More than ever before, executives are demanding to see concrete results from Marketing. Yet half of marketers do not feel sufficiently prepared to provide hard ROI numbers to their CEO (IBM Global CMO Report, via Demand Gen Report). Because of this, 73% of executives don't believe Marketing drives demand and revenue, according to the Fournaise Marketing group study.
Sounds like there's a disconnect between CEOs and their marketers, doesn't it?
Every marketer needs to be able to go to their CEO and show how they're contributing to the bottom line, and communicate that in such a way that the executive team will recognize it and support it. The problem is, many go into that meeting with their CEO wielding an onslaught of screenshots and bullet points, instead.
If you're having trouble communicating Marketing value to your CEO, it might be a result of some of these communication mistakes taking place. Take a look, and learn how to remedy those missteps.
7 Things Marketers Do Wrong When Communicating Results to Their CEO
1) Not Showing Metrics
First and foremost, you need to go in with data to back up your contribution to the bottom line. Don't go into that meeting with screenshots of the newly redesigned website to show off how beautiful it is. Show the increase in leads you got because you redesigned the website for, say, more targeted calls-to-action.
One of the key benefits of using metrics to show your impact is that you take out any subjectivity when it comes to determining Marketing's worth. By sharing that you generated 1,000 leads with an average close rate of 5% and an average deal size of $1,000, you can say that Marketing is directly responsible for generating $50,000 in revenue. Not all CEOs like rounded corners and dropdown navigations. All CEOs like revenue.
2) Getting in the Weeds
If you have 5 minutes with your CEO to talk about your last campaign, should you talk about the pieces that went into it -- the landing page, the design, the webinar -- or talk about what came of it -- 300 new leads, 50 opportunities, and 2 customers (so far)? There's no question about it. You should focus on the results of the campaign in terms of metrics the CEO cares about. Additionally, even if you have more than 5 minutes with your CEO, that doesn't mean you should fill it with details she doesn't care about.
The CEO has hired you because you're a smart and able marketer, and you've been entrusted to do what you need to do to drive results. Unless you have a micromanager for a CEO who wants to know every little detail, skip over all of that and get to the good stuff.
3) Not Drawing Conclusions
Data brings objectivity to the conversation, but that doesn't take away the need to interpret data and draw conclusions. You're living in your marketing campaigns every day and have reviewed and analyzed the results to figure out what happened, if you achieved your goals, and if a particular campaign was a success or not. In a short meeting with the CEO, you don't want to waste his time going through the same thought process you've already gone through and drawn conclusions around yourself.
On top of that, you want to make sure his conclusions are the same as yours. Take this opportunity to highlight the key points of the project and the takeaways: X worked, and it's now a key part of our next 3 campaigns; we hit our goal of Y, and this is the third month in a row we're on target; we didn't hit our goal of Z, here's why, and this is what we're doing differently the next time around.
4) Not Focusing on the Right Metrics
There are a lot of metrics you could possibly show your CEO. Everything from blog subscribers to email open rate to revenue pipeline. Beware of vanity metrics, though -- numbers that look good but lead your executives to ask, why do I care? According to the Fournaise Marketing group study, 70% of CEOs think marketers bombard their stakeholders with marketing data that hardly relate to or mean anything for the company's P&L, which is what executives care about at the end of the day.
When it comes to showing data, always be able to either show the key metrics your CEO actually cares about, and/or tie your metrics to those bottom line numbers. For instance, if the CEO is currently laser-focused on a particular metric such as marketing qualified leads (MQLs), jump right to that instead of dwelling on website visits or social reach. Or if your CEO isn't harping on a particular metric, reconsider how you discuss the results of a campaign. That means you don't focus on impressions or clicks; those are vague marketing terms that aren't rooted in the real world. Talk about how many leads you generated -- a CEO can "hold on to" a lead -- and what that means in terms of revenue pipeline or actual revenue secured -- a CEO can definitely hold on to revenue.
5) Showing Too Much
Not only do you want to cut out the extra details of how you got your results, you also want to strip away anything that clutters your message. Gauge the level of skepticism coming from the other side of the table. Do you need five charts of data to prove a point, or do you need one key metric to support your argument? If you've successfully avoided these communication mistakes we're discussing now, you've likely built up the trust of your CEO and don't need to barrage her with 10 slides to get buy-in. In fact, showing more data can often steer the conversation into the weeds instead of focusing on the main goal of your conversation, which may be to approve budget or simply get a congratulations on a good month's work.
Take, for example, the case of reporting on the number of MQLs because the CEO has tasked the marketing team with increasing that by 50%. Stick with a single simple report -- the number of MQLs per month and the % increase over the month before. Contrast that with a report on the number of MQLs, broken down by MQL type, where those MQLs came from, and the % increase of each kind. Those are details that your CEO does not need to know at a high level. You need to know them in order to continue growth and drive your future strategy, but you can skip over that in your presentation of results. In fact, showing the breakdown of MQLs may prompt the CEO to ask why there aren't more of one type of MQL than another, when that's really not the point of your presentation.
6) Not Anticipating Questions
Ideally you go into a meeting with your CEO with a concise presentation that gets to the point and supports your argument with a few key slides. Then you prepare beyond that to anticipate the questions you'll get from the other side of the table. In some cases, it's as simple as having answers to these questions; in others, it's preparing additional backup slides to dive deeper if the conversation steers that way.
Put yourself in your CEO's shoes and hear yourself giving that presentation. How would you react? What holes exist in your argument? What other priorities are in the back of the CEO's mind that may stir up potential questions? Think it through and prepare, and you'll feel confident, look brilliant, and gain the trust of your CEO.
Let's continue with the prevoius example of presenting the volume and increase in MQLs from month to month. Think through what your CEO could potentially ask. Did the lead quality change as you scaled quantity? Prepare a few metrics that show lead quality over time, based on sales attempt rates, opportunity conversion rates, or even sales rep ratings. How did you generate so many more MQLs this month? Have a few key points in your back pocket of the top two or three things that drove that increase.
7) Taking Too Long to Get to the Point
Okay, there's a theme here -- keep things short and sweet, and support it with meat. (How's that for a rhyme?) There's a useful metaphor used to describe the writing style of journalists writing news stories: the inverted pyramid. This upside-down pyramid is biggest at the top and represents that you need to start with the most substantial information pertaining to the story. From there, the pyramid gets narrower and narrower as the writer details other elements of the story in decreasing order of importance. The idea being that, if your reader abandons your article part-way through, they've gotten the most important information already.
Use the same inverted pyramid metaphor when communicating with your CEO. Get to your point quickly. You're meeting for a reason, and she knows you want to communicate something to her. Get to the most important information quickly and use your remaining time to support your key argument. In the case of presenting on the MQL generation, kick off the meeting strong, with the one slide that communicates your point: MQLs by month and the % increase. Then you can go into any supporting points, like the top three initiatives that led to the increase, or anything else you want to communicate in your time together, like the marketing plan for the coming month.
What else has worked for you in communicating to your CEO? Share with your fellow marketers in the comments!