How marketers can increase their business influence
How is marketing viewed by the other people in your business? If it’s not as a business-critical revenue-driving function, then read on. You’ve got some perceptions to change, and some influence to exert.
The scope of marketing – and the role that *good* marketers are playing within businesses today – has shifted significantly over recent years.
The perception of marketing within many businesses, however, hasn’t changed at all.
Think it has? Think again.
Take a straw poll of what your non-marketing colleagues think you do all day, and there’s a strong chance that ‘making nice pictures’, ‘doing some cool things’, ‘having fun’, ‘spending money’ and ‘playing on Facebook,’ will rank highly.
And they’re only the things that people will say to your face.
The truth is, despite what you know you do and why you do it, and what you may believe other people think, the perception of marketing to non-marketers hasn’t changed one iota.
You’re a cost to the business ...
And you make pretty pictures.
Of course, it’s not true. But while it’s frustrating that perception still exists, it’s also mightily ironic, given that marketing is all about changing perception, increasing awareness, and building relationships.
So, if you’re in marketing and are sick and tired of being perceived as spending your day having fun in ‘the coloring-in department’ then this one’s for you.
By taking these four steps, you can start increasing your influence and shifting some of the perceptions that come your way.
Align with the business plan
The first perception you need to change is that marketing is a cost. If it is, you’re not doing it right. You need to be able to show how you’re bringing in business and revenue. Or at the very least, play a significant part in contributing to it.
Ideally, you should have contributed to creating the business plan. If not, mark that as a goal for next year and, in the meantime, focus on this.
Every single one of your marketing objectives should be clearly aligned with the achievement of something on the business plan.
Every single thing you do should be helping the business grow and get better.
It sounds obvious, but if it’s not delivering on something your board, MD or CEO have strategically identified as business critical, then why are you doing it in the first place?
Measure what matters
‘Mirror mirror on the wall. Who is the best marketer of all?’ If you’re asking the question, it’s definitely not going to be you.
The moral? Don’t fall into the trap of reporting vanity metrics. Because we can all find metrics that make us look good.
Five percent increase in open rates? Easy.
265,000 percent increase in blog views between 4pm and 5pm on the third Sunday of each month? Done.
If you’re ever tempted to share measurements such as this without context of what it means and why it’s important, ask yourself the killer question.
Unless you’re reporting on how you’re driving sales or delivering on an agreed business objective, then you’re only reporting on it to try to make yourself look good.
And unfortunately, in reality, you’re achieving the opposite, as you’re showing you have little understanding of what’s really important to the business’s stakeholders.
As for those vanity metrics …. Make them work harder! Because they can play an important role in the customer journey. Assign them a Cost Per Acquisition value in Google Analytics, and understand where they have contributed to goal conversions, and where they haven’t.
Identify your allies
Everyone needs friends in the right places, and marketing needs them more than most. So make an effort and take the time to align yourself with different departments.
Do not, we repeat, do not, do this in a casual ‘stop-by-and-chat’ way – this will only serve to cement the very perceptions we’re trying to banish.
Schedule a meeting with purpose – to find out how YOU can help THEM.
With Finance: How can we better measure the bottom line impact marketing’s having?
With IT: How can we work together to optimize the online sales conversion process?
With Sales: How can we regularly review both the quality and quantity of our lead pipeline?
By regularly having the right conversations with the right people at the right time, you can demonstrate your focus on the business, and your influence with your peers grows.
If you can build a positive business relationship with the CFO or their direct reports, meanwhile, your job will become infinitely easier, and your influence will increase overnight.
The CFO always has the CEO’s ear, after all.
A key reason marketing’s influence internally is limited, is that marketers aren’t great at demonstrating how what they’re doing is impacting the business.
Ensure you are contributing to all important business meetings that affect you, and showcase your work. So, if your board meets monthly, put together a monthly report demonstrating the outcomes of your marketing activity – aligned to business objectives.
Convey what you’ve done – the stunning creative, the strategic social campaigns – but only in the context of what it’s achieved. If you can’t measure that yet, then you need to go back to step one and step two.
If possible, share a version of that report with staff across the rest of the company, too. And keep communication from your department focused on the business, rather than the creative.
After all, perception is reality.
To wrap it up
Like all good senior members of a team, strong marketers operate with a true understanding of the business, its strategy and objectives. In other departments – finance, IT, however – that understanding is often assumed by others within the business.
As a marketer, you need to demonstrate you’re operating with this understanding. So communicate – in fact, over communicate – why you are doing what you’re doing, and how it’s impacting the bottom line.
Influence grows when you can demonstrate you’re actively helping the business achieve its goals.
Influence also grows when you show you’re the reason money is coming in – rather than going out (albeit on some pretty spectacular creative).
In reality, you need to treat yourself, and your team, as a marketing project in its own right.
After all, no-one else is better placed to do so than you.
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