How to Communicate Marketing ROI

This is article #49 out of 50 in The Startup Marketing Playbook.

Throughout this blog series on marketing, we’ve gone deep on metrics, dashboards and the tools you use to track them. We’ve covered budgeting and how the different areas of a marketing budget power your lead generation and product marketing. As marketing leaders, you need to effectively communicate the ROI of these marketing efforts to various stakeholders at your company, from other functional leaders to the CEO and CFO. This ensures that you have the necessary support, budget and collaboration with the broader team to expand. Below is a breakdown of the steps to do this effectively:

1. Set expectations

As with any function or project, you need to set the right expectations from the beginning, and adjust them regularly as conditions change. When I first took over marketing at Netpulse, our team was building nearly everything from scratch. I needed to make sure the sales team didn’t expect an immediate flow of MQLs before we got the messaging correct or implemented our marketing automation system.

When expectations are clearly set, you can focus on communicating quick wins that demonstrate a steady drumbeat of momentum in marketing growth.

2. Create easy to understand quarterly and annual goals

We’ve outlined how to create an annual marketing plan earlier in this series. It’s critical that you organize your marketing objectives into a broad annual plan and quarterly bite-size initiatives. If the expectation is to establish a flow of MQLs, you should document each quarter what building blocks were put in place to make that a reality down the road. The ROI of marketing investment in the first quarter of the year may be to establish those building blocks needed to deliver MQLs in the second quarter.

Keep in mind, some stakeholders may be less interested in the “how” and just focused on the results. That’s totally fine, and you should be prepared for it when reporting.

3. Establish a rhythm of reporting

Once your dashboards are created, metrics are tracked and weekly analytics are being tabulated, you should ensure that communicating ROI and results are regimented. There should be a regularly scheduled weekly recap of metrics (as part of the marketing team meeting), results sharing at the executive level via weekly reports, and quarterly summaries of marketing yields.

4. Produce quarterly and annual summaries

At the end of the year, and after each quarter, I produce a Marketing Summary. It’s an extensive document that is organized by quarterly objective, laying out precisely what we did to achieve it (or not). The document always opens with a high level bulleted summary and key metrics. This is designed to be an easy to understand paper trail of exactly how marketing executed against the plans laid out at the beginning of the period.

5. Tailor reports to each functional leader

Each stakeholder is going to have different needs, many of which will need to be calculated manually. The CFO may be interested in cost per MQL and headcount to opportunity close ratio. Your CEO may still want to see some of your tactics, but ultimately be interested in how marketing is driving new opportunity creation in pipeline. While it can be tedious, it’s incredibly beneficial to create a reporting template for each stakeholder with their desired metrics and deliver it on a regular basis.

6. Avoid getting lost in marketing lingo

It might be enticing to showcase all of the cool projects marketing has been undertaking. However, don’t underestimate your colleagues patience and available brain space for absorbing information. When in doubt, present marketing ROI with a “less is more” approach that provides stakeholders with just the information they need and no fluff.

7. Polish everything

Finally, presentation matters. My quarterly and annual reports are well put together, edited and formatted cleanly. Slide decks don’t appear like internal notes but instead have the polish that would be expected if presenting to a customer. If you demonstrate that you are taking marketing results seriously, that message is rippled throughout the rest of the team.

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