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Communicating Marketing’s Value to Internal Stakeholders

May 29, 2019

Marketing contributes to the business in many ways, but its contributions are not always understood or perceived as adding value. When communicating marketing’s impact on the business to internal stakeholders, the CMO must articulate all aspects of marketing value. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we identify the CMO’s key internal audiences and provide guidance on tailoring communication of marketing’s value to these audiences’ needs, priorities, biases and preferences.

Audience Segmentation 

Just as segmentation of external audiences is necessary to build relevant external messaging, segmentation of internal audiences is required. Marketing’s internal reporting audiences include:

The CXO/board. This group’s composition varies by organizational size and structure, but in every organization the marketing leader must report upward and across the business, articulating accountability for investment in marketing campaigns, personnel and technology and the function’s impact on overall business goals.

Sales leadership. The marketing leader must communicate clearly to sales leaders to reinforce marketing’s alignment with – and contribution to – sales targets.

Product, solution and services leadership. Product, solution and services leaders (who also may be business unit leaders) have a unique and vested interest in how marketing supports their offerings’ revenue targets and helps them develop and enhance the reputation of each offering.

The CXO/Board

This group comprises the CEO, CFO and board of directors. Some organizations have other direct reports to the CEO or board who should be included in this group, such as the COO or governance committees.

Points of interest. This audience needs to understand how marketing is contributing to corporate business objectives in the near and long term. Marketing has historically described its value in abstract ways, leaving many executives, particularly the CFO, to consider marketing a cost center that doesn’t increase the bottom line. The advent of marketing automation and marketing’s focus on demand generation have provided a basis for quantifying the value stream of marketing activity to revenue. Unfortunately, the qualitative benefits of marketing value, such as marketing’s influence on market brand power, company valuation and capitalization, can be easily overlooked. The CMO must convey the range of marketing’s value to the business by discussing the many areas in which this function invests.

Composition. Ideally, the marketing strategy and annual planning processes, having set clear and measurable annual goals, dictate what is reported to this audience. This audience’s priority is understanding how marketing is spending its time and money, and how that investment is creating value for the business in the current fiscal cycle in the context of the business plan. The CXO/board is also interested in specific prioritized scenarios such as a high-priority geography, new product or new buyer type. Additionally, this group wants to know the long-term view of marketing’s value contribution. In this area, marketing can communicate how its efforts regarding brand, customer advocacy, third-party influencers and external stakeholders are improving perception, customer retention and valuation.

Cadence and forum. The formal reporting cadence for this audience is likely to be determined by scheduled quarterly business reviews (QBRs) and board meetings. These are typically live or virtual meetings that present content in the form of charts in a slide presentation. Because this type of meeting usually has a packed agenda, the talk track should focus on the key points.

Best practices. The CMO should avoid declaring marketing success or presenting bold marketing data when it’s inconsistent with the performance of other parts of the organization (e.g. during a sales shortfall). This audience may request information from marketing on short notice and ask questions not covered by standard reporting. Anticipate these requests when possible (e.g. by reporting the progress of an upcoming key event or performance of a high-interest initiative). Be prepared to respond to requests regarding unanticipated events (e.g. acquisitions, crises, major personnel changes). The CMO should ally with members of this group and spend time learning their interests and biases to establish how best to communicate with them.

Sales Leadership

This group comprises the chief sales officer (CSO) and his or her direct reports. In some organizations, it may include theatre-based, divisional or business unit sales leaders, such as the head of sales in EMEA.

Points of interest. Sales often perceives marketing as just brand and demand – it’s up to the CMO to showcase the various impacts marketing makes on the business. Sales often takes a short-term view, so expect interest in marketing support for near-term revenue with pipeline acceleration and customer marketing efforts. The next tier of communication should address demand and account-based marketing initiatives. Once sales’ immediate concerns are addressed, consider introducing topics about reputation and future opportunities.

Composition. Beyond marketing-sourced metrics, include how marketing has influenced and accelerated pipeline. If sales is having difficulty meeting its short-term goals, communicate how marketing is helping accelerate and close deals. If sales is performing well in the short term, sales leaders are likely to be receptive to other ways in which marketing provides value (e.g. influencer relations, sales content, launches, training). Confirm the go-to-market strategy with sales to ensure the alignment achieved during the planning process is sustained throughout the year.

Cadence and forum. A sales function that depends on leads from marketing to drive its pipeline benefits from frequent (biweekly or monthly) reviews with marketing. At a minimum, a QBR is recommended for discussions about reputation, demand generation and sales enablement activities. This ensures a balanced understanding of the role and overall contribution of marketing.

Best practices. Rather than focus on which function gets credit for marketing-sourced or marketing-influenced pipeline, shift the message to how marketing is driving better outcomes for sales. Some marketing actions may shorten the pipeline, influence higher sales prices or encourage the purchase of a broader portfolio of offerings.

Product, Solution and Services Leadership

This group comprises product and solution management, services, and business unit leaders. In some organizations, the product function is centralized. Large organizations often manage several business units with separate profit and loss (P&L) statements, each with its own product management function. Services is often run as a separate P&L, especially when several tiers of services exist (e.g. consulting, managed services).

Points of interest. This group is interested in marketing support for particular products, solutions and categories. Because customers may purchase products across multiple categories, the CMO must understand any tension that exists to articulate the importance of mapping products to different marketing audiences and to show the proportional coverage that each offering receives. Though product leaders are interested in marketing’s contribution to revenue, they also appreciate influencer relations and launch support.

Composition. Product leaders see marketing as a partner that helps products achieve market success and meet revenue objectives. This view is occasionally at odds with how marketing sees itself, or with the priorities marketing receives from executives. In an integrated campaign effort, the business prioritizes marketing efforts where it believes revenue is most likely to be generated, which means that not all products get equal marketing coverage. Be aware of this third rail in broader communications, and avoid orienting reporting around specific products and fostering competition for marketing attention among product leaders. Rather, highlight successful joint ventures between product and marketing (e.g. successful launches, thought leadership content, influencer relations efforts) that reinforce the partnership and the product team’s contribution to successful marketing efforts.

Cadence and forum. This element depends on the size and complexity of the organization and its offering portfolio. At a minimum, product and marketing leadership should hold a quarterly live meeting before the sales QBR.

Best practices. Because product leaders are focused on their offerings, they are interested more in how marketing is supporting them than the value of balanced messaging across a portfolio of offerings. However, they need to understand how audience-centric marketing efforts address their products, even if those products are not the core focus. Although some product leaders may complain that their products don’t get enough marketing attention, marketing should explain how it addresses audiences with reputation, demand generation and sales enablement efforts that meet buyer needs, which include the products of interest. The CMO must help product leaders look beyond pipeline generation to market perception, launches and late-stage pipeline support. Effective communication begins at the strategy and planning stages – early involvement from this group simplifies communication and reporting efforts.

The Sirius Decision

Tension between marketing and internal stakeholders is caused in part by stakeholder bias about marketing’s perceived role. Overcoming perception bias often requires engaging an audience in its areas of interest and then leading it into areas it might not expect but should be exposed to. The CMO must go beyond reporting what its audiences want to hear to show how marketing is making a difference by driving processes that lead to better outcomes.

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