Most administrators intuitively understand that marketing is an important part of any company’s growth engine. This not only fuels the short-term sales engine, but also future performance.
Done right, marketing is an accelerator for any business. Yet, I’ve noticed a growing trend in board meetings to relegate marketing to a single metric – the pipeline.
While it’s true that marketing plays an important role in generating new leads, a strategic marketing function can play a much bigger role in a company’s short-term and future performance. Apart from generating demand, it also shapes market positioning, increases brand awareness and reputation among existing customers, partners, press, analysts, employees, investors and potential acquirers.
As a business grows, it creates leverage and consistency across global teams, sales, recruiting, customer success, delivery, and nearly every other function.
Why do we sell short marketing?
I believe the main reason is that marketing is a mystery to many board members. According to research by Spencer Stuartless than 3% of publicly traded Fortune 1000 boards have an active marketing executive.
The percentage is likely even lower for Series A companies whose boards are typically made up of founders and investors, most of whom come from a financial, product or operational background and have little marketing experience. (a big miss in my opinion, but that’s a topic for another post).
When talking to data-driven board members, stick to what can be measured: marketing’s contribution to the short-term pipeline.
Second, every business leader needs to become more data-driven. Demand-generating digital events and activities like paid social campaigns and webinars tend to be easier to track and link to short-term revenue compared to corporate branding, content and marketing.
Things like brand campaigns, public relations, analyst relations, and even internal communications are both difficult and expensive to measure in terms of ROI. Most businesses know these aspects of marketing are important, but proving ROI requires data, systems, and time that many start-ups simply don’t have.
That’s why business leaders who reach out to data-driven board members stick to what can be measured – marketing’s contribution to the short-term pipeline. However, that only tells half the story, and honestly, it does marketing (and your board value) a disservice.
Revamped Board Update
A board’s job in a growing company is not just governance, but it guides and helps sustain future performance. This means your board needs to know that marketing is doing well in the coming quarters and looking ahead to the years ahead.
When planning your next chart update for marketing, think of five slides that cover the five Ps:
- What is Marketing priorities?
- Ho are you doing perform against these priorities?
- What is the health of pipeline?
- Are the company and its offerings positioned for future growth?
- What is foreseen for the next quarter or year?
Start with the areas of the business that marketing leads or supports. This can be expressed as quarterly goals, annual OKRs, or strategic initiatives that link back to broader business goals.
For example, if recruiting and retention is a strategic business imperative, explain how you help refine and build awareness of the employer brand. If customer retention and expansion is a priority, it might be important to talk about how you are strengthening cross-selling within teams or fostering thought leadership in a certain new area. If your team’s budget and time goes to this priority, let the board know and tell them why.
Show your performance
Boards look for trends and progress, so create a dashboard against those priorities that you can update and share at future meetings.
If you’re doing something new every month, that’s a red flag. Make consumption easier by assigning areas a red, yellow, green rating based on data, milestones achieved, or customer feedback. Make sure you “own the red” like Latan Conant, author and CMO of 6sense, likes to say. Acknowledging the shortcomings not only helps build credibility, but also gives you the opportunity to seek help from the board.