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Want to know what B2B marketers have in common with politicians? Both realize the long game is the best route to success, but they need quick wins if they're to remain in power.

It's understandable. Those judging marketers' performance—the CEO, CFO, or investors—demand rapid returns, and so the pressure is intense. As a result, many marketers fall into the trap of "short-term-ism"—putting in-market lead generation before longer-term demand creation and brand-building.

But, in doing so, they fail to prioritize the long-term health of their company.

Hitting the 60-40 Split

It's not that there's a lack of data telling us where and how to spend our marketing budget for best results.

For example, the optimum mix for a B2B marketing strategy involves spending 60% of the budget on long-term brand marketing and 40% on short-term activation, research by LinkedIn found.

Yet, in many companies, virtually all the budget is spent on delivering "leads" of questionable quality to feed to sales development reps. As long as they can keep smiling and dialing, who cares whether the result is increased revenue and accelerated growth?

Spoiler: senior leadership, that's who.

Focusing on the Many, Not the Few

In the real world, only around 5% of our customers are in-market to buy at any given time (and that figure could be even lower depending on what you're selling). Therefore, marketers' primary goal should be to ensure that the other 95%—the not-right-nows—can recognize and remember the brand over the longer term.

Buyers do nowhere near the amount of research many marketers think they do. Most B2B shortlists comprise three-or-so market leaders and, at best, a couple of outliers. So it's critical that when customers are ready to buy, they easily recall your brand.

Add that in a downturn, the number of in-market buyers shrinks, and the issue becomes even more pressing (just 1% fewer in-market buyers means a 20% drop in short-term opportunities).

Communicating Successes

Of course, if CMOs are focused on the long term and the leadership team is sweating over the next quarter, Marketing might be highly successful on its own terms—but an abject failure in the eyes of senior management.

Not a good look. Possibly career-limiting, in fact.

The root of the problem lies in poor communication (as do the roots of so many business problems). Marketers often speak an entirely different language from the rest of the C-suite.

As in most industries, Marketing has its own lexicon, which is all funnels (dark or otherwise) and MQLs and SOVs. Those terms frame the way we talk and even shape the way we see the world around us (for linguistic geeks among you, that is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis in action).

The problem is, senior management also has its own language. And, too often, the two don't match.

As the Cool Hand Luke quote goes: "What we've got here is a failure to communicate."

Understanding Your Internal Audience

CEOs care nothing for Marketing-qualified leads or social media likes and comments—nor should they. The vanity metrics marketers offer up to "prove" the value of what they're doing are largely meaningless.

If we really want buy-in, we need to talk about marketing's value to the bottom line or to the business's unique goals. We must talk growth, not engagement. Revenue, not leads. Even reputation, not brand.

We shouldn't be trying to teach nonmarketers how marketing is done; we ought to be translating and explaining exactly how we are helping a business achieve its specific goals.

To take one example, just 17% of marketers in professional services are measuring their impact on pipeline velocity, according to a survey by Considered Content.

Provided you steer clear of the phrase "pipeline velocity" and call it "how fast sales are moving from lead to close," that is a specific metric that will be understood throughout any business. Every CEO will be interested, because there is a direct impact on revenue growth.

Improving Your Career Prospects

Better communication with senior leadership doesn't help only relations; it could also help fix the tenure problem for CMOs.

The average tenure for marketing leaders in 2021 was 40 months. That's the lowest level in more than a decade, according to annual research from Spencer Stuart. In contrast, tenure for CEOs is climbing, and at 85 months it's more than twice as long.

Outside of SaaS products that can be expensed on a company credit card, many B2B sales take 6-12 months to close. So by the time new CMOs come to grips with the business, develop their strategy, and put the right foundations in place, they have limited time left to show the kind of "results" many CEOs want to see. And as long as CMOs keep talking only about in-market leads, that's unlikely to change any time soon.

Speaking directly to business concerns and clearly managing expectations would give CMOs more time to build brand, create demand, and have real, tangible business impact. That cannot be rushed, and it's worth doing well.

Remember, CEOs have an agenda, and they want to know Marketing gets it. Don't let how you communicate let you down.

More Resources on Communicating Marketing's Value

These Four Data Points Demonstrate Marketing ROI to the C-Suite

Five Ways to Prove Marketing's Value by Saving Sales Costs

How Marketing Can Earn a Seat at the Revenue Table

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What We've Got Here, Marketers, Is a Failure to Communicate (Marketing's Value)

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image of Jason Ball

Jason Ball is the founder of B2B marketing agency Considered Content, a B2B marketing agency that works with tech brands, professional services firms, and manufacturers. Its B2B Effectiveness Engine—the largest database of its kind—features data insights from 1,000+ senior B2B marketers. 

LinkedIn: Jason (Jay) Ball