Marketing Bootcamp

5 Things CEOs Don't Ask About Marketing, But Should

It’s often difficult to isolate and quantify what marketing is responsible for, so there is an inherent disconnect between result-oriented CEOs and their marketing teams.

Oftentimes, this results in a completely hands-off approach, usually because management doesn’t truly understand marketing’s strategy enough to know what questions to ask. The problem with this process is that companies are missing out on serious growth potential.

Related: 10 Steps to Quality CEO Decision-Making

Below are five questions you as the CEO can ask marketing to set the foundation for a profitable, result-focused relationship moving forward:

1. How do I measure the effectiveness of marketing correctly? We all know that “what gets measured, gets managed,” and while it can be more difficult with marketing, it’s no less true. A recent Fournaise study found that the majority of CEOs don’t trust marketing -- in large part because 75 percent don’t think marketing applies the same definitions to things such as “results” and “return on investment.”

CEOs and marketers should define these terms together with a focus on how marketing investments are aligned to company goals. Figure out exactly what data you will be looking at and what you will be looking for, so you aren’t bogged down by a huge report that doesn’t provide measurable results. Allow this conversation to be guided by marketing's insights on what is reasonable, but in the end make sure everyone knows precisely how success will be measured.

2. How do you draw the line in the sales cycle between sales and marketing? These groups are intertwined, but all too often are at odds with one another, with each wanting to claim the results of success or place blame when a plan is ineffective. For marketing and sales to be aligned, it’s critically important that both teams agree on roles and expectations.

If there isn’t upfront agreement on how the teams work together and deliver united value to the business, the relationship becomes fractured. The clearer it is, the easier it will be to measure results and make each side more effective.

According to MarketingProfs’ Sales and Marketing Alignment Benchmark Report, companies that can figure this partnership out have shown a 36 percent higher customer-retention rate and a 38 percent higher sales-close rate.

3. How does my sales team get the “good leads” they are talking about? Reports have shown that 61 percent of marketers send all leads directly to sales, but in the end only 27 percent of those leads will actually be qualified.

Sales teams have to clearly communicate what criteria they feel is necessary for a lead to be qualified. Marketing must then set expectations as to what will be required to capture leads that match that profile. The more specific the criteria, the more time and/or expense may be required.

If it’s simply not likely to deliver on expectations within the time frame or budget, a different strategy may be required. This can be a tough conversation, but it’s vital for both teams to succeed. Marketing can often shine here, presenting alternative programs and lead-generation strategies to help sales meet their objectives.

Related: Sales and Marketing: Separated at Birth?

There is also a second step that many marketers focus on: sales tools. Part of marketing’s job to equip sales with the tools needed to convert leads. A single brochure that touts the value you see in the product or service doesn’t typically cut it today.

Sales cycles are more complex, often with numerous stakeholders that need to be communicated to. When marketing works with sales to understand this process and create relevant tools that speak to the interest of different buyer motivations, it gives sales a unique advantage and can help drive more revenue, faster.

4. How important is social media? Marketing should be able to answer this with specific reasoning for your company. If they can specify what they want to do and the expected value it will deliver to the business (not smoke and mirrors), trust them.

Social media is here to stay, but it takes resources and should be strategic. Similarly, if they are advising against it, there is probably a good reason. It’s important to weigh the expected investment -- dollars, time and resources -- with the desired outcome.

Yes, social media can be a powerful tool that can reach a large audience, but that doesn’t mean it is a good way to reach your particular customer. Marketing isn’t about being seen by the greatest number of people, it’s about connecting with the right people.

5. How do we stand out against our competition? Marketing is responsible for how your company is presented to the world. At a product or service level, differentiation can be challenging with competitors offering similar capabilities. This is where company initiatives such as commitment to innovation, strategic partnerships and corporate values can deliver a unique impact in helping your company achieve a market-leader position.

Allow your marketing team to help define these areas of differentiation. If they are consistent with the brand you want to propagate, follow their lead and emphasize those elements throughout the company. The main thing is that they are conscientious about determining what the unique attributes are, and are continually reevaluating to make sure it is still the best for the current market.

The disconnect between CEOs and marketing comes down to communication. If you can work to facilitate an ongoing conversation with your marketing team, with clearly defined terms and expectations, you will find it is a relationship that can work wonders for unifying your company towards growth.

Related: Think Like a Company's Marketing Director