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A big hello from Raleigh, North Carolina. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More with Pam. Christina Del Villar is our guest today. Christina is a B2B marketer, speaker, and author of the Sway book about marketing strategy, revenue and growth.

Our topic today is about communicating marketing to the C-Suite. As we all know, marketing tends to be very complicated, and many marketers have a hard time helping their C-Suite understand marketing’s impact.

In this episode:

  • What should marketers do to communicate with C-suite?
  • Specific steps marketers must take from the get-go to ensure they capture ROI?
  • How can marketers expand their influence?
  • How to use context in communication with the C-Suite?
  • What could marketers do better?
  • Example of how to frame discussions or takeaways in communication with C-Suits.
  • What is one thing that marketers need to do when preparing their presentations?

Quotes from the episode:

“I think the key issue we have as marketers is understanding that we are speaking a very different language than the leaders of our companies are speaking.”

“We are the ones who are bringing in the revenue, and we need to start talking about it from that standpoint. ”

Pam Didner: A big hello from Raleigh, North Carolina. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More with Pam. Christina Del Villar is our guest today. She’s the author of the book called Sway. Does that sound cool or what?

Christina Del Villar: I think so.

Pam Didner: The book is about marketing strategy, revenue and growth. Woo-hoo. Like me, she is also a B2B marketer. So welcome, Christina.

Christina Del Villar: Thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited. Pam, you and I could talk B2B geeky marketing for hours.

 

Pam Didner: The topic we want to talk about today and get some insights and wisdom from Christina is how a marketer can better speak to the C-suite so they can understand us better. And marketing tends to be very complicated, and many marketers have a hard time helping their C-suite understand marketing’s impact. So, Christina, do you have any suggestions about what marketers should do to communicate with C-suite?

Christina Del Villar: I have so much, and it’s interesting because I feel like marketers, in general, do a bad job marketing ourselves, right?

Pam Didner: What? That is not true.

Christina Del Villar: I know. I know. It’s-

Pam Didner: I’m completely offended.

Christina Del Villar: Well, maybe you’re amazing at it. Some people are amazing at it, but-

Pam Didner: Trust me, I’m not.

Christina Del Villar: Right. But I think the key issue we have as marketers is understanding that we are speaking a very different language than the leaders of our companies are speaking, right?

Pam Didner: Yeah.

Christina Del Villar: We are in our day-to-day, our minutia, and trying to help the company. But then we have a bad way of articulating what that is to leaders. So basically, whenever I go into a board meeting, I have one slide that shows the revenue we brought in for our company. And it usually is all the revenue the company brought in because we had an impact in some way, shape, or form along that entire customer journey. And we’ll start with that number, and then we can have conversations about it. And so that’s where I start.

Now, not everybody’s going to be going into a board meeting. And so, how do you talk about it? How do you phrase it? And what do you think about it? And I think that one of the key things that we need to do is start understanding that we own revenue. We are the ones who are bringing in the revenue, and we need to start talking about it from that standpoint. I know you talk a lot about data and AI and how all that’s playing into it, which I think is amazing. We need to take that and talk about what we’re doing, the value we’re bringing, and the impact that we’re having from a revenue standpoint.

Pam Didner: That’s great. I love that, but I know many marketers have difficulty quantifying the revenue contribution.

Christina Del Villar: Yeah.

Pam Didner: So what are some specific steps they need to do from the get-go to ensure they capture that?

Christina Del Villar: There’s the component of the data itself, like you’re saying, and that actual revenue number, and then there’s the attribution, right? And that’s where we often have trouble with that. And so, I like to take it a little bit further back and think about the entire customer journey and all the things marketers are doing as part of that customer journey. For starting with a product, what do we do with the product and the product team to help them build a better product, think about features and functionality, and look at pricing and bundling? We are involved in all of that when it comes to products. And again, we are involved in so many different ways across that customer journey: sales, obviously marketing, sales enablement, and customer support and success. Again, we do a lot with B2B, so we’re talking long-term contracts, multi-year contracts. And how can marketing help customer support and success ensure that we can reduce churn?

So these are all areas that marketers already have a hand in. We need to recognize that more and help others in the organization understand the contributions we’re making across that customer journey. Therefore, when we say, or when I go to the board meeting with my one slide that shows all the revenue we brought in for that quarter, and it’s all attributed in some way to marketing, they have a better understanding of what I mean by that, right? I can say, “Well, by increasing our price and talking to product and increasing our price or changing our bundles, which allowed us to contribute more value and charge a higher price, this is how marketing contributed to revenue from that standpoint.” From a sales enablement standpoint, what content, how did we help sales sell better, sell faster, and sell bigger deals? Right? We can show that because now people understand how marketing has played these different roles.

Then from a customer success standpoint, when you’re talking about churn, are we helping customer success build how-to videos, doing webinars, having FAQs on our website, or managing the knowledge base? What are we doing as marketers? Again, we’re already doing all of this. We’re just not thinking about how it contributes to the overall number we’re looking at, which is usually that revenue number.

Pam Didner: Number one is to expand a marketer’s influence, like when I call it upstream.

Christina Del Villar: Yeah.

Pam Didner: Like, as a part of product development, as a product, the bundling package, if you are selling SaaS-based platforms or whatnot. And understanding terms of how the pricing work. And if you have external data or some insights to share that information, bring that in.

Christina Del Villar: Absolutely.

Pam Didner: And so that’s on the product side. And on the sales side is sales enablement. What can you do to support them? One of the easiest ways to support them is to share the content with them, especially for the long purchasing cycle. And content is one way of doing it. And also, if you understand their sales stages and the different sales stages, what can you do to support them? But I think to do that, you have to understand what their needs are. Would you agree, especially on the sales side?

Christina Del Villar: Absolutely.

Pam Didner: You must understand what they do and need, then tailor your support specifically for that need.

Christina Del Villar: Absolutely. And I know we do that in marketing with our roles. We’re trying to get better at it from a sales and sales enablement standpoint. And then, from the product standpoint, I think it’s important to consider sharing things in context, right? When we’re talking about why we need this feature or function, why we want to bundle it this way, or why we need to maybe listen more to our customers and manage an advisory committee, whatever that looks like, we need to put everything in context. Hence, they understand what we’re trying to accomplish and how we can help them.

And I think that goes very much to sales as well, right? We often say, “Okay, here’s a script,” or, “Here’s a case study.” Right? We don’t explain how to use the content we’re developing and, like you’re saying, at what stage we should be using it, right? Like, “This is a perfect piece for when you’re nurturing it. This is a good piece to use if you have a long sales cycle that’s 18 months, at 12 months.” We need to help them understand how to use that content as well.

Pam Didner: Understood. Another thing I would like to get your thought on is obviously for marketers. Many things we do, especially the money we spend, tend to be for campaigns and outreach. It doesn’t matter if it’s inbound and outbound, right? And it’s driving leads, building that brand awareness and driving demands. Much information we receive or check, in terms of marketing and performance, is based on past campaigns we have run. And you said that’s lagging indicators.

Christina Del Villar: Yes.

Pam Didner: Yes. In a way. Because that’s shared the results of the campaigns, we have run in the past six months, right?

Christina Del Villar: Right.

Pam Didner: And if that’s lagging indicators, and you mentioned leading versus lagging indicators, can you talk to us a little bit more about that? Well, I am being measured by how many leads I brought in. Of course, that’s going to be lagging. How can I put myself a little bit more proactively upfront?

Christina Del Villar: Yeah. And I think this is another problem marketers have because if you think about it, first off, we are in our day-to-day minutia, right?

Pam Didner: Yeah.

Christina Del Villar: So we’re like, “Oh, web traffic increased today. This is great.” It doesn’t mean anything to our CEO. It may not even mean anything to your CMO, right? Because they’re trying to understand, “Great. You have that, and that’s nice, but how will that help us reach our goals?” Right? And so these lagging indicators, again, we as marketers need to have that. We need to measure that.

We want to show ROI for our campaigns; no question about that. If we’re talking about leading indicators, we’re talking about how is this now going to predictably have usually revenue growth or growth of some kind? What is this going to lead us to? And so this is why it’s really important. So if you think about it, let’s just take an example, right? Suppose you have 20,000 visitors to your website this month or this quarter. So if you go into a meeting and say, “We had 20,000 website visitors,” there’s no context, meaning nothing.

Pam Didner: Nothing.

Christina Del Villar: It means nothing to leaders, right? So a good way of saying it, but it’s still talking about lagging, is to say, “We had 20,000 visitors, which is a 10% increase.” So they’re like, “Oh, okay, you spent some money, and now you’ve increased by 10%.” So, that’s a good way of talking about it. But a better way would be to say, “We increased our target audience of website visitors by 10% because we knew what they were looking for, and we created content and delivered specifically for that audience.” So, that’s a better way of saying it.

But best, combining the lagging and the leading would be to say, “We increased our visits by targeting our audience and increased it by 10% due to our campaigns that we knew we were going to do. And we expect that this will lead to 20% more pipeline and 10% more revenue.” Right? We don’t talk about it, but everybody in the company is trying to get to predictability, right?

Pam Didner: Yeah, true.

Christina Del Villar: That is how you can say, “This is what we’re expecting.” And so if you can bring more of that leading into your conversation, it helps them frame it, like, “Okay, I know what you spent your money on. I can understand the ROI, and I can understand what your expectations are going forward.”

Pam Didner: Actually, we can take one step further, if you will. And I like the way you expand it, right? It’s not just about 20% growth. Still, you talk about 20% growth concerning how you will help the sales and how it will help the business objective.

Christina Del Villar: Right.

Pam Didner: You also narrow it down to a target audience. We can also expand it a little more, take all your points if you will. Sometimes if you use an IP sniffer, you can see which accounts or companies come to our website. Do a little research and not just look into the aggregate number of 20,000 traffic. You can also say, “Out of this 20,000 traffic, these two, three accounts are accounts we want to go after.” Guess what? Some of them come to our website. So I think calling that out will also help tremendously.

Christina Del Villar: Absolutely. Because we’re in B2B, we have multi-year contracts. Usually, suppose we see that even one of our customers is on our site. That might mean that not everybody in that particular company knows they already have the solution, or maybe they’re looking for something else from our solution. So it’s a good opportunity for the account managers to go look and see what’s happening or customer success, to hopefully either reduce churn or help when it comes time for renewal.

Pam Didner: Yeah. All this, honestly, Christina, I agree with you, but it does require some work on the marketing side. You have to analyze and go behind the data to understand what the data is trying to tell you and then find the nugget.

Christina Del Villar: Yep.

Pam Didner: And that’s work. I always tell B2B marketers, “The job is not easy.” A lot of people say, “Oh, there’s a lot of blog posts out there, say, ‘Oh, B2B marketing make it simple.'” I was like, “Seriously? It is hard work.”

Christina Del Villar: I think I was at a Starbucks once, and I don’t know how it happened, but the barista was like, “Oh, what do you do?” And I said, “Marketing strategy.” She’s like, “Oh yeah, that seems easy. Maybe I’ll get into that.” And I was like, “Many degrees, 30 years of pain, a lot of drinking.” Right? Yeah. And I think somebody once asked me, “If you were to tell a marketing person or somebody interested in marketing, what’s the one thing they need to focus on?” And that is understanding data. You don’t want to touch it if you’re afraid of it. There are so many things marketers could do better, and one of them is owning the technology, right?

Pam Didner: Yeah.

Christina Del Villar: I know your book about AI is important. It’s not just about AI and how it’s used in marketing right now. It’s about how that will help you become a better marketer and help your company succeed professionally and from a business standpoint. It has to do with marketers understanding that we can use this technology to do our job better and show the influence, impact, and value we’re bringing. But that means owning the technology. I can’t tell you how often I’ve come into a company, and it’s like, “The IT owns Salesforce and my marketing automation tool.” And I’m like, “Well, what does IT know about the data I’m trying to extrapolate?”

Pam Didner: A lot of time, they probably can own it in terms of maintaining the tool.

Christina Del Villar: Sure.

Pam Didner: But regarding what the tool will do, that part of it needs to be owned directly by the sales side. And then, you also need the administrators and developers. A lot of time, you still have to do some custom coding-

Christina Del Villar: Oh, absolutely.

Pam Didner: … to make sure the tool is useful for you.

Christina Del Villar: Yeah.

Pam Didner: Yeah. I mean, that’s work. Again, that’s work.

Christina Del Villar: It’s work. It’s work. And I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve been so successful and my teams because I push two things. One is, “We own revenue, period, whether you like it or not,” and, “You need to understand the data.” I’ve had people on my teams who are amazing writers and content producers, and they’re not going to get the data. And that’s okay. Then I’ll supplement with somebody else on the team to help.

Pam Didner: But I always encourage marketing of, oh, skill set or facets, if you will, that they make an effort to understand other fields of marketing.

Christina Del Villar: Right

Pam Didner: Say, if you create content, you know what? Well, try to understand email marketing. If you understand the content, try to look at Google Analytics and see how your content is performing. Right? You need to get out of your specific job roles and responsibilities and do a little more. Yeah.

Christina Del Villar: Right. Whether it’s your marketing teams or expanding and working more closely with product or sales, understanding and going back to the context helps you do your job better and present. Going back to the original question, present what you’re doing in a way understandable for that audience. I mean, we do it. That’s what we do as marketers. We create for a specific audience. So we should do that internally as well.

Pam Didner: Well, that leads to another question, internal communication. And obviously, one of the key marketing models is to understand your audience, understand your audience deeply. That also applies to internal communication with C-suites. It is actually for the marketer to frame their discussions or takeaways around the CEO, COO, CTO, and CRO, if necessary. So can you give us an example of how to frame that discussion, say if you want to talk to the COO and the CTO?

Christina Del Villar: Yeah, yeah. And you should. And it’s interesting because as a marketing leader, you know the suite, we talk to the CEO, the CFO, and the CIO. Every CXO that’s out there, we talk to them. But it’s important for everyone in your marketing organization to feel comfortable speaking to those folks or have that knowledge to present. Because I’ve been in meetings where it’s not like a board meeting, we’re not presenting results necessarily.

Still, the CEO might turn to the person who just did an event and ask, “Oh, well, what’s our expected revenue?” And they’re like, “What?” And then they look at me. I’m like, “No, no.” You need to own your campaign, know what it is and feel comfortable talking to them. And I think it goes back to understanding what this person is seeking at the end of the day. Again, know your audience. So the CEO, or let’s not even talk about the CEO, talk about a VP of sales; they’re concerned about pipeline and revenue and ensuring that their team meets their numbers and their quota, right?

Pam Didner: Yep.

Christina Del Villar: You need to speak to them about it. When I was working at a company, one of the sales team complained, “Marketing just talks about all the great stuff we do,” and it’s meaningless to them. And so I thought about it, and I’m like, “Yeah. No, I get what you’re saying. We’re like, ‘We’re great. This is what we did.'” And he said he’s like, “It makes sales look bad when you have…” Because I had this big chart up, like, “We brought in 50,000 leads this month.”

And then, unbeknownst to me, the CEO is like, “Well, marketing just brought in 50,000 leads. What are you doing with them?” Right? Not even realizing that we haven’t even given those to sales yet. Right? We’re still nurturing them. They’re still with us. They’re not qualified for sales yet. So we were giving this misimpression to the CEO. It was making the sales team look bad. So we had this monthly meeting that we would have with the sales team, and we would always start-

Pam Didner: Make sure you’re on the same page. Yeah.

Christina Del Villar: Yeah, yeah, right? And we were about to go into this meeting, and it was right after this conversation I had, and I told the person on my team who presented, I’m like, “Flip our slides.” He’s like, “What do you mean?” I’m like, “Start from the back. Start from how much pipeline and revenue we brought in. And then, if we ever get to how many website visitors we have, it doesn’t matter, right? Because this will engage sales to have an interactive conversation about what’s working and what’s not.” So he’s like, “Okay.” So he flipped the slides around and started with, “This is the pipeline we brought in, and this is the revenue we brought in.” And we never got to how many website visitors we had because it didn’t matter to them. They wouldn’t understand.

Pam Didner: It didn’t matter to them anymore. Yeah.

Christina Del Villar: Right. And so that’s what we’re talking about here. Think about whom you’re talking to. And again, I’ve had this happen so many times. You’re walking through the hall, and somebody’s like, “Hey, blah, blah, blah.” It’s not scripted or a planned meeting, but people want to know what’s happening. And so you always have to have these nuggets in your back pocket so you can talk about it. But again, you need to talk to them in a way that’s meaningful to them.

Pam Didner: Yeah. I do agree with you. On the sales side, I 100% agree, even with the CRO, and chief revenue officers, talking about the sales revenue and the pipelines are very important. And CEO cares about that a lot too. If I talk to a COO, I usually focus on processes. What kind of processes are we doing, especially on the Martech Stack. On the CTO side, if they care about all the tools we are using, and I always talk about how tools are performing, right? There are no tools downed, and Salesforce, the CIM, or marketing automation tools are running very nicely. And another thing I will bring to the COO and the CTO’s attention is usually processes and the tool’s usage.

Christina Del Villar: Right, yep.

Pam Didner: What’s the tool’s usage? And to make sure that they understand that part of it. But most of the time, I agree with you, the key things that everybody cares about the most tend to be revenue and growth impact.

Christina Del Villar: Right, right. And that makes sense because if you think about your overall corporate objective, it is usually a revenue number, right?

Pam Didner: Revenue, yeah.

Christina Del Villar: Right? Even if it’s an IPO, maybe you’re looking at revenue. Maybe you’re looking at EBITDA, maybe a number of accounts, or you’re going to look at some things. Still, you’re looking at that revenue number. And I think the other thing, to your point, that’s important when you’re talking to that COO, CIO, CTO, they want to understand, because some of that, often that budget will come from their budget or they-

Pam Didner: Exactly. To support it.

Christina Del Villar: Right?

Pam Didner: Yeah. Especially in a big enterprise. Yeah.

Christina Del Villar: Where they’re putting resources. Absolutely. I can’t tell you how often people are like, “Well, I have this list of all of your… Do you use all of these tools and technology?” And it’s like, “Yes.”

Pam Didner: “Do we need it? Do we need tools?”

Christina Del Villar: “Do we need Salesforce? Do you need that?” Right.

Pam Didner: “Yes, how did you use that in the past two years?”

Christina Del Villar: Right. To be fair, there are times when I’m like, “Oh yeah. Okay. We should probably leverage that more or get rid of it.” And that’s great. It’s good to do that kind of audit. But again, we need to help them understand how these tools are helping us do our job better and get us to our ultimate corporate goal.

Pam Didner: Understood. So what is one thing that marketers need to do when preparing their communication or presentation to C-suite? If you have one piece of advice, what would that be?

Christina Del Villar: Yeah, I would say keep it short.

Pam Didner: I love that. I like that.

Christina Del Villar: I know, right? And it doesn’t need to be a fancy, pretty slide. Again, I just throw up a number. It’s like, “4.5 million this quarter,” right?

Pam Didner: Five million. The font size is 78.

Christina Del Villar: Right? Keep it super simple because what you want is you want them to take that away immediately. Then you still need to have that backup material because they’ll ask more questions about it, which is fine. But I would just say keep it simple and to the point, and again, what is it that they’re looking for, right? If the CTO is trying to understand how you’re leveraging the technology and, “Do we need all these licenses?” then start with that. If the CEO wants to understand what revenue is happening, talk about that sales pipeline, right? The product wants to better understand how people are using their product. And marketers tend to have that information because we own all the tools that people are communicating with, whether it’s chat or-

Pam Didner: Certainly.

Christina Del Villar: … things like that. Right? So there are ways that you can consider it. And if you don’t know, ask them, “What motivates you?” Right?

Pam Didner: Just ask

Christina Del Villar: I know. Have a conversation. Just ask, right? Just ask. It was funny. I had a conversation with an engineering team. I made them come to a marketing brown bag once, and they were like… The fact that they even showed up was great, but they were all on their phones, eating their lunch. And at one point, I was like, “Look, this is the role you can help my team. We need data about how our customers are using our products. And we need to get some information on case studies.” And suddenly this guy pops up, and he’s like, “Oh my God, we have 10 years of usage data. Would that be helpful?” I’m like, “Ah-

Pam Didner: Yeah!

Christina Del Villar: … yeah. That would be freaking amazing!” And they got all excited about it. And so then they felt like they were part of our process. They were total geeks about the data, so they were deep diving into it. And again, just helping them understand how they can help you and you can help them, and helping them understand what it is that you are doing and how they can help you as well as you helping them.

Pam Didner: Very nice. Very nice.

Christina Del Villar: Yeah. It was super cute.

Pam Didner: How can people find you?

Christina Del Villar: Yeah. You can find me at christinadelvillar.com. Also, my book is on Amazon, Sway. And I’m on LinkedIn. I love connecting. I love talking about this. I know you do as well. So happy to always chat with people and be their mentor, advise, commiserate, whatever.

Pam Didner: Excellent. Well, Christina, it’s wonderful to have you. Thank you so much for coming to my show.

Christina Del Villar: Yeah. Thank you.

—————

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To expand your knowledge about communicating marketing to the C-Suite, check out some of my previous podcast episodes, blog posts, and video.

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How to Prepare for Editorial Success with Salesforce’s Director of Content Strategy

3 Tips to Lead an Effective Marketing Team

Blog post

Recession Ahead? Here’s How To Keep Marketing Agile

How to Deliver a Virtual Presentation to Management Successfully

Video

Two Ways to Get a Clear Vision Statement From Your Management

 


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