One of the biggest challenges sales and marketing teams face is getting buy-in from upper management for new marketing initiatives. For the manufacturing sector in particular, sales-driven leaders can be especially skeptical of marketing. So how do you get those leaders to take action?
I’ve put together a list of strategies that can help, along with some great suggestions from other sales and marketing leaders.
1. Insist you are present during the planning process
Marketing doesn’t work if it’s reactionary. You have to understand the company’s goals and then become a part of planning the execution.
Getting involved at the goal-setting stage allows you to share data that the management team might not be aware of, such as realistic timelines for new campaigns, seasonality impacts, and an explanation of what allocated resources can truly deliver.
Marketing needs a seat at the table when the yearly planning is being done. Their campaigns must be informed by the whole organization, not just the top-line goal. If Marketing is brought in after the fact, you get a lot of unproductive back-and-forth with a leadership team that expects you to read minds.
2. Understand the hesitation
If you’re going to speak to leadership at a sales-driven organization, you better become a good salesperson yourself. And in sales, you have to be able to overcome the objections. That means understanding the hesitation and providing a path forward.
Taking the time to understand why upper management is hesitant about marketing initiatives in the first place is key. Was it ineffective marketing initiatives in the past that has created a poor image in their mind? Is it simply the lack of necessity? Do they just not believe their business needs it?
Understanding where the hesitation is coming from and why it exists is what will point you in the fastest direction to developing a marketing solution that solves their initial problem of hesitation.
3. Show them data-backed trends, including your own data
There is a lot of research out there that shows how the market is trending. When we talk to management about the need to create a digital marketing presence to complement their sales team, we show them trending marketplace research, such as statistics like these:
- 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels by 2025.
- 33% of all buyers desire a seller-free sales experience — a preference that climbs to 44% for millennials.
Both of these statistics come from Gartner’s 2020 research project, Sales Transformation: The Future of Sales.
It’s great to have authoritative data from a respected third-party to back you up. But your own homegrown data will be even more impressive.
When presenting data to C-suite level decision makers, it’s best if that data is targeted/brief and, if at all possible, comes from your own homegrown data set. They’re going to be much more likely to react to your own data than generic data. This also means that you need to spend more time collecting, organizing and reviewing your own data.
4. Pair competitive, data-driven benchmarks with a plan
Manufacturers in particular are copycats to what the competition is doing. So show them the competition, especially if they’re outperforming you. You can use a tool like SEMrush to show keyword rankings and domain authority, as well as competitor traffic.
But don’t stop there. Once you have their attention, deliver the strategy and plan to address the problem.
Everyone wants relevant, useful information, including those that sign the checks. If you want to spend on SEO, identify the keyword phrases that are important to your business, show where you rank on them currently, and propose a strategy + target goals. That is more effective and compelling than communicating that xx% of like companies plan to spend on SEO this year.
5. Adopt a sales focus with your marketing materials and approach
Manufacturing is a sales-oriented world. Deal with it. Integrate the sales goals of your company, and design your marketing materials to support those initiatives. You’ll find your management is much more responsive to your requests.
When marketing can partner with sales to provide them the tools they need, they go to leadership and say, “I want this.” And because there’s often a direct correlation (or at least easily trackable) to revenue, it gets acted upon.
To develop these tools for maximum impact, you need to really get down in the trenches with your sales team, and understand what they do and how they do it.
I can’t emphasize this enough. If you are in marketing and don’t DEEPLY understand your company’s sales process, culture, sales cycle, funnel and terminology, it will be nearly impossible to get their buy in.
6. Be visual with your data presentation
Pair great visuals with your data. Management reacts to trends. Include as many trend-related visuals as possible in your report.
Visualize the data and keep it simple (remember sales speaks a different language). So many are visual learners, too, so anytime you can turn data into a visualization it helps bridge the gap.
7. Be the company’s customer advocate
Take it upon yourself as a marketer to know the customer better than anyone in the company, and then defend the customer with vigor. Is this what the customer wants? How do we know?
Even doing things like one-on-one customer phone calls will provide you with new customer insights that can inform management and drive decisions.
I’ve seen people move mountains when someone acts as the company’s customer advocate. When one or more people care about doing innovative things, then they’re able to jolt people out of the “let’s keep doing it the way we’ve always done it” mentality.
8. Report on critical few metrics
Dumping heaps of data on management is an exercise in frustration. Who wants to see an overly complicated Google Analytics report?
Instead, narrow your goals to a critical few objectives, and then report clearly on the progress to attain those. The less cluttered your reports are, the more effective they will be.
Avinash Kaushik, author and analytics guru stresses focusing on a “critical few” metrics — the ones that will really impact your business. The metrics should be “instantly useful.”
You want instantly useful metrics, no explanations required, because that will give you an opening to show your deep stuff: to explain the nuances and highlight your analysis!
It’s essential that those critical few metrics directly tie to your sales and marketing strategy, and either prove it’s working or it’s not working. Otherwise, what’s the point?
9. Tie-in your results to the sales goals
When management thinks about marketing, the first thing that comes to their mind is “expense.” Change the narrative. Make projections about the impact of your marketing, and then show how the costs can more than pay for themselves.
We discuss their goals and walk them back from those goals. We discuss how the plan achieves those goals and how the price is only a tiny percentage of the income the initiative brings.
Don’t go at this alone. Make them part of the process. Management is very good at strategy, and once they understand your plan, they not only will be more likely to buy in, they’ll actually make it better.
Create stages from awareness all the way through lead, opportunity, won deal, retain and advocate…then calculate the conversion rates through each stage. Show leaders this data and the tie to revenue. They quickly see weak spots and get a holistic view.
One litmus test for you as a marketer is to always determine if what you’re recommending can be tied to sales.
If it doesn’t move leads into / thru the funnel or raise awareness, then it shouldn’t receive marketing effort. Period.
10. Don’t go it alone: Find a marketing advocate within the organization
Like it or not, marketing doesn’t carry a ton of clout in an organization (until you generate results.) Operating on a little marcom island isn’t a wise move, as you’ll find yourself in your own echo chamber.
Many marketing organizations are only marcom (marketing communications) teams. And they aren’t staffed with market expertise or industry experts. This isn’t bad but it makes doing many of these things much harder.
Enlist others in the organization in your efforts. Find someone who will champion your cause. Marketers, look to your sales team.
You can often find a champion on the sales team — either a well-respected individual contributor or a sales manager who “gets it” and can help you advocate.
Final rule of thumb: Don’t be afraid of setbacks
As much as many sales and marketing pros gripe about management not supporting their initiatives, many folks don’t even want to get management involved.
They’re worried that if the marketing efforts fail, their job could be in jeopardy.
That’s a natural reaction, but you need to readjust your mindset. Not all your marketing efforts will succeed. But think in terms of setbacks, not failures. Understand that you will be learning, each step of the way, and improving your approach and maximizing dollars spent.
Management understands there will be setbacks. As long as you’re clear on what went wrong, they’ll support you as long as growth continues. And I know if you’ve taken the steps listed above, success is on the way!