A seat at the table: positioning marketing as a growth driver in turbulent times
26 Apr 2023
How can tech marcomms be seen as a growth driver in turbulent times?
It’s impossible to ignore the tech industry headlines. With business leaders declaring 2023 as the ‘year of efficiency’ and imploring their marketing teams to ‘do more with less’, there’s a real danger that businesses end-up losing market share and undoing years of hard-earned brand equity.
Last month’s Bellwether Report indicated how many brands are “holding their nerve and continuing to invest in marketing even in a downturn” and that “marketing is still being used both defensively and offensively”. The technology industry – in particular big tech – saw a lot of challenges in 2022 but green shoots are starting to emerge though this year, with market cap already increasing by $1.5trn.
For tech marketers this is a real line-in-the-sand moment.
In challenging times marketing is often still perceived as a P&L line primed to be cut. So how can you gain trust at the most senior level of your organisation, raise the value of your comms and position marketing as a driver for growth?
1. Be the voice of the customer
No one is in a better position than a marketer to reflect an organisation’s customers and be their voice at board level. In fact, CEOs want and expect their CMOs to step-up in times of crisis and play a more strategic role. A recent study found that 86% of CEOs believe their CMO has the power to influence key C-suite decisions.
The most efficient and effective way to do this is by capturing the changing picture and mood and bringing it into the organisation. Whether that’s through a customer survey, joining key account calls, or a combination of both, take a temperature of the market and play it back to the board. The business can’t argue with the voice of the customer.
2. Use integrated data and insights to your advantage
From the Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science’s report on ‘What happens when brands stop advertising?’ (spoiler: you lose 15% of market share) to the LinkedIn B2B Institute’s ‘How to emerge stronger from recession’ and Kantar’s ‘Growth in a crisis’, there are a vast number of research reports and case studies to provide you with the data you need to take into the board room.
Combine this research with your own empirical data – you need to measure everything you can, from brand to content to PR effectiveness to sales – and report back actionable insights. Not only will this integrated approach help breakdown siloes in your organisation and build trust, this powerful combination of data will support your claims with a C-suite cohort who are ultimately there to be persuaded.
3. Talk like a CFO
Finally, if you want to bring the CEO and CFO onboard for your planned activity and budget, it helps to shift your language and how you position marketing spend.
By treating brand marketing as ‘intangible capex’, as opposed to how it typically sits as opex on a P&L, execs will buy into the long-term impact of the activity.
Move from talking in terms of ROI (accountants see return on investment as a short-term or narrow metric) to NPV (‘net present value’ – which is a more holistic take on the value awareness comms has on the entire business).
Frame your planned spend and activity around impact on shareholder value and long-term margins, for example how brand can impact pricing discussions i.e. by making customer price rises easier to stomach.
From Slack and Uber to Microsoft and IBM, some of the world’s most successful tech brands launched in turbulent times, so let’s see this as an opportunity to reset how marketing is perceived in your organisation.
As Aryton Senna famously said, in a quote repeated by Mark Ritson in conversation with Jon Evans on the brilliant Uncensored CMO podcast:
‘You cannot overtake 15 cars in sunny weather, but you can when it’s raining’.