Your CEO stops by and says, “Hey, can you present for 30 minutes to the board in two weeks on the value of marketing?” What do you do?

First, take a deep breath. This is a fantastic opportunity to start to gain the board’s confidence and to shape board members’ perspective on what marketing can do for the business. It also feels good when the CEO has enough confidence in you to request this presentation.

During my travels over the last few months, I’ve been asking CMOs how they communicate the value of marketing to the board. Here are five tips I have picked up:

  • Consider the board persona. That’s right, every board has a persona, so put on your marketing hat, and think about how board members will consume information. Just as you might think about content for a marketing campaign, choose which lenses will filter your message in a way that best conveys marketing’s value. Study the backgrounds of the board members, as well as the perspectives of the CEO and CFO, as they often reflect the persona of the board. Most likely, it is financial, sales or product/engineering focused. In larger organizations, the chances are very good that the board is financially oriented; small organizations may show more variation. Carefully consider the types of visuals that will resonate best with this persona, and whether pre-reading content will help your cause.
  • Less is more. Don’t get caught in the trap of showing every marketing activity you have completed in the last 12 months, or providing a complex view of what marketing is or looking to justify your budget. Most boards want to focus on two or three things in your discussion; if they really like what they hear, you will be asked to come back, which is a good thing. Whatever measurement you show, board members will now expect to see it consistently. So should you show them your demand waterfall as an example? If the board has a sales or financial persona, it might make sense. The test is whether members have had previous experience in high-tech marketing. However, make sure you present a simple, summary structure. The details are for you and your team.
  • Make a connection to growth. Marketing = Growth should be a connection you emphasize. There are most likely stated growth plans for the year, so look to express how marketing is enabling these strategies. If the board has a product/engineering persona, show how marketing will expand the brand as the result of a new offering or how it will create an impactful launch.
  • Demonstrate the value of alignment. Marketing is not going to do this alone. In fact, marketing is one of the few departments the board might interact with that is so intertwined with most functions of the business. Demonstrating the three legs of the stool for growth – sales, marketing and product – makes an essential point. To do this, the CMO needs to show marketing’s role in the go-to-market strategy (the SiriusDecisions Product Marketing and Management Model is an excellent example of this) and must demonstrate how it impacts sales productivity (e.g. pipeline impact or sales cycle changes).
  • It’s all about the buyer. Think about this for a moment. The board has just seen chart after chart about the company’s performance and strategy. Data about the buyer should be the common denominator throughout your presentation, providing a clear picture of how marketing acts as the glue between sales and product, and addresses the biggest challenges in today’s marketplace. Marketing operations can provide you with analytics-based facts about your buyer’s journey, which can suddenly reveal marketing to the board as the organization that understands the buyer.

Keep in mind that this presentation is the beginning of an ongoing dialogue with the leaders and key decisionmakers of your business. The outcome should be a thirst for more interaction and, much like your marketing efforts, the more it is about their journey, the more you will succeed.