Marketing has plenty to say to the C-suite. But more often than not, marketers aren’t reporting data that demonstrates its contribution to the business—and as a result, top executives aren’t listening.

In a survey of 424 B2B marketers and corporate executives conducted by ITSMA, VisionEdge Marketing, and Forrester, we found that just under half of marketers produce a dashboard that they share with the executive team. They also report metrics that aren’t necessarily what senior executives need to know.

Indeed, over half of those surveyed—55%—are not confident, or are only moderately confident, that they know what metrics the CEO, CFO, and business unit leaders care about. As a result, most report on the activities they’ve performed and how much they spent to get those activities done. (Note the past tense.) 

So how can marketing prove its worth? Remember that business executives care about what you accomplish, not how you accomplish it; the value you create, not the cost of creating it; and how you can move the needle in the future, not what you’ve done in the past. You don’t have to focus on what you spend. You don’t even have to report on what you do. Instead, you need to convey what you contribute—and the levers you can push to drive contributions over the next reporting cycle. 

The accompanying infographic tells the story. When it comes to making decisions, marketing data might as well be irrelevant for all but 6% of CFOs, 9% of CEOs, and 13% of business unit leaders. But some marketers do better than others. About of a quarter of those surveyed say that they can measure and report the contribution of their programs to the business. Here’s what the leaders are reporting:

  • Four out of five are tracking outcome-based metrics such as the number of new customers acquired and the change in market share (in addition to activity measures like spend and pipeline metrics).
  • Four out of five are reporting on their effectiveness at improving business performance measures (in addition to operational efficiency, or how cheaply they’re able to carry out their mandates).
  • Two out of five—not many, but double the proportion of the laggards—are using analytics to provide predictive insights (in addition to reporting on past performance). Predictions are problematic because operating results are swayed by the actions of other functions, not just marketing. But predictive insights are guaranteed to get the attention of the C-suite.

How to join the leaders, the “A” marketers? It requires standing in the shoes of the business leaders, taking an outside-in perspective that should be second nature to marketers by now. Track what they care about. Focus on outcomes. Set numerical goals and show the links between those goals and your actions. If you can do that, there’s no doubt that senior executives will sit up and listen.

Dave Munn is the President and CEO of ITSMA, [email protected] 


  1. “Focus on outcomes. Set numerical goals and show the links between those goals and your actions. If you can do that, there’s no doubt that senior executives will sit up and listen.” – Probably the best advice in the closing sentence of an article I have ever read – or written.


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