Would you like to be perceived by the C-suite as someone with strong business acumen? Do you want to be viewed as influential, credible, and relevant to business?

Of course you do! Who wouldn't? Yet, only 1 in 5 marketers is perceived that way.

What's so special about them? It's the language they use. You can spot them right away. They're the marketers who talk about marketing's impact on market share, category growth, product adoption, pipeline contribution, customer value...

Other marketers, on the other hand, talk about programs that result in brand awareness, website/event traffic, opens, likes, and shares. It's not that those metrics aren't important; it's just that they don't convey to the C-suite the impact of Marketing on the business.

The 2015 Marketing Performance Management Study, as well as studies from Fournaise and Eloqua, have found that 80% of marketers use the word "brand" in their marketing vocabulary and only half (51%) of marketing departments have any form of revenue targets, even though revenue growth is cited as the most important metric for CEOs.

When your communication with executives takes on a language in which the key performance metrics are primarily brand-related, you risk being perceived as a brand marketer rather than a business marketer.

Which one are you? If the following phrases echo those you hear from your leadership team, it's likely that your CEO perceives you as a brand marketer:

  • "Our marketing organization focuses too much on the creative and doesn't think enough like businesspeople."
  • "We're bombarded by data and reports from Marketing, but we can't relate any of it to the company financials or measures of success."
  • "Marketing is always asking for more money, but can never explain how much incremental business the money will generate."
  • "Marketing is always talking about brand, brand value, brand equity, but they never link marketing activities back to revenue, customer acquisition, market share, sales, etc."
  • "Marketing talks about the latest marketing trends and how important it is to harness them, but they can't demonstrate how those trends will help generate more business for the company."
  • "When we ask Marketing to be more accountable and increase ROI, they mainly understand it as reducing costs in some way rather than being more effective."

Do any of those sound familiar? If not, feel free to stop reading now. But if so, then it's time to transform your "marketing language" into a "business language."

Here are five things you can start doing today to effectively change your method of communication so the C-suite sees you as a relevant, credible, and influential member of the business team:

  1. Shift from brand to customer. Change the conversation from being about brand to being about customers. Engage the leadership team in discussions about acquiring customers, retaining customers, and increasing customer value.
  2. Understand their expectations. Work in collaboration with the leadership team and the sales team to understand the specific number of new, retained, and customer growth targets and the product/service focus.
  3. Create a visual road map. Exchange your extensive PowerPoint slide deck for a visual road map that shows the direct link between marketing activities and business outcomes.
  4. Measure what matters. Focus your marketing metrics on measuring how marketing is affecting business priorities.
  5. Develop an actionable dashboard. Use your data and metrics to create an actionable marketing dashboard that enables the organization to make better and faster decisions.

Understanding "business language" and being able to communicate effectively with the C-suite and leadership team in your organization can greatly influence the image they have of you.

You now know what you need to change to be perceived by the C-suite as someone with strong business acumen and the ability to exert influence, credibility, and relevance over the business as a whole. First, you modify your language.

With 2016 planning season right around the corner, now is the time to take your marketing accountability and ROI journey to the next level.

Doing so may require something small, such as modifying your language, or bigger steps that entail learning how to improve your alignment, address accountability, and harness data, analytics, processes, and systems.

If need be, seek outside help to realize the next milestone on your journey to becoming a marketing center of excellence.

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image of Laura Patterson

Laura Patterson is the president of VisionEdge Marketing. A pioneer in Marketing Performance Management, Laura has published four books and she has been recognized for her thought leadership, winning numerous industry awards.