Seven critical strategies for selling marketing to your CEO

According to a Forbes Insights survey, 69% of CEOs said they think their companies waste money on marketing initiatives.

Since marketing often requires a long-term strategic lens before return on investment can be attributed, many CMOs struggle to convince CEOs of the importance of investing in it. With more than 20 years in the branding, advertising, and marketing industries, I understand this battle first hand.

What can a CMO do to get better strategic support and key resources from a CEO?

Empty office meeting

1. Expand the brand story to impact more audiences

A good brand story should be relevant to an array of audiences, not just customers and employees. By strategically expanding your marketing story to reach the stakeholders who are critical to the CEO—the board, investors, analysts, and other key influencers—you can reinforce the importance of brand and its potential impact on stock price and other business metrics. Those closest to the CEO who understand and appreciate the importance of the brand can be highly beneficial for selling marketing ideas in the long run.

2 . Use brand to build and drive culture

Marketing and branding are not just isolated strategies for external projects and campaigns. They are also key to driving a company’s internal culture. Brand can be a major factor for attracting, motivating, and retaining employees. The more agile a company is—and the stronger its company culture—the better its employee engagement and performance will be. To help your CEO buy into a marketing effort, illustrate how the strategy can help define, change, or reinforce culture, and in turn, support your brand.

Brainstorm marketing meeting

3. Move quickly to generate momentum

Be a driving force. Understand your market, your competitors, and your industry—and use that knowledge to get ahead of the latest branding and marketing trends. Ask your agencies what they are seeing across their client base and across geographies (even if outside of your specific footprint). When new trends are on the horizon, present these findings and solutions to your CEO preemptively to help drive action and keep your company at the forefront.

4. Use analytics to prove and predict success

Measure, measure, and measure again. We know CEOs and senior leadership respond favorably to the objective appeal of strong analytics and data that demonstrate current success. In today’s digital world, marketers have more real-time data at their fingertips than ever before. Using strong insights to show why your approach is working—or how it may need to be adjusted—can strengthen your position and get leadership on your side. Equally compelling is using analytics for predictive modeling. Having a comprehensive “listening” program across key social media channels can be especially revealing, providing an opportunity to share new information about your brand with senior leadership.

Brainstorm meeting marketing

5. Find “cheap” wins

Don’t fall prey to exclusively suggesting elaborate marketing efforts that require additional funding. Many highly effective marketing strategies don’t require much investment, but can make a big impact on your brand. One approach is to reallocate funding from one part of your marketing strategy to experiment with something new. Since this tactic doesn’t require incremental funding—and shows innovative thinking about your marketing strategy—you’re more likely to persuade your CEO to sign off on it.

6. Anticipate the response

This maxim says it best: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” Before presenting a marketing strategy to your CEO, anticipate the full array of questions and possible sticking points. “Socialize” proposals with the CEO’s key influencers to help get buy-in or understand obstacles. By having answers ready and additional information available, you can assuage potential conflict and mitigate any instinctual negative reactions. And real-world case studies and success stories are effective in diminishing risk concerns.

7. Benchmark yourself against best-in-class companies and competitors

If a company your CEO admires is enjoying marketing success, take note. Use that company’s strategy and tactics to reinforce your point of view and your proposal’s effectiveness. Also consider where you sit in relation to competitors. Use their strengths and weaknesses as impetus for shifts in your marketing strategy.

Meeting business marketing

In addition to these seven suggestions, improve your chances for selling marketing to your CEO by demonstrating sensitivity to risk mitigation and establishing clear metrics of success to gauge impact, while being clearly driven by the intent to be decisive, quick, and agile.


This piece was originally published as “7 strategies for selling marketing to your CEO” on (6 October 2016). Republished with permission.