That’s a tricky question – and many board members and marketing managers are still looking for answers.
In an Internet-driven world steered by social media and underpinned by proliferating data streams, the entire marketing industry has been redefined in just a few years. Struggling to catch up, many board members appreciate a helping hand to guide them through this confusing virtual universe. However, the best results appear when these emerging links between board members and marketers are two-way channels of communication.
So What Does Marketing Need from Boards?
No longer concerned only with cash flows and profit margins, board members can be surprisingly valuable sources of inputs that can help businesses stay ahead of the competition. Although individual dynamics naturally differ by region, industry, and company, there are many advantages in strong links between board members and marketers, particularly for grabbing overlooked opportunities.
In terms of organization-wide commitments to customer engagement, board members have much to offer, thanks to the diversity of their perspectives and experiences. No longer the purview of just the advertising, PR, marketing, and sales areas, customer and stakeholder relations are rapidly becoming the responsibility of the entire company. And that includes its officers.
Shifts in Marketing Priorities
Spurred by an endless stream of innovative technologies, changes in social environments are hoisting once-routine marketing tasks up to board-level status. A good example is corporate image management, relegated since the 1960s to tepid PR campaigns. But in today’s world, where a misstep by a brand (or one of its representatives) goes viral in seconds, with potentially global repercussions worth millions of dollars.
This is why events with reputation-destroying potential must be covered by risk management plans that are discussed with the marketing department and established at the board level – including the appointment of emergency spokespersons. With thousands of citizen bloggers having their say on hone channels like Facebook and TikTok, on-the-fly responses are unacceptable reactions to foreseeable crises. Instead, formal damage control plans must be drawn up at the board level with marking input, as part of a multi-stakeholder strategy that steers crisis response reactions.
Strengthening Links Between Boards and Marketers
It’s still too early to draw up a universal blueprint for closer connections between board members and marketers. However, early adopters are dipping tentative toes into the board+marketing thought stream, eager to dive in and get a headstart over the rest of the industry. Even at this preliminary stage, some insourcing guidelines are emerging:
- Board composition should be flexible, due to the rapidly shifting demands of the marketing world, including members with international and public sector experience who can advise industry-focused CEOs on how to maneuver through unknown minefields. Public health, logistics, innovation, and workplace diversity are other areas where outside board members can add unexpected value;
- Focus on governance and top-tier strategy planning, letting managers handle everyday challenges, with the caveat that pairing a marketing manager with a board member endowed with specialized expertise can offer many benefits, provided that full transparency is assured, reporting back regularly to the board.
- Customer engagement strategy sessions should be built into board meeting calendars, setting aside a few hours to brainstorm the broad strategic implications of changes in marketing environments,, exploring new markets, analyzing innovative products, and testing creative services, while rethinking ways of handling the customer base.
Showcasing the Three Vs
When presenting to C-Suite executives, marketers must spotlight their metrics and underscore accountability. In material terms, this means demonstrating improvements in the three Vs:
- Value: is the ROI from a marketing action high enough to justify its inclusion in the next quarter?
- Volume: have targeted volumes increased in specific terms, such as units sold, newsletter sign-ups, or seminar attendees?
- Velocity: are the desired outcomes appearing fast enough to be attributable to marketing actions?
Keeping Marketing and Sales Aligned
It seems obvious, right? But many marketing managers are eager to grab all the credit, when presenting to the board: “Look at this great campaign we ran!” However, unless sales figures are looking equally great, directors are unlikely to be impressed by marketing activities alone.
A win-win approach is for marketing managers is to work closely with sales departments, actively seeking live feedback from field staff, analyzing results, and tweaking metrics in real-time. For added credibility and transparency, joint presentations are an effective way of grabbing the interest of the board, tying marketing activities tightly to the bottom line.
- Marketing Manager: “We ran this great campaign last month …” (image-heavy PowerPoint)
- Sales Manager: “… and here’s the hike in sales!” (splashy graphs complete the presentation)
Spotlighting Marketing-Influenced Revenues
Quite naturally, boards must focus on revenue, as well as related aspects like sales pipelines and customer growth. That’s why it’s important to demonstrate the contributions made by marketing actions, especially their ROI. A credible marketing presentation shows how much is being spent on marketing, compared to how much is being brought in by these activities, and the importance of this KPI for closing sales.
The key skill here is to track the journey from lead to buyer, or at least to active engagement with the brand. For today’s marketers, CX is a core KPI that is both measurable and data-driven, perhaps not completely clear, but always crucial.
Ways to Keep the Board Engaged in Marketing Activities
When dealing with the board, marketing managers must always remember that marketing is a means, not an end. In corporate terms, marketing is an ancillary activity that functions in parallel to core areas, like procurement, production, and sales. Consequently, it must prove its value constantly to the board through metrics that are easy to understand, mainly revenue, reach, and traffic.
A presentation that’s basically an acronym dump – weighed down by confusing CLM, CRM, CMP, CPM, CPT, CPA, CRO, and CTR references – is a sure way to lose their attention. Instead, engage their interest through brief anecdotes, with illustrations and graphs that are easy for everyone to understand.
Hot tip: when presenting results – and more particularly budget proposals – to the board, smart CMOs make sure to speak C-Suite language. For CEOs, CFOs, and COOs, their worlds circle around cash flows and balance sheets, supply chains, and inventories. They really don’t care about retweets and shares – that’s the marketing manager’s job!.
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