO’s job to make sure the CEO fully understands their marketing agenda.  In a recent study, 70% of C-level executives believed that marketing departments are under greater financial scrutiny than ever before and 39% felt that marketing investments should only be made where they can be measured. Additional research shows that 73% of CEOs believe marketers are disconnected to financial results and the value of the outcomes. Here are 5 easy steps to get the CEO on your marketing bandwagon.

  1. Sell probabilities – There’s a great scene in Zero Dark Thirty where all the CIA experts are planning for an attack on where they thought Osama Bin Laden was living. All of the experts based their decisions on the probability, not certainty. This is something marketing leaders can learn from. It is not uncommon for marketing to over promise and under deliver and sales to under promise and over deliver. Marketing needs to take a more leadership role  and focus the conversation and investments around probabilities. Every CEO knows absolute certainty is near impossible, but leveraging the learnings and insights to help improve the probability factor is better than over promising certainty. 
  2. Make it easy to understand – CEOs have the right to ask the tough questions that get to the heart of the matter.  What they don’t like is complex answers.  Use black and white quantitative language, avoid droning on and using qualitative marketing language.
  3. Align efforts to his/her top agenda items – This may seem very obvious, but approximately 90% of organizations struggle to execute. A leader who sets the framework up front and clearly communicates the objectives provides an easier roadmap for marketing to execute and is less inclined to be second-guessed along the way. According to Booz, 71% of respondents in weak-execution companies thought that decisions were being second-guessed.
  4. Make it predictable – This may seem counter-intuitive to point number one, as one would believe nothing is predicted with 100% certainty – especially in marketing.  Seismic shifts can occur over night and no matter how hard you to try and predict, the outcome may be different.  For example, once TMZ published the second Ray Rice video, the NFL was ill prepared to handle the news cycles that shifted from sports to human interest. That said, the deviation curve for most of marketing activities are far more predictable than not. This includes predicting consumers purchase behaviors, predicting marketing ROI and market share.  Arm yourself with as much relevant data to avoid using emotional aspects of marketing when in the boardroom.
  5. Bite size your efforts –It is rare for CEOs to make huge bets on anything, contrarian to what we want to believe.  Even the biggest bets like the launch of iPad is built upon a series of small calculated bets – or bite sized enough to judge if the direction of journey will lead to the desired outcome.  Marketing can and should prove out models to help inform the next step.  So whether that is a pricing strategy, an industry penetration goal, or even tactically content/offers, go small to get big.

In an age where all too often CMOs are disconnected from their CEOs, it’s imperative to the success of marketing (and ultimately, the business) that there’s a strong partnership between the CMO and the CEO. How has your organization created and sustained alignment between marketing and the CEO?

About the Author: Jeff Winsper, President of Black Ink, offers more than 20 years of leadership experience in marketing, serving companies ranging from Fortune 500 to start ups. His deep experience generated the insight that companies – in particular mid-sized enterprises – are lacking the foundation of proper big data analytics to measure marketing’s performance. Prior to launching Black Ink, Jeff founded marketing agency Winsper, part of Worldwide Partners, with 137 offices in 54 countries.