Our guest blogger – experienced event and content advisor Tim Mann provides insightful tips on how events business leaders can be confident in the return on their investment in marketing. “By improving the reporting process for the marketing team, you are also helping the marketing team communicate with other functions, enhancing their value to the organisation. Marketing reports, made accessible and actionable, should be shared with all functions in the business – especially sales.” As is the case in all types of organisations, senior executives focused on the success of B2B events have to quickly process information from a variety of sources to make good decisions – on an operational and strategic level. A cause of frustration I often encounter when working with senior executives is how difficult it can be to efficiently receive and understand data provided by B2B community marketers. Frequently, meetings with B2B community marketers or the reports they provide tend to overflow with analytics – where important context and actionable insights can be difficult to pinpoint. It can be unclear how marketing spend is being allocated, which channels or elements of an B2B community marketing campaign are working best, or what is being done to optimise marketing performance in the months and weeks leading up to an event. This can strain relationships between marketers, executives and other stakeholders. So, what are the reasons for this and how can you address this challenge? The language of leadership and the language of marketing Marketing is a frequently misunderstood function. The analytics and language of its reports can be impenetrable to ‘outsiders’, especially when compared to other functions such as sales – despite the fact both functions should be closely aligned. CEOs, Managing Directors or Divisional Directors (P&L holders) in B2B Media and events businesses still tend to come from a background of content or sales – giving them a stronger, innate understanding of how non-marketing functions operate. Even if marketing has been a career path to senior management, the function has changed so much in the past five years that marketing experience gained years ago is probably of limited use. Compounding the problem, changes in recent years in the technology and tools being employed by marketers has resulted in marketing spend and the reliance on marketing investment increasing, as well as the volume of data and analytics rising. This growing cost and complexity of marketing has widened the disconnect between marketers and their senior executive team who see vast resources being sucked up, but hard-to-find or difficult to understand evidence of a return-on-investment. Ask the right questions… As a CEO or MD, you have to make sure your marketer(s) know what analytics and insights you need to see on a regular basis. Establish the data points, metrics, context and resulting insights and recommendations that are most valuable to your decision-making process and provide clarity for marketers on when and how you wish to see this information presented – usually in a combination of routine reports and meetings. …get the right answers Ensuring reports and meetings provide the information you want may involve rebuilding the whole process from scratch, which you need to be prepared to do in order to effectively manage your marketing function. Also be prepared to improve and refine this reporting and meetings process as you go along – building on what you learn about the value and accessibility of information your marketers can provide. A useful comparison and possible starting point may be your sales report. As marketing should be, sales is focused on financial results and customer engagement, and is effectively a marketing channel. Sales reports tend to speak the language P&L holders understand – communicating activity, engagement, forecast revenue and commercial outcomes. Good sales reports will also include a focus on quantity and quality of leads generated and conversion rates. Ideally marketers should provide the analytics and insights ‘further up the funnel’, and while showing joined up results with sales where relevant, ensure their reports also answer the following questions: “What, where and how are we spending?” “What are we aiming to achieve and what is the expected ROI? What does success look like?” “What results have been generated by marketing investment to date? How have these results been generated?” “Are there signs we should adjust or change our approach for better results?” “What is marketing doing to analyse results on an ongoing basis and flex to respond to results to maximise ROI over time?” Asking these important questions and insisting on context, benchmarks and insights will result in an intelligence-based approach to marketing decision-making, strategising and investment. Bring all functions into the conversation By improving the reporting process for the marketing team, you are also helping the marketing team communicate with other functions, enhancing their value to the organisation. Marketing reports, made accessible and actionable, should be shared with all functions in the business – especially sales. ‘Sales and marketing’ are effectively one process and need to be joined up for optimal results – yet they often operate in silos. I’ve regularly seen campaign meetings and plans launched by sales with no input from marketing and vice versa. Are sales people aware of the content and messaging marketing is communicating? Do marketing know who sales are talking to? Get marketing and sales people in the same room to understand each other’s strategies, activities and results so they are better able to align and integrate. Better information + better communication + better teamwork = better results As a business leader, you have the responsibility to ensure all functions are pulling their weight and well-supported and enabled to do so. The contribution marketing makes and how to lead marketers effectively can often be one of your most difficult tasks – often made more difficult if you’re not ‘speaking the same language’. But, if you work on this relationship and ‘help them to help you’ make good decisions, your investment in marketing should pay for itself many times over. Tim Mann currently works with a number of privately owned events and media businesses on overcoming the challenges of scaling and achieving faster growth. His work encompasses developing leadership capabilities, building and executing event and portfolio growth strategies and all actions that lead to sales growth. Previously to this Tim worked as Managing Director for several businesses involving conferences, executive forums, exhibitions, publishing and research. Connect with Tim on LinkedIn.