Marketing leaders on how to show your value to the board when it is being questioned

Marketing leaders on how to show your value to the board when it is being questioned

There is a gathering sense of doom around marketing budgets and jobs so marketers need to prove their value to the board. But how? This was the subject of the PRCA Marcomms Group’s first ever virtual conference on 3 June, ‘How do you show your value to the board?’

At the event, Infosys Consulting CMO Chris Fiorillo outlined five key areas where marketers should be proactively demonstrating their value, particularly in B2B marketing. The first was to align everything marketers do to the way the organisation sells and prices itself to enable rich conversations around business growth – the most critical topic at board level during the crisis.

“That’s what they really want to know right now – how are we going to grow and keep our top line steady and keep the business running. Topics like lead generation, new customer acquisition, client engagement – these topics are absolutely king and you can almost minimise everything else,” he said.

Chris Fiorillo

He also advised that the focus on growth and profitability has meant that complex marketing metrics and KPIs are of no interest to board members currently.

Chris Hall, Partner, Shallcross Partners, agreed. He highlighted board level concerns around cash flow. He advised marketers to be conscious of this, saying, “Don’t hide – you’re in the P&L account. They’ll find you.”

The marketers who will survive the crisis are those who listen to their board carefully, he said.

“They [the board] will have personal and business objectives. They will want to come out of this as a company, board and individual in the best possible way,” said Chris Hall.

Marketers should give boards options and scenarios with clear implications to not only enable but also encourage decision-making, he said.

Building alliances

Both speakers advised building internal alliances; Chris Hall suggesting Sales and Business Development will be critical internal allies through these times; Chris Fiorillo building bridges with the CFO.

Carey Trevill

At Infosys, Chris Fiorillo has opted to showcase individual board members as his way of showing the value of marketing.

He suggested: “Put an initiative or campaign together that makes them look good in difficult times. If you can build some groundswell where one of their team mates looks good they’re going to come to you to get in on the action.”

Carey Trevill, Interim CEO, The British Promotional Merchandise Association, advised marketers to show leadership by helping people in their organisations understand the new framework in which everyone is operating with an “agile roadmap”.

Keeping active

With most marketing activity on hold, each speaker agreed this is a time to focus on neglected areas, such as training and developing capabilities in areas such as CRM. This will help maintain influence for Marketing says Chris Fiorillo, who has started a data-cleansing and CRM capability building initiative.

Carey’s raft of suggestions included undertaking any activity that would ensure the company is better prepared for the recovery.

“Re-examine why the company exists. Has that changed in the last 18 months? Is there anything that will let you focus on what your team delivers absolutely brilliantly?” she said.

Nick Jones

Nick Jones, Group Marketing Director, International SOS, is a strong believer in measurement as a way of defining the marketing story to the board – a critical aim for marketers defending resources during the crisis. With 80% of his activity measured against sales, International SOS has a sophisticated CRM suite.

But he said, “You don’t need sophisticated tools to do it, you can still use traditional spreadsheets.”

Growth is coming

Amid the economic gloom, there was some upbeat sentiment. Carey revealed discussions with advertisers showed that marketing spend would return and plans were already afoot; adding marketers should be prepared.

Chris Hall said that although the crisis was a testing time for marketing departments, the test was actually whether or not Marketing can show strong leadership.

“This is the Marketing Department’s opportunity to shine, to take it and show them what you can do in fast-changing times,” he said.