‘Nobody likes to feel stupid’: Marketers on how best to communicate with stakeholders to secure investment

The third event in the Festival of Marketing’s Currency of Effectiveness series explored how marketers can make the case for investment in their business, with senior marketers explaining the importance of transparency in their relationships with stakeholders.

marketing investmentMarketers must ensure their strategy is understood among their internal stakeholders in order to drive the case for marketing, with the starting point for any conversation being framing its budget as an investment, not a cost, according to four senior marketers.

“Scrutiny comes on the [marketing] budget when people don’t understand the strategy,” said EY’s UK CMO Rebecca Hirst, speaking during the third Currency of Effectiveness session being held by Marketing Week’s Festival of Marketing.

Hirst spoke alongside marketing leaders from NatWest Group, Camelot and SAS. During the session, the panel advised fellow marketers to bring internal stakeholders along on the “journey”.

For Camelot, which currently operates the National Lottery, its stakeholders are slightly unusual in that they include the regulator The Gambling Commission. As such, the business’s head of marketing strategy and planning, Rachel Moss, leaves marketing jargon at the door when she is communicating the National Lottery’s brand strategy to them.

“Quite often the people we interact with don’t have commercial backgrounds, so you can’t assume the language of marketing,” she said.

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Telling the story in a simple way and welcoming questions is another crucial way to ensure stakeholders are on board with your marketing strategy, she advised, adding: “Nobody likes to feel stupid.”

Moss also “start[s] from a place of alignment” when it comes to bringing the regulators along with marketing strategy. Both the marketing team and the regulators are invested in growing the brand health of The National Lottery, and therefore maximising its returns to good causes.

NatWest CMO Margaret Jobling takes a zero base approach to her marketing budget, which she said enables her to have more commercially-orientated conversations with the finance team and speak their language.

“We build [the budget] bottom up. So, what do we need to keep the lights on? What’s the new stuff that we’re trying to do? And then what’s the price tag of that?” she said.

This means if finance “doesn’t like” the number the budget amounts to, she can then have a much more “binary conversation” with the function about what they are prepared to get rid of if they want to reduce it.

SAS CMO and executive vice president Jennifer Chase has always had a strong strategic relationship with sales in the B2B company, but previously had more of a “transactional” one with finance.

However, there is in some ways more commonality between how marketing and finance view the business, she stated. While sales is concerned with fulfilling quarterly targets, finance takes a “long-term” view of the business, as do marketers.

Transparency is key

Marketers should communicate the metrics which “make the boat go faster” and demonstrably drive business results in order to make the case for investment, EY’s Hirst said.

EY focuses on two key “buckets” of metrics, she explained. Firstly, brand perception metrics tracking how its clients see the business versus its competitors. In a business where clients are spending millions of pounds at a time, this is incredibly important, she said.

The second is around “brand demand”, which is how clients are engaging with the brand. This is measured through “engagement, conversations and ultimately sales pipeline”, said Hirst.

Experimentation is crucial.

Margaret Jobling, NatWest Group

The business avoids getting distracted with “millions of metrics” by focusing on these two buckets, she said. When it looks at other metrics it looks closely at how these “filter up” to its overarching goals.

NatWest’s Jobling said there is work to be done by marketers in communicating how short-term and long-term metrics feed into each other. Investing in sales and the long-term are “not necessarily mutually exclusive”, she said.

She added that marketers need to be “transparent” in sharing metrics with the wider business, especially when it comes to making the case to stakeholders for investment in more experimental work.

“Experimentation is crucial” for brands, she said, but marketers should build their credibility in this area by communicating clearly the goals and then the outcomes of this work. It is equally as important to communicate when things go wrong as it is when they go right, she said.

Change takes time

Marketers also need to be transparent and communicate “realistically” about the timescales of long-term change, Jobling argued.

Camelot is an example of a business which took time to rebuild its brand health. Around five years ago, the National Lottery had seen its sales drop by around £600m year-on-year, and according to head of marketing strategy Moss, the public had forgotten what the brand stood for.

The business had over-invested in activation, it realised, and knew the job of marketing was now to “reinvigorate” the brand. At the beginning, the basis for the work was largely marketing theory, said Moss. The business invested  £10m in the first year into brand advertising.

“We didn’t get it right, it wasn’t perfect straight off,” she said, adding it took about a year before the business started to see its brand metrics shift.

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The change by no means happened overnight, but the business’s brand investment is now “18 times more effective” than it was when it started the work, Moss said.

SAS’s Chase concurred that shifts on longer-term metrics can take time. She said the marketing team at the brand use what she termed “pulse checks” on initiatives to measure progress.

The business determined the “high-value interactions” with its customers which generally would act as indicators for longer-term results. These allowed the business to have an indication of how a longer-term campaign was working at more regular intervals.

At Camelot, the period of struggle and then the long-term results the business has been able to show after re-investing in brand spend has affirmed the case for investment to stakeholders, Moss said.

NatWest’s Jobling said her experience of “going dark” on marketing was ironically “the best experiment ever”, as it meant the business was really able to prove marketing’s positive impact on sales.

To watch the session in full click here.

The Currency of Effectiveness is brought to you in partnership with System 1, Ebiquity, Salesforce, Digitas, Ozone, Little Dot Studios. 

For more information and to register for the other free events taking place as part of the Currency of Effectiveness series, part of Marketing Week’s Festival of Marketing, click here