When CEOs and CMOs Align, Marketing Becomes a Revenue-Generating Engine

by Debra Andrews | November 13, 2020

Christine Nurnberger is CMO of Bottomline Technologies, a company that makes complex business payments simple, smart, and secure. She credits a strong relationship with her CEO as one of the keys to enabling marketing to drive significant revenue growth. Christine shared with Marketri her advice on how CEOs and CMOs can work together to turn marketing into a revenue-generating engine.

When Christine Nurnberger took on the CMO role at Bottomline in 2014, the organization didn’t have a clear understanding or appreciation of the role marketing can play in a modern revenue model. “When I joined the company, my first area of focus was to turn marketing from a cost center to a profit center,” she explains.

But let’s rewind a bit. Christine’s work actually began before she accepted the CMO position. “Building out a revenue marketing engine is something I’m passionate about—delivering those top-line organic growth results,” she says. Having done it successfully at several other companies, Christine knew what it would take to get the job done.

“I committed to Rob (the CEO) that it was going to take 18 months,” she says, which included building out the necessary marketing infrastructure, implementing marketing automation tools, and recruiting top marketing talent. “I knew I couldn’t be successful without those foundational elements.”  The CEO signed off on the approach, and Christine signed on as CMO.

Creating Excitement for the Journey

Once on board, Christine quickly established with her colleagues that marketing can be a profit center—mapping out what that approach looks like and the impact it can have on the business.

“That got enough attention that everyone really wanted to go on this journey,” she says, including the CEO. “I was fortunate that the CEO really wanted to understand and learn and take this marketing journey with us. He’s taken the time to understand all the different components of marketing and how they can work together to drive business growth.” Whereas marketing doesn’t have a seat at the revenue table in some companies, marketing has earned that right at Bottomline.

To move marketing from a cost center to a profit center, Christine first established a foundation for success—implementing marketing automation technologies, mapping out buyer personas, building out relevant content, and identifying key performance indicators. Then it was time to develop strategic marketing initiatives across the different areas of the business. As these initiatives began yielding tangible results, the buy-in and enthusiasm snowballed.

“Once people got a flavor of that, they just wanted more,” she notes. “There’s an intellectual curiosity—just wanting to know more about what we do and how it all comes together.” As she points out, when the CEO starts making statements like, “We’re seeing a high degree of top-of-the-funnel interest,” you know there’s a whole new mindset about marketing.

That change in mindset proved especially important when COVID-19 hit in March 2020.  

“In the COVID environment, marketing got turned on its head,” Christine says. “We had to stop and pivot everything we were doing. Obviously physical events came off the table, but we also needed to look at our messaging and how it was coming across.” Alignment between the CMO and the CEO—about the right messaging and tone—was critical.

Together, they agreed they could best serve their customers in these difficult times by using marketing as a public service. One of Bottomline’s solutions helps companies eliminate paper checks (which a surprising 70% of businesses still use). With most companies’ staffs no longer in the office to write, send, or accept checks, the payment process was severely impacted—making Bottomline’s solution more relevant than ever. But rather than make an aggressive product push, the company focused on helping businesses navigate these new circumstances.  

“The response has been off the charts,” Christine says.    

Setting a Marketing Revenue Model in Motion

When a company is ready to transform marketing into a revenue generator, what’s the best way to make that happen?

“Every organization is different, but the basics of revving up a revenue marketing engine are pretty straightforward,” Christine says. To get started—and get the CEO and CMO aligned for success—she offers this advice.

  • Establish the foundation first. “The foundational elements enable you to measure and execute properly on strategic programs, build out nurture campaigns, and create customer engagement,” she says. “You can’t be successful without it.”
  • Invest in a marketing automation platform. “It’s absolutely critical—the backbone.” Christine points out that in B2B companies, which sell to a finite audience, having the right data is critical to gaining intelligence about the buyer.
  • Embrace marketing analytics. “The other intelligence we’re focused on is understanding the digital footprint of a prospect,” she says. “Whether it’s heat maps on our website or Google Analytics, we’re getting a robust picture of the exact digital journey people take to come to us.”
  • As a CEO, expect the CMO to speak your language. “It’s incumbent on the CMO to speak the CEO’s language, not the other way around,” she explains. When a CMO starts talking about measurement, return on investment, and marketing’s direct contribution to revenue, that’s music to a CEO’s (and CFO’s) ears.
  • Be patient—internally and externally. “It took work to get aligned on what was most important, and for me to build credibility with our CEO and everyone else in the business,” Christine says. “But if the CEO is open to going on the marketing journey, it’s so powerful and transformative for the business.” The same patient approach should guide any marketing initiative. “I liken it to this: You wouldn’t ask someone to marry you after the second date,” she says. “There’s a process by which you establish credibility and trust, demonstrating to your buyer that you know what they care about.”

Is your company ready to shift marketing from a cost center to a profit center? Are you eager to transform your marketing into a revenue-generating engine? The experienced B2B marketers at Marketri can get you on your way! We’ve helped countless B2B companies turn marketing into a driver of revenue and profit growth.  

For more information about structuring your marketing department, download our guide.