Every year technology forms a bigger slice of the CMO’s marketing budget, and this year martech is said to be the single most significant area of investment for marketing resources and programs. As powerful tools that enable marketers to undertake better data analysis and personalise their marketing efforts, it’s no wonder these technologies are such a big focus for them.

However, although nearly half of CMOs are primarily responsible for creating the business case for CX investment, recent research we commissioned with Econsultancy found that in over half of organisations, authorisation of any funding lies with the CEO or the collective C-suite team. This means that CMOs must be able to demonstrate the business case for digital transformation investment and secure buy-in from the CEO and potentially other C-level peers.

Although all CEOs understand the need for their business to evolve in order to meet ever-increasing customer expectations, their knowledge of the technology required to do so and why it’s a worthwhile investment may be limited, and getting buy-in can be challenging. In fact, our research found that in over half of the cases put forward for martech investment, CMOs had to work hard to win over their CEO.
With that in mind, here are five steps that CMOs can follow in order to earn the support of their CEO and push digital transformation into the C-suite agenda:

  1. Understand the CEO’s priorities and where marketing can affect change: The CEO has an abundance of focus areas that demand constant attention. With concerns like growth and revenue, retaining top talent, building trust, creating new revenue streams, and keeping key stakeholders happy, there’s a great balancing act at work. What’s more, only 39% of companies have a digital marketing strategy that is aligned to wider strategic business operations. If CMOs want to get digital transformation projects approved and on to the CEO’s agenda, they need to show they understand the business priorities, make a business case for the potential ROI available from investment, and demonstrate how their marketing strategy can directly impact growth and therefore increase revenue.
  2. Recognise your CEO’s background: A CEO’s background will shape the way that you should approach the business case for digital transformation, and it’s much easier to sell in the importance of enhancing customer experience to someone who has experience or an interest in that field. However, research found that 27% of CEOs from large companies in Europe and the US have a background in finance, and 21% have previously served as CFOs. In comparison, only 11% come from a marketing background. As a result, CMOs need to rely heavily on data and metrics and prove that there will be a good return on investment when seeking buy-in for marketing technology.
  3. Keep the CEO aware of changes in the market: Marketing is often the department closest to the customer and the market. Use this knowledge to establish why digital transformation is important for the business. Highlight trends in the market, share examples of best practices across multiple sectors to show that digital transformation is an essential part of the marketing strategy, and can help drive business goals forward.
  4. Ensure you have regular facetime with the CEO: Recognize the broad per view of the business that the CEO must master, and look to understand his or her vision as quickly as possible, building a marketing plan that ensures success for your company and CEO. One of the best ways to keep the pulse on the business landscape is regular meetings with your CEO. But, don’t come in just expecting to get a download on what your CEO is thinking. Ensure that you come in armed with what marketing is doing to move the business forward and ensure when you exit the meeting, your CEO feels like time with you was well-spent.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance: Especially when you are new to a company, it is a good idea to ask the CEO (or C-level peers that have proven success with the board) to help you understand the language and requirements of the board. This is a powerful way of building a stronger relationship with other members of the C-suite. It may feel uncomfortable to show vulnerability or a gap in your knowledge to the board, but often, getting mentorship can help you build relationships with other key decision makers, as well as the CEO themselves.

With technology providing essential value to marketers, getting buy-in from the CEO is crucial to both the success of the team’s marketing efforts and securing a bigger slice of the budget pot. By aligning with the priorities of the CEO and the goals of the wider organisation, maintaining regular communication with the CEO and other C-level peers, CMOs can make sure digital transformation efforts are given the focus and investment they deserve.

Written by Paige O’Neill, CMO, Sitecore


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