How to Win Your CEO’s Trust

Written by: Patrick Kilgore on 5/20/16 4:17 PM


Marketers have always had an uphill battle to climb to prove our worth to skeptics. If you encounter someone out in the world that doesn’t really get the value of marketing, it’s not a big deal. But when the person doubting marketing’s worth has control over your budget, the stakes are high.

One study found that 80% of CEOs don’t really trust their marketing department. With a number that high, there’s a very good chance the CEO at your company is included within it. If the person in charge –  the one who your department’s budget and your very job are dependent on – doesn’t see any value in what you’re doing, that’s scary.

Why CEO’s Don’t Trust Marketers Now

CEO’s don’t think you’re lying to them, they just may think marketers are focused on the wrong things.

Where CEOs have to think about the tangible, practical results of everything the business does – things like revenue and profits – in their eyes, many marketers are far too focused on activities and metrics that don’t seem directly related to their concerns. 

The same study found that:

  • 80% of CEOs said they felt marketers were disconnected from the financial realities of the company
  • 78% said marketers too often lose sight of their primary job: generating customer demand for products or services in a quantifiable way
  • 75% of them think that marketers misuse terms like “performance,” “ROI,” and “results”. They want to see results that relate directly to revenue, while marketers tend to produce marketing analytics that show “results” that aren’t easily connected to the financial measurements most relevant to the company.

While marketers have good reason to collect and care about tactic-level metrics like blog post views and email opens, that data doesn’t tell CEOs anything that’s valuable according to their priorities. It simply looks like a distraction from the issues and concerns that really matter to them.

3 Tips to Win CEO Trust

Luckily, when you know exactly what the problem is, figuring out the solution is a lot easier. CEOs want to see marketing analytics that demonstrate the contribution that marketing makes to the big financial picture. That hasn’t always been possible, but with the types of marketing technology available today, you can finally bridge the gap between the “results” marketers track and the ones CEOs want to see.

1. Connect your marketing plan, budget, and metrics back to revenue

This is the most important step to winning your CEOs trust. You need to figure out the relationship between your plans, the budgets associated with those plans, the metrics you collect and the sales the company makes.

To do that, you need to start tracking the whole journey each lead takes so you can better understand which marketing activities are actually leading to sales. We’ve already established that showing a CEO that a lot of people looked at a blog post won’t mean much, but when you can show them that a lot of people that first came to the website to view a blog post later became customers, then that data takes on a different level of importance.

Get your data to talk to a marketing performance management platform that starts to show you the connections between the data from your various silos. You want to be able to see which marketing actions lead to further actions – so you can understand when they stop being one isolated activity and become one touch point in a series of touches that lead to a sale.

That’s when you can start working to tie each touch point back to what it’s worth in revenue. And that’s the kind of information your CEO cares about.   

2. Provide reports that are easy to understand

Once you pin down the kind of marketing metrics that actually matter to your CEO, you need to deliver them in a way that’s palatable. A spreadsheet full of numbers takes some work to make sense of. If you can get your most valuable marketing analytics into a visual format that’s easy to understand and clearly shows the results of your work, then you’ll have a much easier time showing your CEO how much value your department is adding.

3. Improve your marketing plan continuously so you can drive more revenue

Now use that same information that you’re using to demonstrate your worth to start getting better. The data visualization that finally helps your CEO to see how your work pays off can also help you gain new insights into which of your activities are paying off and which aren’t.

When your marketing team has the power to clearly see which marketing campaigns and tactics are helping you meet your primary business goals, you can tweak and shape your marketing planning to match what actually works.

Some marketing metrics can look deceptively impressive until you track them through to their ultimate conclusion. That was the problem CEOs had with marketing metrics all along. Marketers don’t do themselves any favors by working on campaigns that don’t generate the right leads.  

If a particular topic you covered in your content consistently produced a lot of views and engagement, but no leads that turned into sales, then you know it’s not worth continuing to invest a lot of time and money into. If you’ve been spending a lot of money to send people to a conference that produces a lot of new leads, but few turn out to be a good fit once you complete follow up, then you know to consider other conferences instead.

As long as you’re only looking at the tactic-level metrics, you don’t know how to see what’s really working. Your overarching goals are ultimately the same as your CEO’s, and your marketing plan should reflect that.

Marketing analytics are only as valuable as your ability to interpret them.  Everybody will benefit when you can turn the data you have into information that’s more valuable – not only for proving your worth to your executives, but also for making your marketing plan stronger and more genuinely valuable to the company.

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Topics: Hive9