Avoid the three cardinal sins when presenting an executive dashboard to report marketing performance.

Marketing leaders are stymied by CEOs who don’t understand marketing and have unrealistic expectations about what marketing can deliver. This shouldn’t surprise anyone since so few CEOs come up through the sales and marketing ranks. Executive teams have little patience for marketing to produce results when they don’t see a direct tie between spend and top-line revenue. Download ourSBI Magazine Special Issue: Revenue Attribution. 


When things are going great, the CEO keeps the marketing line item intact. After all, he or she knows that marketing is a necessary expense. But when things get tough, and a revenue target is missed, the marketing budget looks like one thing: EBITDA relief. Not just relief, but instant relief. In reality, the decision to cut marketing from an effective team is penny-wise and pound-foolish.


But how do you prove marketing’s contribution to revenue bookings? Leverage the articles in this issue of the magazine to put revenue attribution in place for your marketing team. You’re on solid ground with attribution capabilities combined with the essential blocking and tackling of B2B funnel contribution to the pipeline and wins. However, it’s not enough to present new facts. You have to change the perception of marketing and build confidence with the CEO. Make it a priority to own changing the CEO’s perception of marketing. It’s the most important campaign you will run this year.


Why is the CEO skeptical about marketing and why do your attempts to reverse this perception continue to get thwarted? It’s simple and something you can overcome with a focused effort. Think of the saying, “You can’t talk your way out of something you behaved your way into.” Your CEO has likely been exposed to years of corrupted marketing reports. Marketing has been constantly compared to other functional areas that have more straightforward data, with tangible and timely output. 


To overcome your CEO’s skepticism and build confidence in the marketing function, steer clear of the three cardinal sins in presenting an executive dashboard for marketing performance.


1. Data Error


It never fails. The marketing dashboard appears perfect and is ready to walk through with the CEO. There’s almost always at least one error, sometimes a simple math or labeling mistake. Or during the discussion comes the realization that a certain data set was not included, or should have been excluded. The shame of it is that the error or oversight is usually small, and does not change the insight or story. Nonetheless, it cuts at the heart of the CEO’s confidence in everything else. Patience wears thin and marketing stands out like a sore thumb because other functional areas just don’t make those kinds of mistakes.


The best practice is to pre-wire the executive presentation with a trusted peer on the executive team from a different functional area. If you don’t have a peer with that level of trust, then you have bigger problems.


2. A Bridge Too Far


One of the biggest bones of contention is marketing’s claim on contribution. Usually during a marketing presentation, marketing claims at least one deal that someone cries foul about. A client review I participated in a while back comes to mind. As the marketing leader presented contributed wins in a recent client review, the sales leader identified one that came in the door because of a personal relationship. Whether marketing played a role or not, the point is that someone can always pick at the list of contributed wins.


The best practice is to objectively define the rules of the game, and have a regular dialogue with sales on the accounts being identified for contribution.


3. Too Much Information


Finally, marketing leaders are guilty of sharing too much. Not all marketing data is perfect. At times, marketing leaders can divulge too many details that are not consequential to the overall story being presented. In one such meeting, the presentation to the CEO was going extremely well until the CMO mentioned, “These numbers would be even better if we were able to report on some of the activities where we don’t have a closed loop.” That sidetracked the conversation and drove the meeting into a rat hole discussion. It also seeded doubt about how something so trivial could have been missed.


The best practice is to share facts and be prepared to go deeper, but don’t offer them up unless asked. Just like on a sales call, too much information can kill the sale.


Would you like a hand with revenue attribution to make marketing more scientific? Plan a workshop with the SBI team of marketing experts in Dallas at The Studio, SBI’s multimillion-dollar, one-of-a-kind, state-of-the art, executive briefing center. The immersive sessions accelerate your adoption of revenue attribution and put you on the right path with a solution and implementation plan. 


Sales Revenue Growth


May 2017 SBI Magazine Special Issue: Revenue Attribution

How top-flight CMOs prove that each new marketing dollar they invest drives organic revenue growth.