CEOs REALLY Want From Marketing
CEOs REALLY Want From Marketing

Here’s What CEOs REALLY Want From Marketing

by Debra Andrews | April 17, 2024

I talk with a lot of CEOs of middle market businesses. And while every company is unique, I hear a common thread: Most aren’t satisfied with their marketing function. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they’ve got a big in-house team, or they’re outsourcing to an agency, or they’re using a hybrid approach

The more I meet with CEOs at prospective client companies, the more insight I gain about why they’re dissatisfied and what they want and need from marketing. Here’s my take.

CEOs want strategic marketing direction.

They’re tired of their teams and vendors engaging in random acts of marketing that don’t yield results. Rather than waste budget on disconnected, arbitrary, reactive tactics, they want experienced marketing professionals to develop a cohesive, strategy-led marketing plan that aligns with their business goals.

As one of our Fractional CMOs, Jen Marino, described it, “In today’s dynamic marketplace, CEOs look to their marketing departments to be the compass guiding their strategic direction. They want a strategic roadmap that aligns with and propels the company toward its business goals.” CEOs rest easier when a strategic marketer is vetting all those random requests from the business, aggressive ad pitches, and paid sponsorship opportunities posing as freebies.

CEOs want to optimize marketing spend for a high ROI.

No company can afford to waste money on marketing that doesn’t move the needle on their business objectives. Yet many companies spend hundreds of thousands annually with no clear idea whether they’re getting a good return. Should you keep pouring lots of money into those same trade shows every year? Not unless the ROI justifies it.

CEOs expect marketers to stop the spending madness by developing and executing plans that yield a high return, usually in the form of greater revenue growth. As Tony Catalfomo, president/CEO of EDT, told me, “I need marketing to measure performance and grow the business. 

They need to develop the measures, establish proper KPIs, and define actionable tasks to drive the business forward and ultimately grow revenue.” Jen Marino hears similar sentiments from CEOs at the accounts she leads: “They value the ability to systematically measure marketing to ensure a healthy ROI.”

CEOs expect marketing to leverage data for better insights.

CEOs want marketers to use data analytics for three purposes: To drive decisions on where to allocate their marketing resources, continually optimize their marketing campaigns, and measure the results with confidence.

That’s evident in the questions I get from prospective clients: “How do we know where to invest our budget? How will we know if our marketing is working? And how will you make sure it’s working?”

They want to partner with marketers who understand how to develop key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with their business goals, which metrics really matter (hint: it’s not website traffic), how to measure progress using analytics, and how to use data to keep fine-tuning their marketing for optimal results.

CEOs wish marketers would speak the language of business.

Every industry has its jargon. And as marketers, we ensure our clients cut through the babble and speak their buyers’ language. But when we communicate with our own clients about their marketing programs, we don’t always follow that best practice.

CEOs want to work with professionals who talk about marketing in the context of business. For example, they want to know how much it’s costing them to acquire a new customer and how much new revenue they can attribute to marketing. They typically DON’T care about the breakdown of organic vs search traffic or the rate of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) that turn into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLS). (See, your eyes are glazing over.)

CEOs want marketers to bring clarity and focus.

I once worked with a company that had 15 service lines aimed at nearly as many sectors. Every business line leader wanted their fair share of the marketing pie. But from a growth opportunity perspective, every service line and every sector didn’t warrant an equal share.

In the quest for growth, middle market businesses often fall into the proverbial trap of trying to be all things to all people. CEOs know the dangers of spreading their resources too thin, so they look to their marketers to narrow the focus and prioritize the spend.

An experienced marketing team will gather data about a given market’s size, penetration, and projected growth rates to assess opportunities objectively and recommend the optimal budget allocation. They’ll help determine how to maximize today’s cash cows vs where to plant seeds that pay off tomorrow.

CEOs expect marketers to leverage modern technology.

Most middle market companies use technology to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness. So of course, they expect their marketers to do the same.
CEOs want assurance that their marketers know how to employ the latest technologies to improve the return on their marketing spend. (Yep, it all comes back to ROI.)

Whether it’s marketing automation tools that facilitate personalized campaigns at scale, CRM systems that make it easy to nurture and track leads, or generative AI tools that are transforming the search engine experience, marketers need to stay on top of the tech game to generate better results.

CEOs prefer a multi-disciplinary marketing team.

Most CEOs understand that their buyer’s journey is vastly different today, happening mostly digitally and through self-service channels. This reality has transformed marketing into a hyperspecialized field, with the work divided among professionals who are experts in one of the many disciplines required to engage in effective modern marketing.

And that’s leading many CEOs to conclude (correctly) that a marketing department made of up of a couple of generalists doesn’t constitute a high-performing marketing function. (Dig deeper into this trend with my recent blog, Two Tools and a Tactician.)

One of our clients—Herb Benjamin, CEO of Freedom Millwork—described it this way: “I need a marketing partner that’s well-versed in multiple disciplines. Having a team that knows social media, branding, content, etc. is important. I find that individuals tend to have expertise in one area, but a team like Marketri gives me expertise across multiple disciplines.”

CEOs want their marketers to plan but stay nimble.

Marketing without a research-driven, strategic plan is throwing money away. But staying too rigidly wed to the plan can be wasteful, too.
CEOs expect marketers to know when and how to pivot as circumstances change, now more than ever. They look to their marketing teams to adapt the plan in response to changing customer needs, trends, and market conditions, while keeping the plan aligned with their business strategy. The pace of change today is just too great to put any plan on auto-pilot.

Of course, there are many more must-haves on the CEO’s list, including a proactive approach, a sense of urgency, the ability to engage and collaborate with leaders across the enterprise, and 100% accountability.

When marketers fail to meet all their expectations, CEOs reluctantly stay knee-deep in the marketing function…taking precious time away from leading the business. But the CEOs I speak with don’t want to wear the marketing hat. And that’s what leads them to Marketri.

Leaders who head up middle market businesses choose Marketri because we deliver what CEOs want from their marketers. We turn marketing into a revenue growth engine, combining strategy, execution, and analytics to power up a modern marketing program that delivers high ROI.

Schedule an introductory call to learn how Marketri’s proven approach can unlock your growth potential.