How to Get Business Leaders to Pay Attention to Marketing Data

By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA,

An appalling 12% of CEOs and BU leaders rely on marketing data to make decisions. The percentage drops to 7% for CFOs and finance executives. Despite the fact that 60% of B2B marketing organizations are producing dashboards and sharing them with business leaders, the business leaders simply aren’t paying attention.


Getting your business leaders to listen to marketing is not rocket science. The answer?

Tell them what they want to hear.

That is one of the key lessons from the ITSMA/VEM newly published survey report, The Link Between Marketing Performance Management and Value Creation.

Here’s how:

1. Ask them. Best-in-class marketers meet regularly with business leaders, not necessarily to report marketing results, but to have an interactive dialog. Through this dialog, the marketers gain clarity around the business outcomes and metrics that matter most to executives. If the business leaders are not coming to you to have these substantive discussions, then step up and take the initiative! The tighter the link to these executives, the greater the understanding of the business strategy and how marketing is contributing value.

Marketing at EMC, large complex, global technology solutions company, needed to determine where to focus its investments. Barb Robidoux, VP Marketing, EMC Global Services, explained, “Stakeholder engagement is an important initiative. Publishing a good-looking dashboard is not a substitute for a meaningful discussion.” Robidoux and her team saw an opportunity to transform the marketing quarterly business review from a one-way report to a meaningful dialog:

  • Do we understand your priorities?
  • Are your priorities changing?
  • Here’s what we have been doing in marketing. Do we need to change our focus?

2. Speak their language. Best-in-class marketers are business people first, marketers second. Business leaders are interested in what marketing has to say because marketing isn’t talking about twitter followers, unaided awareness and whitepaper downloads. Instead, marketing is talking about revenue, market share, propensity to buy, and customer lifetime value.

Karen Walker, SVP of Global Marketing, Cisco, said, “The business is going to make an investment in marketing if it knows that marketing is going to be a predictable, repeatable revenue-generation machine.” By reporting marketing results based on business outcomes, and not marketing effort and activity, marketing gains a new level of partnership with the sales organization and a seat at the proverbial business table.

3. Set performance targets and track results. Best-in-class marketers are more likely to set quantifiable performance targets for their marketing programs and objectives and then close the loop by tracking their actual performance against those targets. Every marketing program must have well-defined and documented performance targets. The performance targets should be very specific: Which customers? Which markets? Which offerings? What timeframe? Most marketers, if they set targets at all, don’t get this specific.

A senior field marketing director at a large, global professional services company met with the BU leaders for 30 minutes every quarter. Marketing was being pigeon-holed as the event planners and email marketing arm of the company. “We needed to set performance targets and track what matters to our executives.” Marketing stepped up and asked the BU leaders what they wanted marketing to do and how they wanted marketing to report the results. The field marketing director requested monthly meetings to report progress toward achieving the targets. The once per quarter 30 minute meetings have now been replaced with monthly 90 minute meetings, proving that when marketing has something to say, business executives will listen.

4. Report results in a multilevel dashboard. Best-in-class marketers build multilevel dashboards with the top level being the business outcomes and metrics that matter most to their business leaders. The top level tells the story based on the articulated business strategy. It’s market share, total contract value, share of wallet, price premium. Notice that these are not metrics “owned” by marketing. A business outcome, by definition, is not owned by a single function. Rather, multiple functions contribute to business outcomes. The drill-down levels are the metrics that matter to marketing—the metrics that help the marketing organization improve their productivity and effectiveness, and track their activity. The metrics that matter to marketing should never be put in front of the business leaders, unless of course they ask for them.

Nick Panayi, director, global brand and digital marketing, CSC observed, “The most difficult part was not the dashboard itself. It was collecting all the underlying elements,” The power behind the CSC dashboard is the integrated digital ecosystem that enables tiered data. Everything brilliantly rolls up into one number: total contract value (TCV). Other metrics on the top level include, marketing- qualified leads (MQLs), marketing- sourced pipeline (MSP), and marketing- assisted pipeline (MAP). If the executive wants more detail, the dashboard also provides drill-down capability. Users can click to see: the name and contact of every lead, where he or she is in the buying process, assets viewed on the website, events attended, and responses to campaign calls to action. Or users can dissect individual campaigns or the sales pipeline, analyze content quality based on usage, or determine the contribution of social media over live events.

As marketers, you want to be indispensable! You want to build internal demand for marketing data as critical input for strategic decisions. As one marketer I interviewed said:

“You want to be so integrated with their success that they
can’t live without you.”



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