What not to say to your CEO

You get it. It’s a new day for marketing and the role you can, and should, play is helping to directly grow top-line revenue. You’ve read the research and seen other B2B marketing groups make a significant impact on revenue in their companies. You know this can work and you have a vision… to attend the quarterly sales planning meeting and deliver the marketing forecast for revenue!

You’re ready to transform marketing from a cost center to a revenue producing part of the company. You’ve got the Big Idea.

But, and this is a big ‘but’, no one else in your company seems to get it, especially the CEO. He thinks of marketing simply as the ’make it pretty’ department or the ’collateral’ department. So you’re in the process of preparing a briefing to present to the senior management team in which you will state your case for the Big Idea and ask for budget to proceed.

Many marketing leaders have been at this crossroads and have learned – the hard way – what NOT to say. Here’s a compilation of three of the biggest mistakes you can make, along with a better way to have this discussion with the CEO and the senior management team.

What NOT to say #1: “I need more money for this project even though I can’t show the value of the investment.”

While most marketing leaders won’t put it exactly this way, this is what they mean most of the time when they ask for additional budget. Further, senior management is often very conditioned to hear this message, as marketing does not typically work in an ROI environment.

My first piece of advice is never, ever pitch the Big Idea (and ask for money) without a business case and a financial model. A well-prepared marketing leader will facilitate the Big Idea discussion using the language of business, not the language of marketing. This means presenting the business challenges and then offering a business solution, based on a well thought out business case and financial model. This does not mean talking about activities. Instead, it means talking about the investment, and the return on the investment, in terms of business improvement and revenue contribution from marketing.

When selling the Big Idea, the following statement will carry a much larger impact than the first statement.

“As a result of this marketing investment, we will grow the pipeline by 38%, reduce sales time lines by 14%, improve average deal size by 8% and grow overall top line revenue by 12%.”

See the difference? Do your homework before you present the Big Idea and ask for budget. It will pay off.

What NOT to say #2: We don’t need to work with sales in order to get this project done.

In many companies, marketing and sales work as fairly independent and non-synergistic silos. When sales has a project or a new initiative, they don’t involve marketing. Likewise, if marketing has a new project or initiative, sales is not typically involved. In the world of traditional marketing, this is a universal occurrence.

However, once the move begins to transform marketing into a revenue-accountable part of the company, continuing to work in silos will lead to failure. From the very beginning, marketing must work closely with sales to co-develop and align key processes, definitions, technology, goals, and roles and responsibilities.

When selling the Big Idea, here’s a line that works.

“As we look at transforming marketing from a cost center to a revenue center, our closest partner will be sales. We’ll need to work hand-in-hand with sales to define a holistic lead management process, align goals, develop roles and responsibilities, and establish a closed-loop revenue process. Ultimately, we need to jointly build and execute a new revenue machine.”

See the difference? By working with sales from the beginning, you will gain critical alignment to ensure long-term success.

What NOT to say #3: “This is a technology project.”

First, the Big Idea of transforming marketing from a cost center to a department with revenue accountability is not a project, it’s a transformation, and it signals the creation of a new status quo. With any disruption in status quo, carefully guided change management for all involved stakeholder groups is vital. Marketing will need to lead the organization through five phases of change – Disruption, Resistance, Acceptance, Adoption and Advocacy.

Second, technology is only one part of the Big Idea. While the right technology is required as the foundation, the real time and effort to ensure success will occur around the strategy, people, process and results.

When pitching the Big Idea, here’s a statement to help make your point.

“We’re talking about a new status quo, a transformation of marketing from a cost center to a revenue center enabled by a cloud technology foundation. This will involve new processes, roles, responsibilities and of course, proactively managing the change over a 2-4 year period.”

See the difference? This provides a truer and more comprehensive vision of the initiative while redefining the role of marketing in the company.

Try these new approaches and you’re much more likely to get a “go ahead” from your CEO and senior management team.

Go on – what have you got to lose? How have you sold the Big Idea? I’d love to hear your comments!

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About Debbie Qaqish
Debbie is a nationally recognized thought leader, innovator and speaker in Revenue Marketing with more than 30 years of experience applying strategy, technology and process to help B2B companies drive revenue growth. She is the author of the award winning book – “Rise of the Revenue Marketer,” Chancellor of Revenue Marketing University, and host of Revenue Marketer Radio (WRMR). Debbie has been at the forefront of the marketing automation phenomenon, first as a beneficiary, and now as an advocate and expert. She is a frequent speaker and writer on topics related to Revenue Marketing transformation, leadership, change management, sales and marketing alignment, ROI, content, organization, talent and marketing operations. She coined the term “Revenue Marketer” in 2011. As a principal partner and chief strategy officer of The Pedowitz Group, Debbie is responsible for developing and managing global client relationships, as well as leading the firm’s thought leadership initiatives. Debbie is also PhD candidate and her dissertation topic is how the CMO adopts financial accountability in an e-marketing environment.

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  • Posted by Debbie Qaqish
  • On 06/22/2015
Tags: marketing automation, what NOT to say, ROI, CEO, disruption, resistance, acceptance, adoption, advocacy

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