The Way I See It: Getting CMOs to Step Up

Here's a decidedly sobering fact to ponder: Chief marketing officers have the shortest tenure of any business executive. And with a recession in full force, marketers now need to prove themselves to the CEO and to the board more than ever before. <br clear="none" /><br clear="none" />Marketing is often dismissed as an expense, whereas sales has historically been viewed as the revenue generator. That said, online channels have changed the rules of the game&#x2014;93% of buyers start their research online, and 80% of decision-makers who made a recent purchase believe they found the vendor (as opposed to the vendor targeting them). <br clear="none" /><br clear="none" />Translation: 1. Nurturing and managing a lead from inception is more important than ever; and 2. It's marketing&#x2014;not just sales&#x2014;that has a big impact on a company's revenue line. Given that, it's about time marketers claim a seat at the revenue table! Here are a few strategies based on my own experience that will help you achieve this:<br clear="none" /><br clear="none" /><b>Speak the same "financial" language as other executives.</b> Look at how every other influential executive in the organization talks: They are concerned with ROI, revenue, profitability and stockholder equity, not the soft metrics to which marketers are accustomed. If you really want to grab the other executives' attention, make every effort to speak about marketing activities in terms of how they concretely integrate into the company's revenue pipeline.<br clear="none" /><br clear="none" />Project results, not just expenditures. Most marketers can predict what they will spend in a given quarter, yet neglect to forecast how that expenditure will impact the bottom line. By focusing on cost instead of hard metric results, marketers perpetuate the myth of marketing being the cost center. Instead, marketing should mirror sales by forecasting and predicting leads, pipeline and revenue in order to solidify their position as a revenue-driving company asset.<br clear="none" /><br clear="none" /><b>Align incentives with sales.</b> One of the reasons sales is so successful is because it is incentive-based. In the beginning of the quarter, revenue goals are set and employees are compensated based on performance. Marketing should take a cue from sales&#x2014;set quotas and take on incentive-based compensation to improve results. By establishing a different infrastructure, marketing and sales can finally align and close the ever-elusive gap between the two departments.<br clear="none" /><br clear="none" /><b>Standardize best practice methodologies.</b> All functions in the enterprise need standardized, repeatable processes in order to be seen as professional disciplines. Marketing is no exception to this rule, and should develop a meticulous and unanimous methodology for standardizing activities within the department. Such consistency will guarantee better performance and reliable results. Consider establishing a marketing "dashboard" of key metrics to review quarterly.<br clear="none" /><br clear="none" /><b>Utilize the right tools for the job.</b> Just as sales force automation revolutionized sales, marketing automation technology is revolutionizing marketing by providing marketers with the firm metrics they need to prove their case. Today, affordable marketing automation technology exists that helps drive revenue, predict results, plan spending and measure performance. By arming themselves with the right tools, marketers can finally stand up and say, "Here's the proof that we really helped drive these results." Marketers must utilize such tools in order to effectively earn a seat at the revenue table.