Most board directors understand intuitively that marketing is an important part of any company’s growth engine. Not only does it fuel the near-term sales engine, but it also boosts future performance.
Done right, marketing is an accelerator of any business. However, I’ve noticed a growing trend in board meetings to relegate marketing to a single metric – pipeline.
While it is true that marketing plays an important role in generating new leads, a strategic marketing function can play a much larger role in the company’s short-term and future performance. In addition to demand generation, it creates market position, raises brand awareness and reputation among existing customers, partners, press, analysts, employees, investors and potential acquirers.
As a company grows, it creates leverage and consistency across global teams, sales, recruiting, customer success, delivery and nearly every other function.
Why do we lack marketing?
I believe the main reason is that marketing is a mystery to many board members. According to research from Spencer Stewartless than 3% of publicly traded Fortune 1000 boards include an active marketing leader.
The percentage is probably even lower for Series A companies whose boards tend to be made up of founders and investors, most of whom come from a finance, product or operational background with little marketing experience ( it’s a big miss in my opinion, but that’s a topic. for another post).
When talking to data-driven board members, stick to what can be measured: marketing’s contribution to the near-term pipeline.
Second, the need for all business leaders is to be more data driven. Digital demand generation events and activities such as paid social campaigns and webinars tend to be easier to track and tie back to near-term revenue compared to brand, content and corporate marketing.
Things like brand campaigns, PR, analyst relations and even internal communications are difficult and expensive to measure for return on investment. Most companies know these aspects of marketing are important, but creating ROI takes data, systems and time that many younger companies don’t have.
That’s why business leaders who talk to data-driven board members stick to what can be measured – what marketing adds to the near-term pipeline. However, that only tells half the story, and frankly, marketing (and the value of your table) is a disappointment.
Update the program to remodel
A board position in a growth company is not just governance, but guiding and helping to support future performance. That means your board needs to know that marketing is doing well in the coming quarters and is thinking about the years to come.
When putting together your next marketing board update, consider five slides that cover the five:
- What are marketing priorities?
- How are you operating against those priorities?
- What is the health of the pipeline?
- Is the company and its offers situated for future growth?
- What is planned for the next quarter or year?
Clarify the priorities
Start with the areas of business that marketing is driving or supporting. This can be expressed as quarterly objectives, annual OKRs, or strategic initiatives that feed back to the larger business objectives.
For example, if recruiting and retention is a strategic business imperative, talk about how you’re helping to improve and drive employer brand awareness. If customer retention and expansion is a priority, it may be important to talk about how you are empowering cross-selling within your teams or promoting thought leadership in a certain new area. If your team’s budget and time is going to that priority, let the board know and tell them why.
Show your performance
Boards look for trends and progress, so create a scorecard against these priorities that you can update and share at future meetings.
If you’re doing something new every month, that’s a red flag. Make it easy to use by giving areas a red, yellow, green rating based on data, milestones achieved, or customer feedback. Make sure you “own the red” because Latina Conant, author and CMO of 6sense, says it well. Admitting gaps not only helps build credibility, it also gives you an opportunity to ask the board for help.