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80% of CEOs Don’t Trust Marketing

Submitted by 8 Comments | 7,523 views

No more Mr. Nice Marketing Guy

Somewhere along the way, marketers lost the trust of their CEOs. A 2012 study by the Fournaise Marketing Group shows pretty conclusively that the vast majority of CEOs in large and small B2C and B2B companies aren’t impressed by the work that their marketing team does. CEOs believe that marketers are too caught up in their creative, social media, and marketing technology bubbles and that, as a result, marketers are too disconnected from the financial realities of their business. Are the CEOs right?

Do CEOs trust marketing?

The reality is that most businesses rarely go as swimmingly as everyone would hope. So who’s to blame? Unrealistic expectations by the board, CEO, and team rank highly, of course. But once those stakes are in the ground and the CEO leaves the board meeting for the office, he/she’s going to be eyeballing those responsible for business generation, and asking the tough questions. Makes sense. Sales and marketing, in particular, carry that bag.

What’s a poor marketer to do?

So what’s a poor marketer to do to earn the trust of the untrusting CEO? There’s only one thing to do: connect what you do to revenue, prove that connection, and then drive revenue. That is, after all, what you signed up for, right?

While there are a gazillion trusty metrics to prove marketing’s worth, it strikes me that the problem for marketing has less to do with metrics, and more to do with the sales team – always has been, always will be. I recall a sales rep who, when hearing marketing take credit for a lead that came in, pointed out that the rep’s mother’s aunt had shared a pint with the mother of the prospect in Ireland a year before and, as a result, he (the rep) had touched the lead first. I exaggerate only slightly.

Perception, often, is reality. Marketers need to aggressively take ownership of the opportunities that they usher in the door, and then aggressively promote that ownership. Antagonistic? Maybe. Anti-team-like? Whatever. Remember that nice marketing guys finish last.

Set up a marketing war room

While all the key prospect opportunities you’re responsible for are likely captured in your wonderful marketing database/ spreadsheet/ marketing automation system, no one but you ever looks in there. Think like a marketer. Get those opportunities out from hiding and up on the wall. Create a marketing war room (or a war wall if you’re tight on space) and make sure that the prospects that count are up there for all to see. Use logos if you can. Include the various ways marketing touched the prospect. Show the prospect’s progress through the marketing/sales funnel in a simplified fashion. Make the whole thing easy to absorb at a glance. Make it visual.

“Well, Drew, that’s all fine and good, but I’ve already got these key prospects in the report I present to the team every week.” Here’s one for you: out of sight, out of mind. Get your successes up like a billboard that no one, especially your CEO, can miss as they go by several times a day. The secret to successfully teaching someone something is repetition. Set your audience up for unavoidable repetition.

Like a blog, make your war room/ war wall a living, breathing thing. Make it current and vital. If you do, many will drop by through the week to see the progress – including the sales team who, you will recall, need to be reminded of your efficacy as much or more than anyone in the company.

And keep the key prospects which didn’t turn into a sale up there too, in a corner box somewhere. The fact that marketing brought in a key prospect that sales didn’t close is most often lost on everyone.

Then, when it comes time to attribute a sale, believe me, your job will be a lot easier. Prospect X was up on the wall for five months. Now Prospect X is a sale. Less gray area. Marketing goes plus one.

People are funny. For better or for worse, they tend to respond to the loudest person in the room. Marketers, ironically, need to learn from sales and get a lot louder. Only then will the connection between marketing and revenue become more clear. From now on, no more Mr. Marketing Nice Guy.


About Drew Williams

My name is Drew Williams. I’m an author and marketing entrepreneur. “A what?”, you say. I call someone who’s passionate about building businesses a marketing entrepreneur. So that’s me. Full Profile | Google+

  • Jacques Decarie

    All good comments. I would add that marketers need to ensure that, in a B2B world, the lead generation efforts which are connected to closed business leave such a trace in the company CRM system.

    • Drew Williams

      Yes! But for many, the challenge is definitively tracing the source of the original lead, especially when a close takes 6 months or longer.

  • Bryan Mercer

    Luckily, our CEO is in the 20%! And our team deserves his respect. While we are not shy about boasting our strategies and accomplishments, and are totally accountable to the bottom line business unit performances, some onus for understanding each departments role in an organization is a component of each CEOs mandate. Not granular, but certainly to the point that ‘trust’ should not be an issue. Ron is right: everyone is a ‘marketing expert’ and its budget almost always rises to the top of an expense cut.
    All that said Drew, it’s a good ‘heads up’ for those with their ‘heads down’!

    • Drew Williams

      And Bryan, you raise a great point. There are CEOs who excel at setting their companies up for success… strong metrics focus and key indicators all along the line.

  • Ron Kaplan

    Part of the problem is that many people think they can do “marketing”. With this false sense of knowledge and confidence, marketing is evaluated with more scrutiny than other departments (e.g., development). The other part of the problem is that marketing expenses are mostly discretionary. So, if the company has any expenses to cut, marketing is the first knob they turn.

    One last problem. The ROI calculation is interesting, but the period of time for the return is a complicated calculation. If you can categorized the returns on investment based on the time periods of those returns, it may justify best the marketing expenses.

    • Drew Williams

      Ron, you’re right. There’s never any shortage of people with opinions of what marketing should be doing. Which is all the more reason why the connection between marketing objectives (and subsequent tactics) and corporate objectives needs to be airtight.

  • Lisa Peirson

    When I read terms like CEO, Board, and Marketing
    teams – my mind goes to larger organizations. In most large organizations,
    Marketing does not have responsibility for developing prospects – the exception
    to this may be B2B businesses, but even within these, marketing often focuses
    on ‘the plan’. So, are CEO’s right to lose faith? Probably. I think a lot of
    Marketers do lose sight of what they are supposed to be doing, and while they
    believe in their heart of hearts that they are driving the business forward,
    they do a mediocre job of actually measuring their progress. I agree they need
    to be more visible but that is only part of the battle – they need to be more
    accountable to the real numbers that drive a business.

    • Drew Williams

      Agree totally on the need for accountability. So I see the progression as being: 1) ensure acknowledgement of marketing’s role in a sale, then; 2) demonstrate that those acknowledged sales roll-up against a marketing-driven revenue objective.