Christina del Villar, Founder and Chief Marketing Strategist at Christina Del Villar, LLC, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Christina shares how marketing can effectively build trust with senior executives, why marketing is known as the “arts & crafts department” and how this thinking can be reversed, and her advice to digital marketers just starting out.
Christina is a go-to-market and marketing strategist who has amassed 3 decades of experience in the business. Over the years, she’s worked with both large and small companies, from startups to very well-established businesses. As she puts it, the primary focus in all that she does professionally is to ensure there’s alignment across the customer journey–with sales and marketing, product, and customer success too. In this chat, Christina started by providing insights on how marketing can build trust both with the executive team and the board from the ground up.
How can marketing build trust with the rest of the executive team and the board?
“I think this is really critical. Part of it is building the trust at your own level and maybe, the next level up as well. But ultimately, you absolutely need to build trust with the executives, the leaders, and the board. Whether that’s an individual in the organization or the manager or VP. It is especially important for marketing to build trust because nobody really understands what it is we do. So it’s really easy for us to say, ‘This is what we did,’ but they won’t necessarily believe it unless you’ve given them some proof. For me, this is really critical. I think we need to understand and speak the language of these folks.
“You can go into a boardroom with a million slides. This program did this, this campaign was great, this PR or piece brought in pipeline, and this is what happened on the website. However, unless you’re just going in and saying, ‘This is the revenue we brought in,’ you’re not even going to begin having conversations with them. That’s the very first thing. I’ve got one slide, it has the revenue and pipeline on it. Then, I have an appendix that has everything else that supports how we got to that number. I think that that’s what people need to do. I think it’s hard for executives to really understand what marketing does. But also as marketing, we don’t take ownership of revenue enough and we really need to do that. Ultimately, we’re the ones who are bringing in all of the revenue for the company.
“Whether it’s the website, the content, the branding, the campaigns–we’re doing it all to bring in the leads. We must also nurture leads that we have. It’s the content and collateral we’re developing for sales. It’s helping customer success be more successful and retain, grow and expand customers. We have a lot to do across that customer journey and all the revenue that’s coming in. We just don’t generally want to be held accountable for it. Nobody wants to be saying, ‘I’ll take the revenue target,’ and raise their hands up for that. But we need to, at least in our heads and minds and our teams need to recognize that we do own the revenue number for the company. When we do that, then we can have the right conversations with the leaders because that’s ultimately what they care about. They don’t care about website traffic as much as that might pain some people to hear. If nothing else, by talking about revenue first, it opens up the lines of communication and you can then start talking about what you did and what your team did to get there.”
Oftentimes, sales managers get where they are by being really good with numbers. They manage people, they manage expectations, they manage the ins and outs of their numbers. It would be refreshing to see marketing get to that same place. Too often, we see marketers begin to look to analytics in order to help secure and save their positions, but by then it’s too late.
We’ve all heard marketing referred to as the arts and crafts department. I think this has a lot to do with the perception that we’re only focused on the art, do you agree?
Christina weighed in on why marketing is infamously nicknamed the “arts & crafts” department and universally considered to be a cost center, and what we can do to debunk these myths.
“I think it has to do with everybody being in alignment with what we’re doing. There are definitely times when I’ve gone through this with my teams. Somebody will either come to me either on my team or externally (like someone in sales), and they’ll have a request. The first thing I ask them is, ‘Is this going to help us get to our north star? If it isn’t, then we’re not doing it. We’re not reprioritizing. I’m not going to find the money or budget to do it. We’re not going to spend our time on it.’ The request could be something that seems significant but actually doesn’t get to where you need to go. Alternatively, it could be something that’s kind of frivolous and time-wasting. So it’s important for everybody in the company to ask themselves that question or to have the same accountability. Always ask your buddy, ‘Is this getting us to our north star or not?’
“I can’t remember where I read it, but the lifetime of the average CMO in a company is no more than 18 months right now. It takes them six months to learn the process. Then they need probably 15 more months and an additional year because B2B sales cycles last a year. So they literally leave before they would have been able to prove what they were doing was significant, and then they start to cycle afresh.”
A critical lesson for CMOs to understand is that they need to start by understanding where their new company’s infrastructure is (in terms of maturity) and always get a baseline with the data you have before promising specific milestones for improvement. It’s going to take time to get the right measurements in place in order to set the right expectations with the rest of the executive team.
“It goes back to setting expectations. Anytime we do a conference or trade show, we know in marketing that we’re going to get those leads and we’re going to nurture them for at least six months. If sales converts them to a meeting, that’s a lovely bonus. For example, we went to Dreamforce. We ended up with 2,500 leads and the executive team was thrilled! Then the next day, they asked how much revenue came out of Dreamforce. I told them that’s not the way it works. Ask me in six months–maybe five months–and I’ll tell you where we are.
“If we don’t help people understand that we’re going to the show, we’re going to get X number of leads and we’re going to trash 50% of them immediately as they are ‘looky loos’ or ‘tchotchke grabbers’ or whatever–the ‘swag grab’–then, we’re going to nurture them, and then sales will get them. However, sales has its own process that they will need to go through. Set the right expectation up front. Remember that about six months into the process, you will need to put your deposit down to do that show again for the next year–when you literally have zero data on how the last show performed.”
What advice would you give to a digital marketer just starting out?
As we wrapped this chat, Christina offered her advice for digital marketers who are just starting out in this business.
“It’s interesting; there are obviously different components to marketing. There’s content, ads, traditional advertising, branding, communication, and lead gen. There’s so much to marketing. Generally, what I do when I hire people is I’ll hire a generalist. Over time, if they want to have a specialty, then I work with them towards doing that. It’s important for marketers to understand all the different pieces and components that go into marketing so that they themselves do a better job and work more closely and effectively in alignment with other folks on the team or that extended team.
“There’s this huge misconception about what it is that marketing does. They think we throw VIP parties and produce t-shirts or tchotkes. They’re not really thinking about everything else. We marketing people need to do a better job marketing ourselves and helping people understand what it is we do. What our contributions to the company and to the individuals in the company are and to whatever goal the company has.
“There are different pieces. You can do social media or be more involved from a technology standpoint or an operations standpoint. The great thing is there are a lot of different opportunities in marketing. You just have to understand what it is you want to do. On the other hand, as a hiring manager, it’s important to understand what gaps you have and what you really need on your team so you can find the right people or at least have a very solid job description. This way, everybody will understand what their role is and how they fit in with everything else.”
For more content on how marketing can build trust within their organization, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.
Christina ‘s book on Amazon: Sway: Implement the G.R.I.T. Marketing Method to Gain Influence and Drive Corporate Strategy