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Marketing the boardroom and engaging senior leaders with Ruth Saunders

Marketing expert, Ruth Saunders, teaches us how to engage C-suite executives in your content.

Sophie Thompson
21st May 2021

Marketing moves fast, which can mean asking for budget to try new things on a regular basis, or get buy-in from a senior team that might not fully understand the need! In fact, only 40% of CEOs currently see value in their CMOs. That's a pretty scary stat for any marketer.

This makes a clear case for convincing senior-level colleagues to see just how important marketing is to any brand for:

  1. Building personality and reputation (including for your existing clientele)
  2. Attracting new business
  3. Reigniting the fire with old business - or maybe even bringing clients back from competitors!

Following her recent webinar with us on the secrets of female entrepreneurs (watch the replay here), we called upon Ruth Saunders to run a workshop for friends of ContentCal, packed with actionable tips to make a case for marketing to C-suite executives.

Watch the full replay below or keep scrolling for the summary...

Ruth began by highlighting some seriously shocking stats, including that CMOs currently have the shortest tenure of any C-suite executives at 48 months (CEOs 64 months and CFOs 71 months respectively). Not only that, but nearly two-thirds of CEOs think marketers don't provide adequate evidence of ROI. It's a true uphill battle.

Ruth suggested some reasons why executives and marketers think so differently:

  • Execs have a more analytical mindset, they're focused on business performance and finances, as opposed to long-term drivers of growth that don't necessarily hold a monetary value
  • Marketers need to understand that the boardroom is not their territory. Therefore, when they go into the boardroom, they need to make an effort to speak and think like the board

Ruth also spoke about the lack of time senior people have (sometimes doing 14 back-to-back Zoom calls every day, where they're consistently being sold-to!) meaning you have to take the right approach to secure engagement when you are presenting to them.

Ruth even gave an anecdote about how she struggled to get a meeting with a CEO, and when she did, she was forced to travel 3 hours from London to Liverpool for 15 minutes of his time. But, because in that 15 minutes she took a genuine interest in his point of view rather than trying to pitch to him, they ended up speaking for over an hour!

Screenshot 2021-05-21 at 17.30.30

If you're trying to convince senior management of your marketing's worth, go into the presentation:

a) Knowing what you want. Be concise and to the point, and avoid using marketing jargon. If your mother couldn't understand it, you probably shouldn't be saying it!

b) With the facts that prove how your marketing is driving business growth. Ultimately, this is the thing they care about!

c) Treat them as humans! They may seem scary, but putting yourself on their level when speaking to them makes it easier to relax. Ruth even recalled a time she told a big boss she "wasn't scared of him". It worked out pretty well for her!

If you're doing a big presentation, it can be easy to get caught up in yourself and forget about the deck you're presenting. This can be the fall down for many marketers. However, done right, Ruth highlighted that it could be the story you tell personally that wins over those you're pitching to.

Here's how Ruth defines the perfect presentation structure...and context is key:

  • What's the issue you're trying to resolve, the opportunity you're trying to address, or the key reason you're looking for engagement?
  • What are the facts that make the case: Why is there an issue? Why is there an opportunity?
  • Why should that person engage with you again? What are the options you've considered? Sometimes there is only one option, but if there are multiple options, give the pros and cons of each.
  • What's your recommendation - and why? What do you want from them today? - - What do you need them to do for you?
  • What are the next steps?

If you're worried about getting senior leaders to engage during your presentation (we've all been there), physical presence is Ruth's top hack for drawing the focus back to you. Walk around the room, scribble on a whiteboard, ask for someone's opinion on what you've just said! It's very easy to then find out who has been listening.

That being said, you won't always get what you want following a pitch. That's just life!

If your idea gets turned down, consider the following:

  • Maybe the timing isn't right
  • Maybe this is your opportunity to go out and do more research and gather even more evidence as to why it would be a good move
  • Wait for an internal or external change - it might be that your company loves the idea, but there's a blocker or hurdle - which could even be one of the major bosses simply not getting on board with it

Make sure you check out Ruth's book on the topic for more great insight on how to really engage senior leaders in your everyday role.

Following on from this we've got another awesome workshop coming up next week with Jacob Reid, Organic Social Media Manager for a gaming industry giant. In the session, Jacob will provide a guide to crafting the ultimate organic social strategy that has helped him produce results 3 times the industry average. Make sure you've reserved your complimentary place!

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