Making the Case for Your Marketing Budget: 31 Ways to Win Over the C-Suite


Marketing departments are vital to their organizations. They’re responsible for a huge range of functions: brand management, marketing communications (including advertising, promotions and public relations), market research, product marketing, distribution channel management, pricing, and even customer service, among others. 

Unfortunately, though, when it comes to allocating the money and resources marketing departments need, those who control the purse strings don’t always see how critical marketing is to the success and growth of the company. 

It’s a frustrating disconnect, to say the least, but it’s one that can be overcome. Read on for 31 ways you can impress the C-suite at your next budget presentation.

1 – Start strong

Your schedule is packed. So is theirs. Be ready to go, and don’t waste time on pleasantries. You wouldn’t want them to waste your time. Give them the same consideration.

2 – Get right to the point

Again. Time is money. Don’t bury them in background info or extraneous details. Tell them what they need to know. If they want to know more, they’ll ask.

3 – Stay on topic

We’ve all been to those meetings that get off on a tangent that somehow devours the intended agenda. That agenda is yours. Keep yourself on track.

4 – Don’t script your whole presentation 

On the other hand, don’t plan for your presentation to fill all of your allotted time. They will have questions. You’re going to want to make sure there’s time to answer them.

5 – What’s the problem?

They don’t just want to know what you need and what you’re going to do with it. They want to know what problem is going to be solved by all this time and expense. Be sure to clearly state what corporate pain your project is meant to relieve.

6 – Anticipate every response

You’ve got a point to make, and only so much time in which to do it. Don’t get derailed by a response or question you didn’t anticipate. Put yourself in their shoes. Know what they’re going to ask, and have a succinct response prepared for everything.

7 – Know company goals and objectives

They’re thinking of the big picture. You should be thinking of it too. They’re going to want to see that you understand how what you’re doing fits in with the overall trajectory of the company.

8 – What’s in it for them

Specifically. Run the numbers. Do the research. But don’t just focus on the big picture. Let them know how you’re going to make their job easier.

9 – Know industry’s trends and market leaders and challenges

Know the bigger picture. Your company doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Make sure you’re well versed in the greater universe of your market before you start adjusting your place in it.

10 – Don’t panic over hard questions

Yes, they’re going to ask questions. Some of them will be hard. You will have done everything you could to anticipate every response, but if you get an unexpected question, don’t panic. And if you don’t know the answer, don’t wing it. A simple, “I’m not sure about that, but I’ll get right back to you” is always the best way to go.

11 – Know all the options and why yours is best

They’ll want to know what other options you considered and why you chose this course of action. You don’t need to waste their time spelling it all out for them unasked, but when they do ask, make sure you have an answer.

12 – Know how to do it faster

Your masterplan has a six-month timeline. The CEO wants it done in one. You should always be able to lay out how it could be done on a different timeline, or to divide the project into smaller parts. That way, if it fails, it’s easier to change direction without having gone “all-in.”

13 – What do you need from whom?

If they ask what contribution you need from each of them. Yes, they’re busy. Don’t just hand out assignments willy-nilly. But we all like to be a part of the company’s growth. If they ask how they can contribute, they don’t want to hear that they’re not needed.

14 – What if we don’t do it?

You say this brilliant initiative will increase revenue by 15 percent. But how much will revenue increase if we do nothing? You better have an answer.

15 – How will the competition react?

As mentioned above, you don’t exist in a vacuum. Know how the competition might react. Will they copy us or launch a counter-attack. And whatever they do, what’s our response?

16 – Don’t just present options, present an answer 

If you’re presenting more than one option, don’t leave the decision completely up to them. Have one strong core recommendation ready for them, and be ready to defend it.

17 – What are your assumptions?

What do we have to believe in order for your solution to make sense? What happens if those assumptions are wrong?

18 – What’s the benefit to customers?

How will your plan impact the end user? Is there a benefit for the customer? For many top execs, this is the fastest way to generate enthusiasm and support.

19 – Aim for results, not a pat on the back

You’re not there for your ego. You’re there to get a job done. Focus on the task at hand, not on proving to the CEO how awesome you are.

20 – No BS

C-level executives sit through endless amounts of presentations. They’re well versed in knowing whether something is worth their time. Don’t set off their BS sensor with jargon and doubletalk. You won’t be doing them (or yourself) any favors.

21 – Less is more 

Leave out unnecessary information. Hone your message to the bare essentials. Leave the rest for the Q&A.

22 – Check, recheck, and re-recheck your numbers

If your numbers are wrong, they’ll catch it. Count on it. There’s no faster way to undermine your credibility than to present numbers that don’t add up.

23 – Speak their language 

You’ve got your own language that excites you and your cohorts, but the rest of the C-Suite doesn’t want to hear about click-thrus. Talk to them about revenue, costs, profit or impact on society. That’s what they want to hear.

24 – Don’t get too fancy with your charts/graphs

Don’t be so in love with your numbers that you have to make them look fancy. Make charts and graphs easy to digest quickly. Don’t make them interpret a 3D bar graph when a simple pie chart will do.

25 – Don’t bother them with implementation details (unless they ask)

It’s your job to get it done. If they want to know how, they’ll ask you.

26 – Understand your revenue contribution

Your audience is concerned about money. They’re worried about increasing sales, managing budgets, reducing costs, and overall profitability. Show them that you appreciate those issues will make them more comfortable about what you have to say.

27 – Collaborate across functions

Don’t get stuck in your own “silo” and focus only on your own objectives. High-level managers want different silos to work together to achieve organizational goals.

28 – Don’t be afraid to disagree (respectfully)

They don’t want a “yes-CMO.” They want someone with their own opinions, who are able to defend them respectfully. Don’t be a know-it-all. But don’t let them walk all over you, either.

29 – When you’re done, let them go

They’re busy. They’ve got other meetings. Don’t expect an immediate enthusiastic answer. Let them go. You’ll hear from them.

30 – Leave the meeting with a clear next step

But before you leave, be sure to establish and agree on a next step. Give them 2 or 3 options and let them decide. It shows that you’re on top of the situation and that you’re focused on getting the job done.

31 – Follow up appropriately

If you’ve promised any additional information, don’t take your time in providing it. They’re not just sitting around waiting for you to get back to them. If there’s something they need to see, it needs to be ready for them when they’re ready to see it.

Budget meetings aren’t anyone’s favorite way to spend an afternoon. That’s doubly true if you need to fight for every dollar you request. But by following these guidelines, you’ll be able to make your case for your marketing budget in a convincing, succinct way, setting up your department and your whole organization for success. 


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