Help! My Boss is a Marketing Skeptic!

Feel under-appreciated by the powers that be? 

Join the club!

According to a Fournaise group survey, 80% of CEOs don’t trust marketing at all. They say things like “marketers lack business credibility” and doubt our ability to create sufficient growth. 

You can see this reflected in the relative size of a company’s marketing team. Marketing is often the smallest team in a company (usually 1-5 team members), and we have to fight for every scrap of the annual budget.

But hope is not lost. You can still convince your boss that marketing is the bee’s knees, but you have to use the right approach.    

Know your boss

If you want to get your boss on your side, you have to know which buttons to push (if that sounds manipulative, it’s because it is).

Think about their goals for the company and what they prioritize.

A manager who plays favorites with the sales team will pay attention if you highlight marketing’s impact on sales revenue or pitch sales enablement projects

Product-oriented CEOs will want to know how marketing can help gather important customer data and user feedback that will drive product improvements. 

You might also want to tailor your approach to their personality. If your boss is objective and analytical, compare the risks and benefits of your current marketing approach versus the new strategy you’re proposing. 

Bosses who are insecure about their competitors can be swayed if you point out what marketing strategies his rivals are (or aren’t) using, and how your approach will leave them in the dust. 

If your boss is sensitive and prickly (let’s not pretend bosses like that don’t exist), then include him in the execution–even in an advisory or oversight capacity. This participation will help him see the work you and your team are putting into your project and make the results that much more impactful. 

The challenge comes if your boss is a “derailer” that keeps introducing new ideas mid-stream. In this case, bring them in early enough that they can be part of ideation. If it’s too far down the road to change direction, it’s just going to be more challenging if you have to reject their suggested changes.

And if your boss likes candy? Bind your monthly report in licorice and pack it with Cadbury eggs. 

Hey! All’s fair in love and annual budgets.

Hard numbers are hard to dispute

Have you ever done a “brand building exercise?” 

Yeah, your boss hates those. 

It’s a cheap way out of showing results, and your boss knows it. Finance spends valuable cash on glitzy events, print/digital ads, and lengthy social media campaigns. And when challenged, Marketing will respond with “yeah, but now we’re top of mind.”

And you wonder why your boss has doubts?

You’re going to be on a short leash until you can reliably prove marketing’s ROI. The return doesn’t have to be in cash (although that would be fantastic), but there have to be hard numbers involved to convincingly measure success.

Stay away from vanity metrics such as likes and shares and follows, because it’s impossible to correlate those with actual business income. 

Instead, focus on relevant marketing KPIs like:

  • Attributable sales revenue
  • Cost per lead
  • Traffic-to-lead ratio
  • Lead-to-customer ratio
  • Landing page conversion rates

Show enough good numbers, and your boss will absolutely start paying better attention to marketing’s side of the business. Even bad numbers will work if they get your boss to devote more money to your department.

Beware of information overload

Did you just give an hour-long discourse to the exec team on why you should switch your PPC strategy from Target CPA to Target ROAS? 

Congrats!

You bored them to tears and now they’ll never pay attention to you again. 

Ever.

That information might be valuable for you and your team, but it’s gobbledygook to everyone else. It’s the equivalent of a programmer explaining Node JS vs Ruby on Rails and expecting you to be super enthusiastic about it. 

It also doesn’t help that marketing loves coming up with new bullshit terms for everything. Terms that have to be explained to non-marketers.

You don’t solve a person’s ignorance by drowning them in information. They’ll choke on it and reject any further attempts. 

Translate jargon into layman’s terms for the sake of your meeting. If they ask additional questions, then they’re interested and you are free to go as jargon-y as you like. If they don’t ask questions, then a discourse on marketing jargon will just antagonize them. 

So basically…

It’s not the end of the world if your boss is a marketing skeptic. You can still bring him around if you have a firm grasp of marketing strategies, performance metrics, and human nature. Relate how marketing impacts other areas of the company and how it helps your organization stay competitive. 

And if, after all this, your boss still doesn’t get it?

Time to polish up your resume (just sayin’). 

Up Next: Freelancers vs Salaried Employees

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