After our most informative MarketShare Roundtable last month, we’ve continued to be intrigued by some of the comments and conversations that took place. As we did additional research and online exploration, I came across this brief infographic from Black Ink, that compiled stats from numerous sources (International Data Corporation (IDC), Fournaise Group, IBM, and Forrester B2B). It seemed to mirror the tenor of the discussion we had and added some sobering stats.

bi_infographic_ceocmo1

Now, granted, not every organization fits these numbers, and I don’t mean to represent that the panelists (Andrew Kraynak, Interim CMO, Fleetmatics; Matthew Saleski, Strategic Customer Success Director, Marin Software; Fritz Johnston, Vice President, Global Brand Management & Advertising, Boeing; Eileen Murray, Deputy Executive Director, American Academy of Dermatology) claimed any of these specific attitudes nor at the levels presented here. But there were very similar conversations with the capacity crowd that circled these very same topics.

I believe the one that jumps out at me the most is:

80% of CEOs believe marketing is disconnected from the company’s financial realities.

That’s a reason for why CMOs continue to have a difficult time being invited to the table—the c-suite table that is. So what to do? One of the answers was discussed at length with our group, and to paraphrase, it was to ‘learn to speak to the CEO in the language and directness that they prefer.’ If they want top line only—deliver it quickly and concisely (but keep your back-up readily at-hand if asked). If they want to pour over binders of research and reasoning—provide that. Prior to the MarketShare Roundtable, we sent out a brief article from LinkedIn to whet everyone’s appetite for the conversation that spoke to this topic. Here’s the bulk of it:

7 Simple Ways to Get Inside Your CEO’s Head

People who get an opportunity to talk to their CEO often misread their audience. Good executives are not necessarily all-knowing sages; they’re people with a lot of demands on their time and a limited amount of energy to deal with them. But as busy as they are, they all share one trait: They’re very good at evaluating opportunities when they are presented well. To make an impression on a CEO you have to learn to think like one.

Here are a few simple ways you can get inside their heads:

1. Speak plainly. It’s not a CEO’s job to grasp every detail of a company’s offerings. You very likely understand your particular part of the business in greater depth than he or she does. So the best course is to present your idea in an easy-to-understand, jargon-free format. Speak plain English—or whatever language the two of you speak—and you’ll have a better chance of making a connection.

2. Be concise. CEOs never have enough time. If you can’t summarize an opportunity in ten minutes or a page and a half, you won’t get far. This doesn’t mean your idea has to be simple; rather it has to be understandable in straightforward terms. You can always provide a longer presentation later to explain it in detail.

3. Sell your idea, not yourself. It’s enormously tempting to try to come off as brilliant when you finally get the chance to stand in front of a senior executive. But your CEO is going to be interested in your idea, not you. Sell the idea, and you’ll inevitably sell yourself.

4. Put your idea in the context of the whole business. Remember that you work in one area of a business, while your CEO looks at the whole thing. You need to figure out how your idea impacts the overall picture. For example, let’s say you work in a billion dollar business and have found a simple way to increase revenue by 20 million dollars. That seems like a lot to you—and should be welcomed by any sensible executive—but you should set his or her expectations according to the scale of the opportunity.

5. Link it to ongoing initiatives. CEOs are serious when they lay out a vision for a company. If your company is making a big push into the cloud, don’t try to sell him or her on micro devices. That said, don’t give up on an idea because it’s not obviously relevant. You can usually find a way to express any opportunity as part of the current strategy—especially if it has the potential to increase revenue or cut costs.

6. Be willing to take risks. If you believe in an idea, offer to own it. Be ready to provide specific performance goals by which your idea can be judged. This is actually less risky than you might think. Even if you fail, executives may credit you for your effort and initiative—after all, they agreed to the idea too.

7. If you really think you have a great idea, contact your CEO directly.

So as marketers, let’s get out and connect Marketing to the Organization’s financial reality. Everyone will profit.

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