CMO Huddles

4 Strategies to Get Your C-Suite On Board with Marketing

June 04, 2024 3:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

“Our new CEO doesn’t believe in marketing,” gasped a CMO from a $250mm professional services firm. This plea for help cast a momentary pall over the Huddle. Then other CMOs jumped in sympathetically, sharing how they’ve dealt with similar cases of ignorance. All the while, I wondered how in 2024 was this even possible.

When did marketing join the ranks of the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus and become a matter of belief or disbelief?

It’s worth noting that this could only happen in B2B-land. Can you imagine the new CEO of P&G, PepsiCo, or Geico saying, “I don’t believe in marketing!” They’d be shown the exit faster than you can say, “Aflac.” But I regress. Since less than 20% of CEOs of B2B companies have any experience as marketing practitioners, it shouldn’t be a surprise that many have little to no understanding of and appreciation for marketing as an investment lever.

Back to the situation at hand. What could our beleaguered CMO do to address his doltish CEO? Here’s a combination of suggestions gleaned from the CMOs of CMO Huddles:

1. Have a Plan B

The unanimous advice from other CMOs was “update your resume.” Explains veteran CMO Ellie Ahmadi, “If a leader is set in their ways and inflexible in their POV about marketing’s value, decide if you want to fight this inevitably long battle.” I’m not suggesting any CMO run from this challenge. On the contrary, take it on gusto while keeping up your network, befriending recruiters, and enhancing your personal brand JUST IN CASE.

2. Enlist Support

Most likely, you’ll need to surround the CEO with marketing believers if you hope to change their beliefs. Hopefully, you’re CRO understands marketing’s ability to create demand and capture it and knows what it would mean to his team if marketing ceased doing both. Jointly presenting past performance and near-term plans with your CRO should establish a foundational understanding. HR can also weigh in on the importance of company awareness for recruiting and retention. And perhaps you can find a marketing advocate on the board or with your CFO.

3. Find Common Ground

Every CEO wants to acquire and retain customers. Start by reviewing the CEO's vision and understanding their priorities. Then try to get an understanding of what marketing means to them. Kevin Briody, CMO of Edmentum, notes that “a CEO’s experience with marketing could be ‘brand stuff’ like awareness-building with little tie to pipelines and sales.” If this is the case, Briody advises, “sharing examples of direct contribution to the sales effort, and start building a case from there–even small wins can paint a picture.”

4. Show Them the Money

Ideally, your new CEO will appreciate your data especially if you put it in terms they can understand. Katrina Klier of Sage Strategy advises, “Create a meaningful metrics structure that shows marketing’s direct contribution to the business (revenue, new logos, renewals, partner leads, etc. NOT website visits, form fills, event reg, etc.)” Klier adds, “Your CEO might not understand the difference between marketing and sales let alone the vast grey space of overlap so you need to show them the data.”

Written by Drew Neisser

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