There is a rising tide of voices about how marketing’s loss of ground in the corporation is attributable to its lack of ‘knowing the numbers’. The Madmen of Marketing are responsible for knowing what markets will buy and how to get them to buy the products their company sells. They are the strategists who lead the way to growth, tacticians that enable sales to deliver that growth, and serve as customers’ internal ombudsman. By all accounts this credibility crisis is a troubling trend when B2B marketing is more critical than sales capacity to a company’s growth these days. Yet the voices speak the truth even if they’re originating from sales, finance, support and consultants. Marketing’s silence on the topic is mistakenly being interpreted as acquiescence.
For marketing to be relevant in the board room there needs to be a direct link made between what is happening in the marketplace, marketing investments, and the resulting revenue and profit generated. The discussion that management teams should be having is: Within “A” target market, can we leverage trend “B” by investing “C” dollars in “D” programs in order to arrive at “E” revenue, “F” cash flow in Q1 and Q2, and qualified “G” pipeline.
If it were only that simple. That discussion assumes, for starters, that the management team is aligned on market strategy. Many companies are not. Furthermore, management needs to understand the significance of trend “B”, the historical performance of marketing programs “D” within “A” markets, and the marketing team’s competence to deliver “E and G” along with sales’ ability to convert “E and F”.
Unfortunately most management teams don’t (want to) understand the various marketing variables and their interrelationships. That’s understandable because it’s complicated stuff. An analogy is a management team reviewing software engineering’s agile sprint/release burn down charts to determine if a product release is on track to deliver the forecasted product revenue. No one wants to go there. It’s easier to look at the high level data and trust your head of engineering or chief technology officer to make the right decisions; until products and/or quality slips.
So why can’t leaders just trust their CMO? Why is it that now Marketing must prove they are impacting the P&L? For starters the popular myth is that marketing is easy and anyone can do it. Just ask the Boy Scout troop leader or the church volunteer that created a WordPress site to raise funds or to rally the community around a cause. That being said, marketers don’t help themselves either by not educating their peers. Nor do marketers adopt the language used by their peers. Instead of having every marketing team member educate their colleagues on market trends, marketing programs and their results, marketers resort to complex, detailed reports and an array of conversion ratios that are meaningless to anyone outside of marketing. Within that data are the answers to the above points “A” through “G” but marketing never shares the decoder ring. Puzzled, frustrated and confused the CEO and board members can’t see the big picture and the interlocking parts, thereby concluding that marketing is not performing and doesn’t understand the ‘numbers’. Fait accompli.
So how do we turn this credibility situation around? The answer is not to relegate Marketing to a tactical role. That spells disaster in a market climate where B2B buying is social, transparent and trust-based.
Marketing’s turnaround begins by changing “how” it communicates internally. Stop listening to the pundits on what marketing should report on, instead listen to the questions peers, investors, and employees ask. Let those questions guide the data analysis and reporting. Marketing does this already with customers; listen to the language that is being used internally and respond in kind. In cases where marketing isn’t comfortable ‘talking numbers’ partner with the CFO who can help connect the dots between marketing and the ‘financials’ and how best to report on marketing’s results. Being able to ‘talk the numbers’ and being creative are not mutually exclusive.
Secondly, marketing must educate the company on what marketing means. Everyone has an idea but employees and peers don’t really understand. They definitely do not understand how the buying landscape has changed and how marketing’s prime charter is to engage and enable buyers. That means spending extra time with the CEO. They aren’t marketers, so don’t expect them to understand the myriad of metrics used to manage demand and perception or the frustration Marketing is experiencing managing a cornucopia of information channels on a limited budget. The CEO is struggling to understand how to manage and measure Marketing; help them so they can help you.
In addition to communicating in the language of peers also be transparent. Share all Marketing plans and results with the whole company; from creative concepts to campaign results. There is nothing to hide. The more people understand what Marketing is trying to achieve and how the market is evolving, the better they will be able to appreciate what keeps the Madmen up at night.
Regaining Marketing’s credibility will pay off beyond just re-securing the seat at the table; it strengthens company alignment and momentum. Madmen that show they impact revenue, EBITDA, cash return on sales ratio – “the numbers”- will find an audience ready to talk about how to better fund marketing. And that will bring back the mojo.