Two ways to prove that marketing works

Thomas Barta TryThisBlog
By Thomas Barta
Last updated: September 01, 2016

Many non-marketing leaders don’t fully understand why marketing is essential for the company. That’s why making the case for marketing to them may be more important than you think (from my column).

At times, even the most high-profile CMOs had to make the case for marketing. Take Jim Farley. Soon after Jim joined Ford as the new CMO in 2007, the financial crisis hit U.S. car manufacturers. Ford’s already slowing sales nosedived and, in 2008, the company was posting major losses. Jim knew that brand preference had a big influence on purchases, but Ford managers had cut marketing budgets to save costs. Consequently, Jim faced a major challenge: to prove to them that marketing is vital to the company’s success.

With colleagues in finance and other departments, Jim created a model that showed how brand preference drives sales. The model wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough to demonstrate the links between marketing investments, brand preference, and sales.

Next, Jim toured the globe. He sat down with the Ford managers in each major market, shared his model, and managed to convince them about the positive effects of marketing. Over time, Ford leaders agreed to invest more in marketing. It was the beginning of a remarkable recovery stage for the company, eventually making Ford the preferred car brand choice for many buyers once again.

Marketers often assume that everybody in the top team of their business knows (or cares to know) how marketing works. But most people don’t—at least not in a meaningful way. That’s why it’s the marketer’s job to ensure that people understand what marketing does and how it’s driving the business. But how? Here are two proven ways to demonstrate marketing’s power:

Share specific marketing success examples

Much of your marketing work can (and should) be measured, whether it’s a communications campaign, a change in pricing, or an effort to retain customers. Share with people inside your company the following information: 1) examples of what the marketing team did; 2) the effects it had on customers (e.g., higher preference for that business’s brand); and 3) the effects it had on the business (e.g., more revenue, customers, and/or profit). You need all three to make your case. If you just talk about the customer side of marketing (1+2) without its business effects (3), people will agree that you are busy, but most may still question the impact of marketing.

Build a simple marketing model

One example of such a model is the marketing funnel. Using it allows you to say things such as “Only 20% of people prefer our brand. We need to increase brand preference, because 40% of all who prefer us end up buying us.” Build your marketing model together with people from your finance department in order to give it validity and credibility. Once you have an agreed-upon model, share it widely.

As Patrick Barwise and I demonstrate in our book The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader, many CMOs such as Farley have greatly benefited from using a simple model to explain to their organisations how marketing works. Simple is the key word here. A marketing model that everyone understands is worth 10 times more (for this purpose) than a complex one that nobody can comprehend.

“It’s our job to help company leaders understand what we do as marketers,” said Anna Bateson, the director of global consumer marketing for YouTube. Her words couldn’t be more true.

No matter if you are a CMO, a digital expert, or a brand manager, it’s your job to help the company understand what marketing does for the business—and why your work matters.