In marketing, it seems there’s always someone or something to blame when things don’t go right.
Well, this is our slow season. That’s why leads are down.
There was a holiday last Monday. That’s why traffic’s flat.
People aren’t using Facebook as much these days. That’s why we’re not getting the clicks.
They are opting out of cookie tracking. That’s why we’re not seeing high attribution numbers.
We haven’t cleaned our database. That’s why email opens are so low.
To an extent, these might be true. Each one might very well be a valid issue that’s holding you back.
And businesses will often explain away diminishing returns for a long time before they’re prompted to act.
Sometimes, though, it’s not seasonality, holidays, or other anomalies. It’s the strategy itself. And it’s time for a new direction.
But if you’re a marketer who is not a decision-maker at your company, how do you convince your boss that it’s time to chart a new course?
The loneliness of the mid-level marketer
If you’re a marketer who’s sure your company needs to reevaluate its strategy, you’re in a tough spot. You might get blamed for shortcomings while being powerless to fix them. You might feel underappreciated or misunderstood.
And if you feel that way for too long, you’re likely to feel burnt out, disengaged, and frustrated. Or, you’ll start looking for another job.
But what you really need is the ear of the leadership team. (Or, even better, you need to be on the leadership team.) You need to be taken seriously and shown that your opinions have merit.
For this to be the case, you need to present a strong case to your company leaders.
How to get your boss (or your boss’s boss) to see the light
To get the higher-ups to see what you’re seeing, follow the advice below.
1. Avoid marketing jargon
This might be hard to hear, but it’s important: marketers have to stop talking like marketers. When we use too much jargon, we lose our audience.
If the people you’re talking to are not in the marketing field day-to-day, they’ll hear a whole lot of acronyms and start to feel like they’re swimming in alphabet soup.
To be understood, use language that everyone understands — and be sure to explain any terminology you use.
2. Come with data
Andy Crestodina says that you should never bring opinion to a data fight. When you’re talking marketing, data trumps all, so be sure to come with qualitative and quantitative data to support the points you’re making. Instead of saying I think…, say, the data shows…
At the same time, it’s easy for an audience to tune out too many numbers, so be sure the data you use tells a story and is contextualized.
3. Empower self-discovery
According to an old saying, people only remember a fraction of what someone tells them, but they remember a lot more of what they discover on their own.
If you’re a parent, you know this first hand. You can tell your child not to jump off the swing because she’ll hurt herself, but she won’t really learn the lesson until she learns it the hard way.
So, rather than telling someone what’s wrong, help them discover it themselves. Present the right data, ask the right questions, and be patient. Self-discovery takes time.
4. Make the learning easy (and collaborative)
You want to empower your leadership team to learn. There are a lot of ways you can do this:
Recommend books for them to read
Invite them to a conference, webinar, or AMA session that you’re attending
Share a podcast, article, or substack
Shared learning gives you a shared language you can use to talk about your challenges.
Afterward, circle back. Set a meeting to discuss what you learned, but spend more time asking questions than summarizing your own thoughts.
5. Create a connection with an expert
At the end of the day, it’s not your job to set the direction for the company. It’s really not your job to do the convincing. It’s your job to identify the right experts, connect your company to them, and let them do the convincing themselves.
If you really think a specific thought leader is the brightest mind in marketing, connect your team to her. Let them catch her vision, by any of the means we mentioned above.
6. Ask for a seat at the table
This is harder, I know, but it’s worth mentioning.
Too often, marketing is seen as a grudging expense. Marketers are the first to be cut when times get tough, and budgets get slashed on a whim. This is a dangerous mindset.
An investment in marketing is an investment in the future, and to cut marketing is to put that future in jeopardy.
At the same time, marketing plays an ever bigger part of building trust and educating customers before they enter the sales process.
Marketing deserves a seat on the leadership team. The surest way to get buy in from the leadership team is to be a part of it.
Set the course, build the future
If you don’t like where you’re going, you have an obligation to speak up. As a marketer, you have front-line expertise that company leaders might not. Show them what you’re seeing. Explain your vision. Provide data.
And most importantly, connect those leaders with the experts and thought leaders you believe in. The closer that connection, the more likely they will catch the vision.
This way, you help them see the problem AND the solution.
And you all take a step toward a brighter future together.