A new year can feel like a fresh start for a company. The first six months establish the course. That’s long enough to gather reliable results, not too late to make adjustments. Mid-year is the time to take marketing’s pulse. 


We have 10 questions you can ask your marketing leader. They’re drawn from experience working with clients. The answers should provide you a clear idea of how the business is performing.


Accountability is key, but this isn’t a hatchet job or gotcha of any kind. Be strategic. You’re looking for information to help you make good business finance decisions.


These 10 questions organize neatly into five categories. Let’s get started.


Quick Recap: State of the Union

To know where you are, understand where you’ve been. The first two quarters set the stage for the last two quarters. The look back points the way forward.


Question 1: How much have you invested so far this year?

This is information a CMO should have ready. And voicing the number should make it painfully real.


Six months’ expenditures may have seemed like a little here, a little there. But the total feels different. A CMO who has spent $10 million should feel that as a tangible thing. 


Question 2: What have we produced, what value have we created so far this year?

Now we’re talking about return on investment. Lead generation will be a top-of-mind answer for the CMO. But this goes deeper. The CMO should also be thinking about brand building, sales enablement and awareness creation.


The CMO should also be thinking about brand building, sales enablement and awareness creation.

Some ROI elements – cost per lead, for example – will be solidly defined. Others will be less easily quantified but equally important.


Performance Against the Plan

This is where we get into the here-and-now. It’s a reality check.


Question 3: How are we tracking according to the plan?

Answers center on two areas: spending and ROI. Spending is either more than plan, less, or on target. Returns are higher, lower or meeting plan.


Question 4: How are we going to end the year?

Will the company be ahead, behind or on target to hit its objectives? If shortfalls appear likely, the CMO will have to address them. You need to ask how – what will be different? For more on revenue planning, click this link.


Lessons From the First Six Months

The plan and its implementation will provide insights and discoveries. Apply them profitably.


Question 5: What have we learned?

What’s working (and what isn’t) should be clear by now. Is there a particular communication channel that resonates with buyers? Is competition flooding in and ramping up?


Question 6: How will our learning impact the second-half plans?

That depends on what you’ve learned. But sometimes the answers are simple. Add budget, reduce budget, or reallocate budget for a more effective spend.


Program Versus Non-Program Spending

Where you spend your budget makes a difference in your business’s public visibility.


Question 7: What is our allocation between our program and non-program spend?

Program activity is what buyers see and know of the company. Non-program refers to overhead, administration and other areas out of public view. As much as possible, over-allocate to programs.


Question 8: Can you invest more in programs, or reallocate non-program dollars there?

This is yield-optimization. Fortify the second half of the year. Look for opportunities to commit more of the budget to programs. That’s where buyer interaction is.


Looking Forward

Once you’ve discussed the way things are, explore the way they might be. Situations change. Try a few scenarios on your CMO.


Question 9: If I found more money, how would you spend it, and what would the return be?

This could be a chance for blue-sky thinking by your CMO. It might lead to an idea you actually would fund.


Sometimes it’s difficult for the CMO think through budget what-if scenarios. We created the B2B Marketing Budget Sizing tool to provide a framework for this process.  We suggest sending this tool to your marketing leader with an offer to walk through the framework together.


You can download the B2B Marketing Budget Sizing tool here


Question 10: If I needed to trim 10 percent from your budget, what would you cut, and what would the implications be?

Be alert to the emergence of ideas that could have real-world application. Maybe it’s elimination of an underperforming program. Maybe it’s simple belt-tightening. 


Maybe it’s a recalibration of ROI.


A Story in Numbers and Words

You’re at mid-year, looking back and looking forward. These 10 questions are not too tough, but they’re not softballs, either. They should help the CMO make strategic decisions for the rest of the year.


See what your marketing leader has to say. Ask away.


Aaron Bartels

Helps clients solve the most difficult challenges standing in the way of making their number.
Learn more about Aaron Bartels >

He founded Sales Benchmark Index (SBI) with Greg Alexander and Mike Drapeau to help business to business (B2B) leaders make the number. The world’s most respected companies have put their trust in and hired SBI. SBI uses the benchmarking method to accelerate their rate of revenue growth. As an execution based firm, SBI drives field adoption and business results.


His clients describe him as a consultant who:


“Makes transformational impacts on me, my people and my business”


“Solves my most difficult problems that to date we have been unable to solve ourselves”


“Brings clarity to an environment of chaos”


“Has real world sales operations experience making him qualified to advise us on a variety of sales and marketing challenges”


“Is able to spot proven best practices that once implemented will make a material impact on my business”


“Constantly challenges status quo and compels us to act”


“Focuses on execution and driving change to stick in our environment”


“Makes good on his promises while enabling our business to realize his projected results”

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