Strategic Planning

How to Obtain Executive Support for Strategic Marketing Initiatives

Executive Support for Strategic Marketing InitiativesExperienced B2B marketers understand that most of us are fighting a two-front battle: one with the market and one with the executive team.

Penetrating the market to generate leads, win customers and earn mindshare is difficult enough. Brian Carroll, of the B2B Lead Roundtable Blog, summed up the B2B marketer’s challenge perfectly in a recent post:

“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.” 

Tips to Gain CEO Buy-in

To gain CEO buy-in for your marketing initiatives, Brian recommends the following 5 activities:

  1. Identify executive priorities
  2. Analyze your sales organization
  3. Show what others have done
  4. Huddle with your sales team
  5. Develop a pilot

All are great suggestions. In most B2B companies, the sales team rules the roost, and the marketing teams exist to generate leads for the sales team. As long as the pipeline is full, Marketing escapes the wrath of the VP of Sales and the CEO.

Marketing teams that focus solely on lead generation to please the sales team, however, are missing out on a key long-term opportunity:

Convincing the CEO and executive team to think of marketing strategically, as an investment covering all the activities to build mind share and increase market share, instead of solely as a sales support function.

The Lead Generation Rat Race

Lead generation activities own the majority of the marketing budget in most B2B companies. That’s how we get our budgets approved – the sales and business folks understand the ROI of sales leads.

Unfortunately, this causes a long-term problem: It causes most B2B marketers to focus solely on tactics — scrambling each month to piece together ad hoc programs to generate sales leads.

Eventually, they run out of ideas or their tactics become less effective, and the lead flow begins to wane. When the lead flow dries up, the marketers lose their budgets … or their jobs.

Take a Higher-Level Approach

While I’m a big supporter of ROI-based marketing activities, I believe that a portion of most B2B marketing budgets should be allocated to strategic marketing – activities whose return can’t be measured immediately.

Strategic marketing such as branding building, lead nurturing and long-term publicity campaigns drive long-term growth, and if done well, provides far more leverage than short-term campaigns to fill the pipe.

It’s become even more important as our communication continues to evolve (via social media and mobile technologies), shifting power to buyers and changing the way we interact with the market.

Gaining the Executive Support

As Brian alludes to in his article, identifying executive priorities, and gaining their support for your marketing programs that align with them, is more an art than a science.

For some, it’s a lost cause – if the executive team clearly treats marketing as an expense, as a cost center to generate leads, then it’s probably not worth your time.

But there are plenty of B2B CEOs and executives that believe in the importance of strategic marketing. Last week we met with a technology CEO who completely shifted his marketing department from the tactical, flavor-of-the-month, throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach to a strategic, longer-term approach.

His reasoning? He had a new product that he felt could really impact the market, so he was shifting his vision from in-the-weeds marketing tactics to the higher-level activities that could, if successful, make him a dominant player in his market.

My suggestions for convincing your executive team to support strategic marketing initiatives will hopefully point you in the right direction. They’re not simple or easy, but neither is strategic marketing, so make sure you’re up for the challenge:

  • Gauge your executive team’s interest in strategic marketing, and identify a potential champion who is most-likely to support your initiatives.
  • Determine the breakdown of your current budget into tactical and strategic marketing activities, and then identify the proper balance.
  • Identify two or three of your CEO’s long-term goals in the marketplace.
  • Brainstorm strategic marketing initiatives that align with those long-term goals.
  • Find case studies that show other companies who achieved success using a similar strategy (MarketingSherpa is a great resource).
  • Create your presentation supporting your ideas.
  • Pitch it confidently.

Good luck!



Learn More