Brian Carroll

How to Get the CEO to Support Your Next Marketing Plan

On the way home from the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Summit, I caught up with one of our clinic coaches, Craig Mullenbach.  A Program Manager for MECLABS, Craig used his decade-plus years of experience in lead-generation and content strategy to help attendees at the event. But he often felt like his hands were tied.

He voiced his frustration to me: “Nearly everyone I talked to said that they knew all of the best practices but can’t execute them because they don’t have executive support – and the budgets that come with it.”

I feel his pain. Unfortunately, as much as I wish I could write a blog titled “The Three Easy Steps to Convince Your CEO to Say ‘Yes,’” it’s just not that simple.  After all, no organization has the same politics and culture.

Attaining executive buy-in and the support that comes with it too often requires intense financial, organizational and behavioral analysis. But I do have some at-a-glance, high-level advice that will point you in the direction to get to that “yes.”

#1. Identify executive priorities – I realize not every marketer can hold court with the CEO, but, at minimum, you need to understand and speak the CEO’s language. They could care less about clicks or responses. They want:

  • More leads
  • More revenue
  • Shorter time to revenue
  • Improved marketing-to-sales expense

Show how your ideas can definitively improve the CEO’s top and bottom lines. Identify what’s in it for them, and keenly focus on that.

#2. Analyze your sales organization - Find out how much time the sales team spends on prospecting. A survey for one of our clients revealed that the sales force spent more than 40% of their time trying to generate leads instead of working on closing deals.

How much would 40% of your company’s sales payroll add up to? That would probably more than pay for a generation campaign. Read more about how sales productivity can be turned into a bigger marketing budget:

#3. Show what others have done - Find case studies that illustrate the success of other companies like yours. They should outline the steps that were taken and financial results. Excellent sources of case studies include:

#4. Huddle with your sales team – During a huddle, a team looks at their last play – what worked and what didn’t – then uses that information to decide their next move. Do the same with your sales team so you know what you’re doing right and what you can do better, and how your efforts are directly leading to closed deals (or not). In the process, you’ll enhance communication and ultimately, build a broader base of support.

Learn more about the value of huddling in this blog: Closed Loop Feedback: The Missing Lead Generation Huddle, then watch this video where Michelle Mogelson Levy, Associate VP of Marketing Programs for ECI Telecom, explains how huddles transformed her marketing organization.

#5. Develop a pilot – In this blog, Lead Generation: 4 critical success factors to designing a pilot, Dave Green, MECLABS Director of Best Practices, advises to clarify your objective, then build a pilot around low-hanging fruit to achieve it.

Your goal is to get the economic space you need to experiment, test, course-correct, test again, and repeat the best-performing process. For a practical, step-by-step outline on designing a pilot, read this blog: Landing Page Optimization: How to start optimization testing and get executive support.  I think its precepts could apply to virtually any marketing project.

What have you done that convinced the C-suite to give you the support to move forward? What are your success stories and lessons learned? Do you have any additional recommendations? Tell me about them in the comments below.  I’d love to hear what you have to say about this very challenging topic.

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Marketing Strategy, Thought Leadership



  1. February 21st, 2012 at 14:11 | #1

    The recent post on ‘Getting Marketing Plan Buy-In from the C-Level’
    was excellent. Sadly I could not find the author’s name.
    My compliments on a very articulate, timely and appropriate treatis.

  2. February 23rd, 2012 at 21:42 | #2

    Good one Brian. This is a big problem that needs more attention and discussion for B2B marketers. I find that #4 and #5 are the best ways to gain traction and move your marketing plans forward. Getting sales behind your efforts coupled with a focused pilot is the best to way to get senior management’s attention. Show some results that the sales team endorses is very important today.

    Henry
    @hebruce

  3. February 25th, 2012 at 00:21 | #3

    In the business world, this is the common waterloo that needs to be addressed. Executive support should be gained to fully execute the marketing plan you want to happen. It needs more than just proving to them that the plan could really work out and it would be effective. The steps you presented are very practical and realistic which is something I like most about your manner of writing. It is smart and very valuable.

  4. March 5th, 2012 at 14:33 | #4

    It is extremely important to communicate with CEO using worlds he would be interested about. CEO is not marketing specialist and may not get specific terms and questions. While talking more about income, leads, sales parameters and ROI he would listen more carefully.

  5. March 20th, 2012 at 02:50 | #5

    Brian – thanks for sharing this. We’ve had a couple of situations recently where junior staffers approached us and we needed to help them sell in an idea without even having a defined budget. Here’s what we did

    1 – in one situation we wrote to the CEO stating the issue and a solution – he forwarded it to the young man who’d approached us with a note to investigate our ‘offer’…. Nice way to let the CEO think he had the idea first.
    2 – in another situation we took a detailed brief from the junior and agreed not to write a proposal, but to email him a critique of the company website and sales process – he then took that to the CEO for discussion.

    Rebecca Caroe
    A Blog about business development.

  1. March 19th, 2012 at 03:03 | #1
  2. February 25th, 2013 at 03:02 | #2