Marketers: How To Gain the Trust of the C-Suite

Everyone in marketing wants to become a trusted partner of the C-suite. But what's the best way to do that? That's what we'll explore in this post - we want to help you gain greater respect and job security.

To earn the trust of the C-suite, you as marketers need to first truly understand the C-suite and how they are measured. The key to earning trust is by helping them achieve their objectives.

What the data is telling us: we're not doing well

In a recent study entitled "Measuring and Communicating Marketing Performance" by ITSMA, VisionEdge Marketing, and Forrester, it was found that the vast majority of marketers rely on activity-based metrics - which fail to tie to business outcomes.

Activity measures include stuff that's easy to measure - like website visitors, press mentions, and Facebook likes. Problem is that these simple measures don't tie to business outcomes - how do Facebook "Likes" drive revenue? Others rely on operational measures, like cost per lead, and win rates - those are more useful, because they address efficiency, but they do not tie to business outcomes either.

Our marketing activities need to answer two key questions:

  1. Are we doing the right things?
  2. What decisions can we facilitate as a result?

That means insights into what is driving results, and data to make decisions.

One of the key problems is that most marketers are reporting on what we are doing, as opposed to helping drive business results. Your view needs to be future-based, not just past.

People often approach metrics expert Laura Patterson of VisionEdge Marketing to ask "What are the top five metrics I should be using?" However, she feels that's not the right question - because metrics need to work together and connect with each other. Metrics should not work in isolation - independent of each other. As Patterson suggests:

"Instead, you need to start building your dashboard by answering these three simple questions:

  1. What are the outcomes that the business needs to achieve in order to meet their goals?
  2. What does senior management expect marketing to contribute towards these outcomes?
  3. How will senior management know that marketing has made a contribution?"

Patterson and Julie Schwartz of ITSMA clarify those questions when they write:

"So the starting point for your dashboard is not metrics. Rather, you begin by having a conversation with senior management. You have to start from the top and work down. You also have to understand your business and the role marketing plays. You can't even begin to think about metrics until you've done this work."

Bottom line: Marketing metrics start with research on the business and the needs of the C-suite.

How am I doing? CEOs grade marketing

Who is doing it well? Some good news. The study asked for the grade the CEO would give to marketing - on how tied in they are to business results. The results were:
A - 27%
B - 38%
C - 29%
D - 6%

It was found that, for the A's, the vast majority (7 of 10) were growing market share, customer satisfaction, and loyalty. But the C's and D's were the ones without dashboards or metrics tied to business outcomes.

Conclusion: 3 areas to start earning trust

Three areas are needed - alignment, accountability, and analytics. Focus on these and you will earn the trust you desire.

  1. Alignment. Speak the language of the business. Understand the business goals. Start with the business goals that key stakeholders care about. This is the key starting point. Talk to your C-suite leaders. Ask them what's important to them. Listen to their conversations with others.
  2. Accountability. Measure marketing performance and report results through dashboards. The best not only use dashboards, but use the dashboards to communicate with the C-suite.
  3. Analytics. Be numbers driven. Use data as a predictive Note that the A's invest in skills and as well as experimenting with models.

We hope this helps you bond with your C-suite and get better job security.

This article first appeared on the Marketo Marketing Blog.

Jeff Ogden is president of the sales lead generation company Find New Customers and an award-winning marketing expert. He's also the creator and host of the popular TV on the web show, Marketing Made Simple TV. Contact him at or 516-495-9350.

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