Rooster Strategic Solutions

Software engineer, visionary, and Apple founder Steve Jobs famously hated presentations, and forbid his managers from using PowerPoint. If they couldn’t quickly explain their ideas  – without hiding behind a raft of slides – he wasn’t interested. This should be an instructive tale to any Marketing Manager who’s ever felt compelled to “prove the value of marketing” to a CEO, board, or meeting room full of executives, especially those grounded in left-brain, non-marketing departments like engineering and finance.

It’s always tempting to build a giant PowerPoint deck with slide after slide of tactics, KPI’s, and snazzy visuals, packing too many thoughts, too many metrics, and too much jargon into a presentation to help justify your marketing plan. But there’s a better way – a justification equation, if you will – and the next time you’re asked to explain or defend your efforts, consider using this as a mantra for your presentation:

During T, we spent X to launch Y, increasing Z by %.

Here’s how it works:

T is the timeframe. Explaining your efforts in context, with clear start/stop dates – as opposed to rattling off a list of ongoing tactics – will make it more palatable for your audience. If you’re already presenting on a regular basis, such as monthly or quarterly, your timeframe is set; if not, try to present your tactics within a set period that will resonate with your audience, such as a seasonal sales period or a specific campaign. This will also help you as you determine which tactics and performance metrics to highlight.

X is your expenses. It’s normal to want to gloss over the costs and focus instead on your tactics and their benefits. But minimizing the discussion on costs is a mistake, for two reasons.

For starters, you want your executives to think of your marketing efforts as a capital investment, much as they would as they deliberate new factory machinery or whether to expand a sales force. You have to spend money to make money – in marketing, as well as in production or sales. If you’re going to show the value of marketing, it should be relative to the costs.

Equally important, many senior executives are unaware of the actual costs associated with marketing, although few would readily admit it. If you’ve ever heard an executive tell you that social media is free, that e-mail campaigns are simple, or that the answer to your company’s problems would be solved if you ran ads in USA Today, you understand that. This is your opportunity to focus on the hard costs of your marketing tactics, and to explain that social media ISN’T free or easy, and that an e-mail campaign designed to acquire new prospects is not only important, it’s complex and costly. Or that running ads in USA Today may not be the best solution! It’s important that you’re honest about your marketing costs, but always put them in context as an overall investment for your company.

Y is the high-level list of campaign tactics. The key here is “high-level.” This isn’t a time to show every Facebook post you did over the last 90 days, or to dive into every web page you created to support a new loyalty program. Instead of WHAT you did, focus on WHY (Y) you selected the particular tactics.

This section of the presentation should tie directly back to the specific goals of your organization. For instance, if your company has a new service available for a new market, explain why you chose Pinterest, or LinkedIn, or Snapchat to best reach these new prospects. If you have a new product for your current customer base, explain why you created a blog with articles from company experts, and why you used programmatic advertising to drive this audience to your website. This is also your chance to show how the tools you selected work together; for instance, digital ads help drive traffic to the new interactive web pages you created.

To be honest, this is the area where a lot of marketing professional get tripped up. You shouldn’t try to overwhelm your leadership with everything you’re doing; instead, make sure they understand WHY you’re doing what you’re doing – to support the goals they established – and to reinforce the fact that they should trust you as a steward of company assets.

Z is the performance metric, and % is the increase. Every campaign has different goals, so there’s no single metric that you can use to demonstrate your success. And marketing metrics are notoriously tricky; for a good resource on the best metrics to use to measure specific tactics, read this article by Pat Reese, Rooster’s Chief Media Strategist.

As a general rule for presentations, tie your efforts to company ROI whenever possible to reinforce the fact that marketing is a capital investment that supports your company’s objectives. In some cases, this will be easy. In the first example above (a new service for a new audience), you should be able to demonstrate an increase in signups with corresponding value; in the other example (reaching current customers with a new product), you should be able to show an increase in sales, particularly if you can show a control group that was outside the new marketing channel efforts.

If you can’t tie a straight line between your efforts and company sales, try to anchor your tactics to the part of the sales funnel that makes the most sense. For instance, if you can illustrate that a new blog series increased the number of high-quality leads while reducing the cost-per-lead, you’ll have your CFO’s attention more than if you simply show off the new blog.

A few other notes about your presentation:

  1. Keep It Simple. If the idea of presenting without PowerPoint causes you unbearable anxiety, you should least aim to cull the deck to a manageable number. Try to whittle it down to no more than 6 slides – a title slide with your marketing equation (During T, we spent X to launch Y, increasing Z by %), and one slide for each supporting point. This will help you focus on the key points, which will, in turn, be what your audience remembers.
  2. Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, and tell ‘em what you told ‘em. This is Presentation Skills 101, but it works really well in conjunction with the marketing equation. The more you can repeat it, the more likely they are to remember it.
  3. Whenever you can, use comparisons, especially when it comes to metrics. If you present the fact that 1.3% of your e-mail recipients clicked on a link to your website, your audience may not be impressed; when you compare that to your industry’s average of .07%, they will be. You can also compare your tactics with previous efforts to show how you evolved the strategy to deliver stronger results.

This marketing equation will be a strong tool to help you defend the important role you and your marketing partners perform every day. But if you have any questions, or need an outside perspective on your strategy or presentation of tactics, feel free to contact one of the Rooster staff for additional help.