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4 Ways Marketing Leaders Can Impress the C-Suite

September 17, 2017
Brand, Content, Digital, Health System, Healthcare, Local, Marketing, Strategy, Trends

We all have been there. We are asked by the CEO to present the latest marketing campaign to the C-suite where the goal is to “keep them in the loop” and to “show how the marketing investment is working.” You spend weeks fine-tuning the presentation. You confirm with finance that the numbers are accurate and track down the latest patient testimonial to include in your presentation. Everyone works late making sure you have the “wow factor” that your team has come to be known for. And then the day arrives and your presentation time gets cut down to half the originally-allotted time. You feel rushed. Your audience is waning because you got bumped to the end of a long meeting session. No matter how buttoned-up your presentation, it seems their interest is minimal at best. 

You know your stuff, there is no question about that. The challenge is that the C-suite audience is looking for operational insights they can take action on and are often viewing marketing as the sizzle with little substance. For many in the C-suite, their appreciation for marketing still needs to be cultivated. This article will share with you four ways you can speak the language of the C-suite to help your marketing strategies get their attention and, better yet, their support. 

1. Think Operationally First

It is important to first understand the high-level issues that keep your CEO and C-suite level executives up at night so you can address these wherever possible when presenting your marketing strategies and tactics. In a recent survey of 350 C-suite leaders by the Advisory Board (which included 183 CEOs), five major themes emerged1:

  • Innovative approaches to expense reduction
  • Boosting outpatient procedural market share
  • Minimizing unwarranted clinical variation 
  • Controlling avoidable utilization 
  • Exploring diversified innovative revenue streams. 

Marketing can have a role in four of the five top concerns. Whenever you present your quarterly marketing initiatives, be sure to align them in a way that addresses these individual concerns. Call attention to these areas at the beginning of your presentation so you peak their interest early on. Reinforce your emphasis throughout the presentation so they can see how there is synergy between integrated marketing and their operational concerns. 

2. Understand Your Revenue Contribution

Although the C-suite generally understands the need for marketing it is harder for them to see the value of and quantify brand marketing. In a study conducted with 1,200 C-suite leaders in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, 80% of CEOs believe Marketers are too disconnected from short-, medium- and long-term financial realities of companies.2 It is imperative for the C-suite to understand what you know about the entire marketing and sales funnel as well as what revenues your initiatives can directly impact. Providing concise and consistent metrics will serve two purposes. Along with showing the C-suite the activities that you are implementing to drive volumes it will also begin the process of connecting the Data to Insights to Action. This is the process they want to know most about.

A great tool to show your C-suite that you are in-tune with operations is a marketing dashboard that has finance’s buy-in. Identifying key metrics that cannot be disputed will allow C-suite to focus on the data at hand versus consistently wondering about the credibility of the numbers you present. It is critical for you to share quantitative information in a trending format. For example, share a month over month, quarter over quarter format for your key metrics. The C-suite wants to understand:

  • Where the leads are coming from by individual source
  • What they cost by tactic 
  • How they convert in the overall sales process

If a large amount of your marketing expenditures do not have a specific call-to-action and are considered necessary brand expenditures, be sure to show how your overall awareness scores are trending. Ideally, if you can show consumer preference, you can tell the story so the C-suite can begin to understand why those investments are necessary and effective. Keep in mind that, with any presentation, the C-suite is looking to answer two specific questions: Is marketing spending their money wisely and if they were given more funds how could they generate more revenue? 

3. Keep Competiton In Mind But Not The Focus

One of the core attributes of an entrepreneur is that their focus is primarily on the consumer. Their competition is always in their sights, but only in terms of what is next on the horizon – they are looking for what could disrupt their industry and, in particular, impact their specific consumer base. It is important that when you are thinking in terms of the competition, you have the proper perspective. View what insights you have about the competitor(s) as business intelligence. Do not create marketing strategies that are competition-focused. 

The C-suite is most interested in what you have done to help reinforce how and why you are better than the competition. This ties in the operational product that they are responsible for, which will peak their interest. Speak to the strength of the message that can be shared with the consumer and what operationally could help strengthen it from a consumer’s perspective. They do want to know what the competition is doing, but it is less important than how you are positioning your organization. 

Perhaps Dong Mingzhu, President & Chairwoman of Gree Electric Appliances Inc. of Zhuhai, in China, says it best: “We used to win market share by doing a better job than our competitors with existing products. I think this is [the] wrong approach. We shouldn’t care too much about what our competitors are doing. We need to focus on what consumers want.” 3

4. Show How Well You Know Your Consumers

In this age of consumerism, especially in healthcare, it is vital that you are aware of the role of consumerism and the effect it has on the organization as a whole. Understanding all of the areas that consumers are taking control will allow you to look for areas of opportunity and, ideally, innovation. Most importantly, the C-suite views you as the category expert when it comes to consumers. Prove that is the case with each opportunity you have with them. Make sure your insights are not just limited to marketing initiatives. Make recommendations on products and services, or bundling of them, to show you understand what will appeal most to your consumers. 

Your department has a leg up on other non-clinical areas of the hospital. You have hundreds of touchpoint opportunities. You have tools at your disposal to dig deeper into the consumer’s likes and needs. You have the opportunity to gather insights into their problems and how the organization can or should be addressing them. Your C-suite is looking for you to rise above the other areas and be deliberate in connecting the dots for the organization from Data to Insights to Action. 

In dealing with the C-suite, and even the hospital Board, remember that cost cutting is top of mind for them. It is a critical component to their roles for the hospital. With each interaction, you must view your message as another example of the value marketing brings to the organization. In their eyes, marketing could be considered discretionary.  Use that as your motivation to ensure that your presentation’s takeaway is showing detailed insights into the consumer. Pay close attention to how your organization’s value proposition is being communicated and the impact it is having on your target customer(s). 

1 “What 183 C-suite Executives Told Us about Their Top Concerns.” Advisory Board Blog by Ben Umansky and Christine Lee. May 2, 2017. 

2 The Fournaise Group 2012 Global Marketing Effectiveness Program. July 10, 2012. 

3 PWC 18th Annual Global CEO Survey.

Jason Brown

Jason is CEO & Chief Strategy Officer of Brown Parker & DeMarinis (BPD), an internationally-recognized advertising agency that is on a mission to make health systems and hospitals the most beloved brands in the world. A pioneer in hospital marketing, BPD works with clients to unlock the power of their Purpose inside and outside their organizations, resulting in highly engaged employees and physicians and dramatically higher brand preference and service-line volumes.

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