Should a Marketing Leader Tell the CEO Everything?

Should a Marketing Leader Tell the CEO Everything?:

from Sales Force Effectiveness Blog 
Keep Quiet resized 600If you are a small company marketing leader, updating your CEO can be a challenge.  There are two approaches I regularly see:

  1. Tell the CEO your game plan upfront
  2. Fly under the radar, execute & update as requested
There are pros and cons to both approaches.  Let’s explore them.

Flying Under the Radar

This is definitely the high-risk, high-reward option.  Things can either go really good or really bad.  Really good and you’re a genius.  Really bad and start updating your LinkedIn profile for recruiters.
If you’re going to take this route, you better:
  • Be extremely sure your strategy is complete and dead on
  • Complete extensive buyer research to understand the customer’s needs, wants, goals & objectives
  • Align your Lead Generation strategy with your buyer research
  • Develop content that delivers the right message, to the right person, at the right time, via the right channel
  • Execute your demand gen campaigns flawlessly
  • Track ROMI on all your demand gen activities
  • Be agile - Learn quickly from your mistakes and pivot when necessary
  • Implement Lead Management to nurture leads until sales-ready
  • Track the leads you send sales through to win or loss
  • Be ready to report on all of it when asked
I don’t recommend this option.

Proactive Transparency

The second approach is to be transparent from the get-go.  Bring your marketing strategy and budget to the CEO and request feedback and approval.  Explain to him how you plan to:
  • Drive brand awareness
  • Fill the top of the funnel
  • Deliver qualified leads to the field
Be prepared to:
  • Walk him through your demand generation activities
  • Explain your mix of outbound and inbound
  • Describe your social media strategy
  • Outline your budget in detail and the expected ROI on marketing spend.
Here’s the problem with this approach: Most CEOs have no idea what marketing really does.  Last year, The Fournier Marketing Group interviewed more than (600) F1000, F500 and SMB CEOs. Their research found that 80% of CEOs admit they don’t really trust Marketing’s work.  That’s a big number!
If you’re part of the lucky 20%, the proactive transparency approach should go well.  Your CEO trusts marketing because he understands it.  He wants the company to be a marketing-led, sales-driven organization.  As a result, he is willing to invest time, money & people in marketing to be successful.
For the unlucky 80%, the proactive approach may not go so well.  The CEO’s marketing ignorance will be an impediment to executing your plan.  He sees marketing as merely a cost center and not a revenue-generating asset.  If the company isn’t hitting the number, your budget is first on the chopping blocks.
If you’re going to take this approach, engage the CEO like a buyer.  You need to market and sell your strategy effectively.  To do this, you must get inside his head and think like a Chief Executive.
Most importantly, you must learn the C-suite language.  Most marketeering leaders cannot speak the P&L language of their CEOs and stakeholders.  They need to.  Start by downloading the CEO Persona tool.  A CEO wants to hit the number and keep the board happy.  Therefore, focus on measureable metrics that tie directly to the bottom line.  It is critical that you track the effectiveness of every initiative to prove they generate revenue.  If not, marketing will continue to lack credibility in the eyes of your CEO.  Good luck selling your strategy in that environment.
The metric that matters most to the C-suite is revenue attributable to marketing spend. There are tons of metrics marketing leaders track.  Most are important, some not so much.  Yet the only one your CEO cares about is marketing leads that generate new revenue.
CALL TO ACTION: Engaging the CEO and getting his buy-in on your marketing strategy is difficult.  They often question marketing value & impact on the bottom line.  If you’re going to win him over, focus on what matter most: Hitting the Number.  You need to tie all your efforts back to their impact on revenue creation.  Marketing efforts that produce leads that generate revenue is the key metric.  If you can’t measure it, you better learn fast or you’ll never gain credibility.

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