Volume 17 No. 2: Translating “marketing” to the board

Proving marketing’s value to the business isn’t a new challenge. But it is an incredibly persistent one.  

In 2023, nearly 50% of marketers believe senior stakeholders focus too much on ROI. Because while it’s reported as the top metric the C-Suite cares about, ROI alone doesn’t show marketing’s full impact. 


How to speak marketing to the C-Suite   

Each week, we break down another marketing concept so you can skip the hype and get directly to what works. 

Kantar and Marketing Week’s second annual Language of Effectiveness Survey asked 1,300 brand-side marketers which metrics company leadership care about most. Many cited metrics like new customer acquisition, conversion rates, brand awareness, customer retention, and customer lifetime value. But a whopping 42% said ROI.  

48% of survey respondents also said leadership was too focused on ROI when determining marketing’s effectiveness. That the measure of marketing “success” was often narrowed to a single performance metric instead of looking at bigger picture results with a lasting impact on the business. 

Unfortunately, it comes down to marketers to explain their role in driving business growth while showing the full impact of their work across the short- and long-term. But here are a few strategies that could make this explanation easier: 

  1. Even though it isn’t the full story, start with ROI. Yes, marketers feel leadership over-focuses on ROI. But if you lead with results like ROI, you’re more likely to be granted the respect and flexibility needed to expand into other metrics that show a more complete picture of your work.

  2. Consider size, scale, and growth stage. Brands at different growth stages will prioritize different metrics. For startups, the emphasis may be on immediate returns, often out of necessity. These are companies that simply won’t be in business tomorrow if they’re not driving sales results today. But larger, more established companies can lean into brand-building with greater ease. Thinking about your company’s unique position will help you identify which metrics senior stakeholders want to hear about most. And as a marketer looking for a new role, it can help you choose a company that is going to care about the same metrics as you. 

  3. Balance brand and performance. Although the exact balance is different for every business, all companies need both brand and sales results. Allocate resources to both areas and look for ways the two types of marketing can work together. For example, a traditional brand-building channel like TV can be used to attract new customers while supporting brand awareness efforts. 

  4. Sell the C-Suite on your growth vision. As a marketer, storytelling is a crucial skill for drawing new customers to your brand. But it’s also important for presenting results and proposing new initiatives internally. Instead of simply citing statistics, show leadership how your work fits into a larger shift towards growth. Then, when proposing new initiatives, explain how these projects support this growth vision. 

Key Takeaway: Tailor how you approach proving marketing’s value based on your brand's unique circumstances. Whether you're focused on driving short-term results or building long-term brand equity, always consider your stakeholders' expectations and the specific needs of your brand. Start with these results, then expand into other areas to help leadership understand everything marketing does. 



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