I’ve been in a variety of marketing organizational structures throughout…
Ok the title is a little corny, but hear me out.
Most of your marketing “calories” are spent on execution. Of course, right? That’s what you’re paid to do and what drives the business forward. “Create and send stuff” are the universal marching orders in every business, with corresponding speed and budget being the two variables that can change drastically between working in a startup, like EmployStream, or a corporate marketing position.
Because execution and “doing” is 99% of your role, you will inherently become very good at action, which will result in promotions. Or, you will turn into a “status quo” marketer who is content with just getting things done. Time, experience and sometimes luck will move you up the corporate ladder, but is that good enough for you?
Depending on your organizational structure and marketing department, your moments in front of the C-suite can be few and far between. As I have found to be true, your reputation as an “outstanding marketer” or “great marketing operator” could find its way to your CEO or CMO, but what’s missing? I’ll tell you… leader, motivator, executive.
Getting the facetime in front of the C-Suite and capitalizing on that facetime can be a harder task than working as a Cleveland Browns backup QB because, in either case, you’re only as strong as your team. And to be strong, you need to have worked with that team to know their strengths.
For Marketers, It Takes More than Shiny Objects and Unicorns to Sell your Executive Worth
I’ve known many marketers to fall flat on their face when tasked with selling their campaign or program due to focusing on the wrong things—the shiny things—like creative design or a hot technology. Or, as I did earlier in my career, give too much “marketing speak” that fails to get buy-in and actually sheds a negative light on you as a promotable person.
The number one mistake I have seen during my time working with executives is a lack of clarity when translating a win, a plan or a proposal to the CEO. And this is not just paramount when trying to become a VP or CMO—this is about solidifying your position as a business leader, not just “head marketer”. Some can convey clarity easily through self-confidence or business experience; many (like myself) have to work on it daily in order to not fall back into the comfort zone of the marketing silo. We must keep marketing as the forward-thinking part of the business in which everyone is bought in.
So, how do you do it? I’ve worked with many CEOs, presidents and business owners, both as an employee and as a consultant, and through this time I’ve found that there are three solid ways you could transform your “marketing operator” status to that of a solid business leader by tweaking how you present your marketing information.
3 Ways to Position Yourself as the CEO’s Right Hand
Know your attribution COLD:
It’s inherent that marketers need know their company brand, the target customer and how to drive marketing initiatives forward, but in my experience, the golden nugget is knowing the data. For instance, how many prospects are coming into the funnel? Where (and when) are they leaving? What can we do to drive more leads for the best return?
To understand this, you need to know a couple things:
- What channels are producing your best cost per lead or cost per sale?
- Which touchpoint is actually producing the conversion?
The latter information is usually the hardest to track down due to multi-touch and multi-channel campaigns running at all times. The sooner you can master your attribution tracking, though, the better you can forecast future returns and speak this way to your CEO when the common question is asked… “What will get us more leads or sales faster?”
I almost want to rename this piece of advice “Act like a Contractor”, because being on both sides of the table in my career, acting like a contractor (even if you’re employee) gives you a more objective perspective not just on the marketing function, but how you assess new investments in marketing technology or advertising.
At the end of the day, you are operating a budget and it’s your fuel to generate revenue. As an employee, I feel like we need to justify each and every spend before it happens. As a contractor or consultant, we ask for a budget, we build a plan and we spend that budget with minimal conversation around anything other than reporting and possibly new spend. We “contractors” give ourselves more flexibility to execute, but also are willing to take a risk on a new test based on market data or a particular trend in our reporting.
Be the glue of sales and operations
As I mentioned before, marketers tend to prefer to work within their own silos. This can be a personality thing as much as anything else, but as a current or rising business leader hailing from the marketing function, knowing the ins and outs of the business should be another case of second nature learning.
Throughout my career, this has been the toughest for me to grasp. I always knew and supported the other functions of the business in many of my past companies, but it’s only in the last ten years that I fully embraced how marketing can fit into the other functions. Most companies, especially B2B, are legacy sales and operations businesses. Marketing was an afterthought. Now, as the world is getting smaller due to technology, marketing is becoming an important, internal business partner to the other functions. The sooner that marketers understand how their campaigns and programs fit into sales process and service delivery, the faster you’ll be able to speak in revenue-generation and cost-efficiencies terms. Again, these are not only to give marketing a platform at your business, but to transform your feedback in cross-functional conversation from marketing-centric to business-centric.
Change your mindset
You don’t get to be the CEO’s trusted advisor overnight… that’s still going to take some of that time, experience and maybe luck, no matter what. But with the right mindset, careful communication and proper preparation, you can get where you want to be much more quickly. Remember: Marketing IS a powerful business function. Shift your thinking to show you’re leading your own shop for good of the business, and the rest will fall into place.