Marketing VPs and even CMOs often get left out of board meetings. If you are invited to present your marketing strategy to an experienced and inquisitive board of directors, take it as more than an opportunity for your big close-up: rather, this is your chance to show how your marketing contributes to overall company strategy and to get more resources sooner.
Here are some simple tips you can follow to make your presentation meaningful and impactful:
First, know your audience. Boards of directors are mostly focused on strategy, operations and finance, and almost always members are NOT marketers. There are a lot of reasons why this is, but it means you need to focus on information that impacts strategic decision making. And the bigger the company, the more likely this information is financial: revenues, acquisition costs, and such.
Tell a story. Reading off a list of stats is a waste of everybody’s time: you may might as well email your Powerpoint and skip the meeting. Summarize a few big ideas. If you must have a table of facts, interpret them. Explain whether things are good or bad, and tell a story about what you learned for the future. Sure, have the data ready, but keep it for backup.
Focus on results, not past actions. Every major marketing initiative should have had a measurable result, whether in terms of revenue, profit, growth rate, or market share. These high-level results are what the board wants to know about. Focus on what you achieved and learned, not just the things you did.
Focus on future strategy, not just planned tactics. Explain not just what’s happening next but WHY you’re doing it. Say, “we are investing in X, because it will do Y.” Quantify your expectations with measurable outcomes.
Focus on profits, not just leads. Boards love profits. Explain what it’s going to take for you show profits, and how marketing contributes. How are you going to improve unit economics to make the company earnings positive?
Focus on growth opportunities, not just a single plan. Provide a range of investment options that you expect will produce the most growth. Each quarter, list all the $1 million initiatives that would make the biggest difference, and quantify the expected impact. Remember, you can’t cut to greatness, and boards don’t want to cut – they just want to make sure money is well spent relative to other opportunities.
Engage the board. Smart boards remember your past presentations, or at least, have a junior staffer summarize them. If you changed strategy, acknowledge that you did so and why. Wow them with your presentation. Finally, board members want to help you be successful. Give board members an opportunity for feedback, and a menu of options. Show them the top 3 things you can do to accelerate growth, and let them choose. Make them feel they should give you another $1 million today.
By focusing on the future, you can get out of the marketing trenches – at least for a day – and demonstrate your essential contributions to the company.
A tip of the hat to Gayle Crowell of Warburg Pincus for contributing many ideas here.