Press Coverage - B2B Marketing

Posted on 12th March 2016 at 4:10pm by Carl Reader in Press Coverage

Originally posted at

Imagine everything you could achieve with a bigger marketing budget. Visualise all the possibilities: you could expand the team, really go all out on that next campaign, or invest in technology that would save you valuable time. There is hardly a marketer out there who would turn down more money. The trouble is, many B2B marketing departments are worrying about protecting their budget, let alone trying to increase it.

It’s easy to say ‘just show the board ROI’, as if this will be enough to convince the non-marketers in the c-suite that you and your department deserve investment. But there’s more to it than that. That approach might work if you’ve just come off the back of a successful campaign. But Owhat if the successful campaign is yet to happen? Also, will it be enough to ensure marketing is consistently given the attention – and therefore resources – it deserves and needs to succeed in the long term?

Trying to secure a bigger budget will always be a challenge, but as B2B marketing becomes increasingly sophisticated, it’s arguably in a better place than it’s ever been, with more ways than ever to justify, in numbers, why it needs those extra pennies. As marketing continues to transform and becomes increasingly analytical, it’s also easier for marketers to explain, and potentially predict, their success in a language the board will understand.

Despite this, many B2B marketing departments still have a long way to go before their boards will readily accept that they deserve further investment. If a business is struggling, marketing is often the first to suffer, while sales will always be ‘safe’. But although there are some more practical tactics to bear in mind if you are looking to secure that extra investment (which we’ll explore in more detail later), marketing has to focus on the goal of making itself indispensable to the business.

Repositioning marketing

To achieve this, marketing departments need to instil confidence among members of the board, and make sure they’re seen as necessary to the organisation as well as key to its success. Carl Reader, author of The startup coach, says: “In my experience, the marketing teams that secure a budget suitable for their growth are the ones that instil confidence at board level that they monitor and manage marketing activity, to ensure a solid ROI for the business.”

This might also mean repositioning marketing’s place in the business. Fiona Shepherd, CEO at April Six, thinks this is necessary if marketing is to succeed: “I would really love marketing to prove it is a profit centre, not a cost centre. At the moment, everyone around that boardroom table thinks marketing is a place where you spend your money. But I think we’re on a journey where some of the leading organisations will be able to be see marketing as a profit centre. If this is the case, nobody cuts your budgets – because if they cut budget, they cut profit.”

The obvious way to do this is to show the board the numbers that matter. But it is marketing’s role as a driving force behind creativity, combined with its strong focus on the analytical, that will really make a difference among members of the c-suite who may be having doubts. This mix of ‘science’ and ‘art’ is the key to marketing’s position as a driving force within the business.

Science versus art

Lisa Bennett, MD of marketing at video platform business Kaltura, believes this combination is key: “To justify their presence, marketers have started taking a more scientific approach. But marketing has two aspects: art and science. At Kaltura we combine both to show ROI and how marketing impacts on the business.”

Similarly, Shepherd feels while marketing has become increasingly forensic and analytical, which of course has helped it to prove itself at board level, it will not be truly successful without the creativity it’s always been known for: “You use different tactics all the way through the buyer journey, which is a hugely forensic idea. But if you lose the creativity and the emotion, you’ll only get half the answer.”

The challenge for marketing leaders sitting in front of the rest of the c-suite asking for more cash is to demonstrate a highly analytical approach, paired with the creativity and innovation that will engage their audience throughout the buyer journey. This might all sound lovely, but getting the board to understand the importance of both ‘science’ and ‘art’, as Bennett puts it, is no easy feat. Adam Sharp, MD and co-founder of marketing automation (MA) specialist CleverTouch, feels there is still some way to go: “According to Forrester, only eight per cent of CEOs – and even fewer CFOs – refer to marketing as a source of new insight or innovation. This is shocking really, when you consider the role of marketing is to listen to the market and be a predictor of future demands.”

Your new CEO might be a marketer

Marketing chiefs who successfully achieve this balance, however, could well become the business leaders of the future, thereby automatically giving marketing an advantage. If your CEO has a marketing background, they will have a much deeper understanding of marketing’s place within the business, and you naturally have a much better chance of receiving long-term investment.

But there’s still some way to go before we regularly see CEOs with marketing in their blood. Paul Hague, director and founder of market research business B2B International, says: “According to Robert Half’s annual FTSE 100 CEO Tracker, more than 50 per cent of CEOs in the UK’s top companies come from financial backgrounds. Coupled with our own research, which has unearthed almost a fifth of marketing professionals believe their department has minimal influence on c-suite decisions, this represents a significant challenge for marketing professionals.”

“We have to talk in the language of the business in terms of objectives, KPIs and results in order to have credibility."

Catherine Howard, UK and Ireland marketing director, Atos

But there is hope for CMOs with big ambitions, with some believing the CEOs of the future could come from marketing. Catherine Howard, UK and Ireland marketing director at Atos, says: “I see lots of opportunities for individuals who have a marketing background to be CEOs. I have also seen it the other way around, having previously worked for a CEO who became a CMO. The key thing with these roles is leadership. If there is a strong leader in a business, then their roles can absolutely be interchangeable.”

Speak in their language

The difficulty here is that it will take time before a significant number of organisations see marketers leading their businesses. For the time being, they still need to convince the more traditional, financially-minded c-suite that marketing is deserving of additional investment, and that it will deliver real returns that will significantly impact the growth of the business. 

Howard, who successfully transformed the perception of marketing within Atos and secured a bigger budget for her department, explains: “I established the value of marketing within Atos by illustrating the ROI from everything we did, whether it was a campaign driving in-year revenue or an event driving relationship-building with new CXO-level stakeholders. Talking in the language of our sales teams, aligning to their structure and driving our KPIs to link to each stage of the sales cycle was fundamental.”

She adds: “We have to talk in the language of the business in terms of objectives, KPIs and results in order to have credibility. Once this is established you then have a voice to talk about the programmes and campaigns that you want to drive, which will in turn help board members.”

The idea that being fully aligned with sales will help marketing adopt a commercial language the board will understand is also something Bennett strongly believes: “If I can show actual numbers, for example ‘this one webinar influenced three deals’, although the sales team are still selling the deals, marketing can show its influence. You need to tie it to the bottom line, and being aligned with sales is critical. Marketing is there to support sales, but also getting their buy-in is really crucial, as it causes less friction.”

It’s just another pitch

While alignment with sales will help towards speaking in a language the c-suite will understand, and a CEO with a marketing background is more likely to be understanding of marketing’s plight, these are admittedly more long-term goals. If you’re planning to ask for a bigger budget in the next month – or even next week – there are some tactics you can use to woo the board.

First of all, treat your request as if it were a pitch. This is likely to help you take the commercial, results-driven approach that you will need. Reader says: “In the same way a sales team would be expected to pitch to an external customer, the marketing team needs to pitch itself internally and generate the right level of trust at CxO level.”

Alex Quail, marketing director at Springboard Caribbean, agrees: “When attempting to secure more budget, treat it like a pitch situation. What new activity will be implemented if more budget is attained? What are the expected results/benefits? What impact does this make on revenue figures? Present these details as if this was a pitch for a new client.”

You also need to make sure the c-suite is fully on board with your overall marketing plan, so be completely open with what you have in mind. Remembering that marketing is not usually the natural territory for many people in senior management, Hague believes: “The key for marketers is to be transparent with the board from the start and demonstrate how investment in marketing can deliver the tangible results for the business required to justify a larger budget.”

“The really forward-thinking clients are making sure they do something innovative every quarter, even if they can’t guarantee its return..."

Fiona Shepherd, CEO, April Six

Howard explains that she took the time to speak to members of the board individually, before presenting her plans in the setting of a formal board meeting: “I spent a great deal of time with individual board members understanding their priorities, their challenges and what they needed marketing to do for them. I was then able to present the information in a formal board meeting that was familiar to each board member already. My advice to marketers struggling to secure a bigger budget would be to stop talking about budgets. Start talking about the value marketing can add and how much you know and understand the business challenges. A little bit of creative flair, enthusiasm and persistence in what you believe also helps.”

Another factor worth bearing in mind is timing, which ties into the importance of remaining commercially minded and keeping the business’ growth ambitions firmly in mind. Quail explains: “Timing is important when attempting to secure more budget. Asking for more money when things aren’t going well is always going to come up against resistance. When things are going well, and tangible results are being achieved, this is the best time to approach the board: ‘Look how well we’re doing… this is what we believe we can achieve if we scale up marketing activity’.”

Take a risk

Even if you bear in mind the above, it might be the case that you’re seeking a bigger budget, but you have some plans in mind that haven’t really been tried and tested just yet. Without taking the odd risk, your marketing is likely to be boring. So how can you request a bigger budget for new, potentially risky initiatives without rocking the boat in the boardroom?

Bennett believes it’s necessary to take risks in order to produce the best result: “If you want to do something new, it’s all about a mix. A lot is trial and error as marketing success depends on so many factors. The ideal is to find the best marketing mix possible. Then you can tell the board: ‘This is what we’ve done before, and this is new, but we have evidence to show it could work (for example, a competitor has done it).’ You need to find the mix so you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket. You’re never going to have full proof that something is going to work.”

Ensuring you have a good marketing mix can also be the best way to maximise your existing marketing budget, and implementing a few risky elements can be part of this process. Shepherd says: “The really forward-thinking clients are making sure they do something innovative every quarter, even if they can’t guarantee its return. Because otherwise you drive out innovation; youcan’t let this new approach to marketing drive out innovation and suggest the only activities you do are the high-ROI activities, because you’ll just end up damaging your brand over time.”

So, although it’s necessary to be able to speak in the financial language the rest of the c-suite will recognise – at least until your next CEO is a marketer – remember that retaining creativity alongside the analytical is the key to marketing’s success, its respect in the boardroom and that bigger budget you’re after.

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