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“My CEO sees the marketing department as a presentation factory.”
“Management doesn’t approve additional budget for anything besides events.”
“Our job is to create collateral for the sales team, nothing more.”
“We had amazing PR a couple of months ago, and no one understands the success.”
“We need a new website, but management won’t approve it.”
“We don’t do social media; our CEO doesn’t believe in it.”

If you are a marketing manager or director in a company that has existed for more than 7 years and sells complex products, you can likely relate.

Through years of talking with hundreds of marketing managers, we saw a common challenge: communicating the true value of marketing to management.

Marketing managers have been telling us horror stories about how hard it is for them to convince management to invest in new initiatives, while at the same time they are being pressured to prove their business worth through concrete results.

In some industries, things are simpler for the marketing folks. Many Software as a Service, or SaaS, companies are able to directly link marketing activities to lead generation, and even to definitive opportunities. This is due to the fact that most, if not all, of their sales cycle, from lead generation to closing the deal, is done or tracked online.

But when it comes to complex sales, things are, well, more complex. Events, PRs, demand generation programs and relationships between customers and sales teams all affect the buying decision. In these cases, marketing needs to find better ways to convey their real contribution to management.

One reason for the lack of communication between marketing and management in such companies is the fundamental approach of each side. Management is always looking for bottom-line impact. Every decision that they make is either measured or can be linked to cost reduction or increase in revenue. It’s all about investment and the return on this investment.

All of the marketers that we talked with have a clear understanding of the value of their marketing plan. However, it is much more amorphous than other business functions in the company. Compare the following decisions a CEO needs to make: adding sales headcount and creating a new website for the company. Sales headcount is directly linked to revenue – more sales people means more opportunities that can be handled concurrently.

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But what’s the impact of a new website?
The marketing manager knows that an outdated website reflects negatively on the company’s image, which in turn makes the life of the sales person much harder. But she can’t really prove it, or convince management that this is the case.

Ironically, marketing technology makes things worse. Marketing Automation, analytics and BI assure that they can show insights about marketing contribution to the business. But these tools shed light on a different challenge – how to measure marketing impact in a way that is agreed upon by the marketing and business leadership, and how to present it in a meaningful way. These challenges, if not met properly, not only fail to improve the situation, they strengthen management’s notion that marketing cannot not measured, or linked to business results.

I have to admit that as the CEO of my company, I faced the same challenge – this time from the management perspective. I had to make a decision whether to revamp our site, or invest in a project management tool. The project management tool had a clear ROI – it should increase productivity in X%, which would give us the ability to service additional clients with the same headcount. On the other hand, a new website would shorten our sales cycle and generate leads, but with no way to evaluate the impact at the time – only to evaluate the expense of creating a new site. Eventually we managed to do both, but that’s a story for another post…

As data-driven marketers, we invested a lot in reporting and measurement tools. Through the years we saw the power of measurement and visualization of marketing data, and how it increases the quality and impact of marketing activity – as well as how to explain these benefits to management. However, we also saw the limitation of measurement, and the challenges of communicating results to C-level management. We saw the impact of choosing the wrong KPIs, or worse – choosing too many KPIs and wasting efforts analyzing them.

Then, one day, I was asked by a BI firm to give a presentation to their clients about marketing measurement. I sat down to create a presentation that quickly turned into a guide on how to talk with management, understand the differences in approach between management and marketers, and how to create a meaningful measurement system and high-impact dashboards. It quickly became a presentation that was way too long for the speaking slot that I got in that event, but it did inspire me to write an ebook about it. You can find it here.

I hope you find value in it, and as always, your feedback is much appreciated.

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