There’s no CEO in their right mind who, if given the choice, will reduce budget to digital marketing – presuming all the facts have been presented and the business case made. Yet it’s not uncommon to hear of this very thing happening. Marketing managers report their budgets cut, activities truncated, or campaigns ended on a regular basis.

Why is this the case? Given what we know about the strength of digital marketing and its likely continued growth, it seems there should be more budget spend on digital than ever.

The problem, I think in some part, is a failure on the part of some marketers to effectively sell to their CEOs.

A fundamental disconnect

Online marketing is a challenging discipline. There’s an array of platforms to master, reporting tools, metrics to measure, and constant updates and changes to all of these elements. The depth of data and means of analysis available to marketers is similarly vast.

While all this is powerful stuff, it also pushes marketers further and further into a world of technical expertise and the language that comes with it. Marketers measure total visits to site, channel-specific traffic, bounce rates, and conversions – but what exactly does this mean to your CEO?

The answer is likely ‘not a lot.’ Here is the fundamental disconnect between marketer and CEO – they’re effectively speaking in different languages. While the marketer’s framework is visitors and followers, the CEO’s thinking in terms of leads, customers, sales, and shareholder value.

As they continue to speak in their own languages, neither party understands the other. When it comes time to decide where budget is allocated, some marketers make their pitch on their own terms – and lose out, because their CEO just isn’t understanding the value of digital marketing to their business goals. Even if that value’s huge.

The need to translate

If marketers are speaking a different language, they need to learn to translate for the benefit of their CEO (and budget!)

It starts with asking the right question. Is your sell geared towards marketing ROI or business outcomes? Take a moment to consider.

Marketing ROI is a useful standalone metric. But CEOs want to know the bigger picture – how marketing is contributing to the cycle of leads and customers and their business goals.

Framing your reporting, and pitch for budget, in those terms is immensely important. Of course, it’s still possible to mention things like followers, and Likes, or visitor numbers, but these should always be in the context of business outcomes – how exactly visitors or follower are contributing to new leads.

Consider adding in some marketing metrics that might be of more value to your CEO. Things like customer acquisition cost (CAC), the ratio of customer lifetime value to CAC (LTV:CAC), and the percentage of your customers that have originated from marketing are all very valuable metrics that should instantly make sense to your CEO.

Further, keep it high level – a helicopter view. CEOs have a host of different responsibilities. A 20-page report drilling down into every aspect of your business’ online efforts will not be useful to them, and remember that just because you’ve collected a piece of information, doesn’t mean you have to show it.

Keep thinking about the big picture, keep things succinct, and include the metrics that are relevant to your CEO’s business outcomes for reporting success.

Don’t ‘dumb it down’

Don’t take what’s been said above as advice to ‘dumb down’ your analytics and reporting. CEOs are clever. They just don’t have the time to navigate lengthy marketing reports.

Rather than simplifying for its own sake, the goals should always be ‘relevance and clarity’. Consider these thresholds or filters for what gets into your report – it should be relevant (to your company’s business goals) and clear (understandable from a non-marketing perspective), to create something meaningful for your CEO.

The takeaways, then, are these – for success in reporting and pitching to your CEO:

  • Make sure things are clear.
  • Make sure things are relevant.
  • Include the metrics your CEO wants to see.
  • Frame everything in terms of business outcomes.
  • Keep it simple and succinct.

Improving in these areas is a win for all involved – marketers justify their budget more effectively, CEOs understand the importance of digital, and the business benefits as a result.