4 Questions CEOs Wish Marketing Could Answer – Without Having to Ask

November 25th, 2014

There are few marketers in the industry who haven’t felt the pains of working with a CEO who isn’t behind the marketing strategy. A study by The Fournaise Group revealed that 80 percent of CEOs don’t trust – and aren’t very impressed by – the work done by marketers.

In other words, CEOs oftentimes aren’t on the same page with the people who spread the word about their company. Sound effective? Not by a long shot.

While not every CEO needs to be a marketing expert, it’s imperative that CEOs have a clear understanding of marketing’s role within their business and how to measure its effectiveness. I recently polled my network of CEOs to find out their top marketing questions.

Here’s what they asked:

1. What is marketing’s real role and how does it fit into the company’s vision?

This question usually means their marketing team’s efforts are either not clearly defined or out of alignment with the company. A train works as an analogy: the destination is the vision and direction of the company. Marketing represents the engine, and the boxcars contain the supporting marketing tactics. Each car carries a different aspect of marketing payload – brand initiatives, product marketing, and other marketing functions.

If any part of the train is not aligned with the rest, it is perceived as a runaway and/or extraneous weight.

The CEO wants to know what is going to be part of the train and its value. KPIs and benchmarks are what he uses to measure the value of the load, so the marketing team needs to have those in place before (and during) the ride.

Remember that good marketing doesn’t just fit in; it is purpose-built to move the company toward the vision. Everything else is fluff.

2. How can we measure the effectiveness of marketing?

Because so many marketers poorly communicate measurement, CEOs often feel there isn’t a clear way to gauge success. Anything that costs time or money can be measured in some way– and if it can’t, you are wasting both.

Set up well-defined goals from the beginning and show the analytics of how your efforts are working to impact the KPIs that CEOs care about. It’s easy to simply run a report and send it to the CEO, but good marketers resist this.

Instead, they have a regular review session with stakeholders including the CEO to discuss progress and corrective action on these goals. Marketers: the chances of a CEO reading those reports on their own are slim. Stick to the agreed upon measurements and report on them – end of story.

CEOs: If your marketing team can’t provide clear analytics based on goals that drive your business, you need to find someone who can.

3. What about social media? Does it really pay off?

Almost every client says, “Do we need a Facebook page?” Or even more frequently, they demand one. Marketers: Hold your ground – the answer isn’t always yes.

If you spend your entire marketing budget chasing trends, you will fail. Identify which, if any, social media outlets impact your buyers’ decision path. The right use of social media is powerful; the wrong use is an exercise in connecting with people who don’t care about buying from you. Developing a consistent and relevant brand story is key, and not every marketing trend will work to tell it.

4. What can we do differently to stand apart from the competition?

History proves that innovation which is used to meet demand fuels company growth and differentiation. The secret is to find the “demand” because it usually isn’t obvious – especially in competitive markets.

If the company feels like a “me-too” participant among the competition, it’s time to change the game. Look for the unresolved issues that your buyers struggle with and position your product as the solution. Remember that companies look to marketing for creativity.

CEOs can and will expect you to not only think outside of the box, but also to create an entirely new type of box to think outside of. Don’t be afraid to be different. Be sure that you and the CEO know what buyers want and need before they do. If you can tap into an emotional need that buyers care about, marketing will have an easier job in telling a different and more relevant story than the rest of the pack.

CEOs need to not only be on board with our plans, but they should also be part of the process. If you align strategies and tactics with the overall vision, the whole business will operate with a clearer sense of direction. In addition to benefiting from a cohesive team, you never know when it’ll pay off to have the CEO in your corner.

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