In 1937, the son of a poor farmer from Missouri published a book that would set the stage for an entire category: self-help. It’s hard to imagine that eight decades later, his words would still resonate. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People has spoken to generations and been emulated, adapted, and parodied ad nauseam. Even though the professional landscape has completely transformed, some of his tenets still ring true – especially for marketers. Despite all of the technological advances we’ve made, we still find ourselves facing the same questions: How do we “win people to [our] way of thinking”? How can we “arouse enthusiasm” among our peers? Translated into today’s marketing-speak: how do we get buy-in?
It is no secret that the principles of marketing have shifted dramatically since Carnegie’s days:
CMOs are close to eclipsing CTOs as the biggest purchasers of technology, our creativity has become harnessed to success metrics, and our customers have been transformed into complex data points to be analyzed. We are evaluated by our ability to gather new leads, drive them through the funnel, and convert them – a word previously reserved for religious missionaries and football downs. And while we are busy calculating how many touch points we need to get another MQL (marketing qualified lead), we often overlook one of the most important indicators of success: the ability to garner influence within our own organizations.
Marketing has a PR problem
“Marketing’s colleagues value their contribution, but don’t appear to understand its role beyond the creative outputs they see.” (Chief Marketing Officer)
Most marketers would identify our role as cross-functional; yet a recent study conducted by survey sampling firm, ResearchNow showed that non-marketing business professionals across the U.S. had a more “silo[ed]-view of marketing.” In fact, “only 16% of the non-marketers regarded collaborating with other departments as one of the top functions of marketing.” We are evaluated by the way our brand is perceived by outsiders, but when it comes to the way that our very own colleagues understand and view our role within the organization, there is a communication breakdown.
The lack of clarity around marketing’s role has only been magnified by stakeholder doubt.
Another study by UK-based Fournaise Group “showed that 80% of CEOs don’t really trust marketers, while 73% of surveyed CEOs believe marketing team members don’t have business credibility or the ability to generate growth.” (Forbes)
Perhaps this statistic is not entirely surprising, especially for those who’ve had to face an uphill battle convincing key stakeholders about the value of their programs; nonetheless, it is certainly discouraging to hear.
How can marketers begin to address these negative misconceptions and shift perception?
Let me introduce you to another word that has been part of the missionary lexicon, now co-opted by marketers:
We are no stranger to this as it relates to disseminating our brand messages to people who’ve never heard of us, getting an influencer or thought leader to preach our mission, or recruiting a customer from key account to share our message within their own organization.
As marketers, we are largely tasked with broadcasting our company’s message to the world, but when it comes to evangelizing our plans, tactics, and achievements within our own organization, we often fail to do so. Maybe it’s because it’s a lot of work. I, for one, never liked to get involved in office politics. As long as I was getting the job done, I was satisfied. But sometimes that is not enough, and I – along with my team – realized this the hard way.
We were producing hundreds of pieces of sales collateral, running ourselves ragged on the event circuit, and A/B testing emails with all of our might but saw no correlation between effort and reception.
It’s time to slow down!
We may have been churning out deliverables at a rapid pace, trying to maintain a foothold as first-to-market, but in doing so, we lost sight of the value of the internal education and buy-in needed to get those on the frontline engaged, and those who allocated budget, onboard with our strategy.
For many marketers, this interpersonal and psychological task can be more difficult than writing any 500-word blog post, or coming up with copy for a digital ad campaign. And the hardest part: it’s a non-linear journey that won’t happen overnight, but if you are ready to commit to shifting the way you market, here are a few ways to get started:
Gather (Essential) Input
“Everyone needs to have a seat at the table in the beginning…This creates a community of openness, trust, camaraderie, support and gets everyone excited about the new journey.” (Jillian Hillard, Director of Brand Marketing, Electrolux, CMW 2017)
In a Harvard Business Review article on the power of internal marketing, the author observes that “the marketing department might get involved once in awhile to tell employees about a new ad campaign or branding effort. But the intent usually is to tell people what the company is doing, not to sell them on the ideas.” It’s easy to relay a purely-marketing driven campaign, but the real challenge lies in soliciting feedback upfront so that you already have buy-in by the time the final deliverable is released.
The best – and most utilized – marketing deliverable, be it a data sheet, blog, pitch deck, or webinar, is often the result of cross-functional inputs. The impetus may have come from a discovery call, and then been echoed by a colleague, so almost immediately, you have two people that can help you get closer to the problem at hand.
But be smart about who you invite to the review process. I emphasize “essential” as too much feedback along the way can lead to gridlock. Select clear stakeholders upfront, and then identify the level to which they need to be involved in the process (Are they simply an approver, or do they need to provide an in-depth copyediting review? See DACI for more on this).
As a result of this collaboration, you’ll get a more holistic output that has the imprint of more than one hand.
Let It Come From Them
“Everyone in the organization is part of the marketing team.” (Charlie Riley, Lawley, for Forbes)
It’s not just about involving your peers in the creation process – get them to help you carry the deliverable across the finish line. From the moment someone asks me to create a piece of collateral for them – in particular, account-based content – I make sure that they know they’ve signed up to not only share it with their prospects but to make sure their colleagues know about it too. I resisted doing this for a long time, as I wanted to own the launch, but having someone else publicize on your behalf ultimately gives you more credibility, and the piece you’ve delivered, more shelf-life
Hold Regular Office Hours
I think back to my college days when professors used to offer up blocks of their time for students seeking some one-on-one Facetime outside of the classroom. This same principle can be applied in the workplace. Whether you’re trying to roll out new tech or an updated deck, hosting dedicated hours for your peers to reach you and ask questions in an informal, and non-judgemental environment can be a small gesture with big return.
Make It Easy, Make It Sticky
Much like UX’s focus is to drive usability and accessibility, marketing teams need to think about productizing output in a way that makes it simple to digest. For example, provide your sales team with email templates to facilitate the “ask” whether it’s a testimonial or an event.
Remember that pricey analyst report you commissioned in order to generate more leads? Further its impact by serving up tweets and talking points to help your colleagues more swiftly – and cohesively – drive the message home.
Here are a few other tactics to promote advocacy within:
- ToFu (Top of the Funnel) Tuesday: deliver a weekly report that includes sound bytes that your colleagues can easily broadcast to their networks
- Monthly marketing newsletters: share a round-up of your greatest hits, and key learnings (acknowledging areas for improvement goes a long way)
- Internal roadshows: Rotate through standing team meetings to get more visibility into your colleague’s strategic initiatives and core needs
- Launch KIt: Bundle your Go To Market initiatives into one package that includes everything from branding and messaging to FAQs and competitive resources.
Take It Outside (Break down silos)
Sometimes the strongest bonds are forged outside of the office. I’m not saying that you have to take up golf to break through, but maybe the occasional group fitness, cooking, or painting class, or even the simple act of grabbing a quick coffee or after-work beverage. Hubspot has an entire philosophy of successful smarketing, (sales + marketing) a term that refers to the alignment between marketing and sales. Imagine magnifying it with other teams across your organization.
Quantify Your Internal Impact
ResearchNow found that non-marketers “don’t appear to understand the role that data management and analysis have in driving many of the top activities by a marketing team.” (Chief Marketer)
Anyone who has peered over the shoulder of any marketer would know that we are always searching and fine-tuning the right data to communicate our worth. The shift to a digital, all-trackable world has compelled us to put on our analytical hat. Most of us may be measured by the number of leads we bring in, but the metric that most teams fail to goal themselves on is impact inside the organization.
There’s an overflow of articles written about how marketing teams should quantify their performance, but what’s not discussed is this critical phase of internal wrangling. My team recently introduced a version of the Net Promoter Score internally, against which we benchmark ourselves on a quarterly basis.
This process can be scary, as your colleagues can be some of your harshest critics. But if anyone is thick skinned, it’s marketers – and the more you ask for feedback, the easier taking it will become.
Keep yourself honest and measure yourself on how you are doing among your peers – much like you’d evaluate yourself on performance in traditional marketing channels.
“Amid the pressure to develop new products and squeeze costs out of operations, internal marketing is easily overlooked…But it is a truth of business that if employees do not care about their company, they will in the end contribute to its demise. And it’s up to you to give them a reason to care.” (HBR)
Most marketers, perhaps more than any functional role, suffer from the innate desire to be liked. Maybe it’s reflective of the fact that we are goaled on trying to get the rest of the world to like our brand. Or because we are forced to play middlemen between different departments.
We often undervalue our impact because our direct correlation to revenue is often fuzzy.
Perhaps our lack of confidence in our performance metrics is one of the reasons that we have a difficult time promoting ourselves within the organization.
Our goals may be misaligned with our efforts, but no one is stopping us from redefining them. Let’s not overlook our internal audience as a key indicator of our performance. To measure up, workshop with key stakeholders, iterate on your outputs, co-collaborate on the build and distribution of content, tie a bow around your deliverables, and most importantly, don’t wait for the accolades to come your way. Be your own best champion and learn what it means to drive marketing success.