Our marketing leaders share how to drive buy-in for your strategy with key stakeholders, from finance and leadership to other teams across your business.

Marketers often find themselves in a unique position within their business.  

As a function, marketing touches across almost every area of a company. Whilst this allows for a massive scope to make an impact for marketing leadership, it also presents common challenges - particularly when your strategy hinges on the buy-in of teams with a less-than-optimised understanding of the role of marketing.

In our recent virtual workshop, ‘ROI 101 - Driving Buy-In For Your Strategy With Cross-Team Collaboration’, we asked 3 senior marketeers for their practical advice when it comes to getting genuine stakeholder buy-in for your marketing strategy - and the advantages that come from a bought-in business.

To join an upcoming event, take a look here.

In this article:

  • Why do marketers need so much buy-in from stakeholders?
  • How to assess where marketing ‘fits’ in your business
  • 7 tactics to get buy-in from stakeholders for your marketing strategy
    Prioritise your stakeholders
    - Start with the more ‘difficult’ stakeholders
    - Leverage your marketing team to build buy-in
    - Identify the core values of your leadership stakeholders
    - Adapt your messaging
    - Offer a push and pull
    - Use your marketing superpower for better buy-in
  • Advice for new-to-business marketers

Why do marketers need so much buy-in from stakeholders?

As a marketer, you might find yourself spending a lot more time doing this so-called ‘stakeholdering’ than other teams within your business. Why is this?

Marketing Strategy impacts your entire business in different ways

Marketing, by its very nature, relies on the support of other areas of the business more often than not.

Whether it’s getting customer teams to follow tone of voice guidelines, or digital teams working on a website revamp, the role of marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

For Emma Sutton, Head of Digital - Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at The University of Manchester, it comes down to the flexibility of marketing as a discipline.

Everyone will have a slightly different buy-in to different little pieces of the vision behind your strategy.

When you’re working across a multidisciplinary team, there's lots of different personalities, senses of purpose, and meaning within their roles.

Getting everybody on board with that idea, that strategy that you really want to drive through - it's complex, because we're all individual, we're all different.”

Expectations for marketing to demonstrate ROI immediately  

Kirstie Leadley, Head of UK Marketing and Group Digital, ZEDRA Group, adds the need for marketing leaders to demonstrate ROI as another challenge.

“You need a point of proof, you need to have had a success to demonstrate for life to be easier for you going forward.

A starting point is by doing things on a smaller scale with different stakeholders in different areas - this is a good way to start building that credit for the future.”

Download: Against the Grain - Marketing Done Differently

Common blockers to buy-in for marketing

So, why don’t we have this buy-in from the start? Emma mentions a few ways in which you can find yourself struggling for investment or positive engagement from your business.

#1 - Inflexible teams that aren’t ready for change

A lack of excitement or willingness to change is more often than not the most common blocker to stakeholder buy-in for marketing teams.

For Emma, this can come down to the understanding of marketing within the business.

“If people can't relate to your vision of what you want to achieve, marketing can end up just being lumped into that bucket of sales, and it's a very distilled view of what you do.  

For parts of the business that don't deal with marketing, or who’ve had bad experiences in the past, they've not really felt that value before.  

If they can't see what's in it for them, or it doesn't relate to their agenda, they’re not going to be interested.”

Emma Sutton, Head of Digital - Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Manchester on how to get genuine stakeholder buy-in for your marketing strategy

As Oliver St. Clair Stannard, Communications Director, adds in the session, "Especially in high growth businesses where a new marketing leader needs to quickly change culture to become a 'marketing-led' organisation - change can be hard for other departments."

#2 - 'Inherited' reputations from previous marketing team leaders

If a business has had a previous bad experience with a marketing team lead, the odds are that - unfortunately - this may have shaped the view of marketing within the business.

According to Emma, “if your team or department have already got a bit of a bad rap in the organisation, and people just haven't seen the value in that, you might actually need to do your own internal PR to overcome that.”

#3 - Cultural understandings of marketing within the business

A lack of understanding - or respect - for the value of marketing can apply across the business in different ways.  

Amber Skinner-Jozefson MBA, CXO, e.pop and Advisor, Piper HQ, gives some examples of this.

‘It’s not too hard to envision how different areas of the business perceive you.  

For Business Development teams, you’re a function of sales. For the CFO, you’re a cost center. For the Customer teams, you’re a tool for their strategy.  

These teams already see you as fitting in a certain way, the job is to set a different tone for that as you grow.”

How to assess where marketing ‘fits’ within your business

So, how are you supposed to stand any chance of getting your business to support your efforts?

Put simply - you need to know where you ‘fit’.

Before jumping into 32 ‘launch’ meetings to celebrate your strategy in front of your business, it’s crucial to get a clear understanding of how marketing is perceived, who is pulling the strings, and how you can start to sync your marketing strategy into the wider business goals.

Read: How to use Marketing Agency Support in a Fast-Growth Business

Questions to ask to define where marketing sits in your business.

Kirstie shares a few questions to ask yourself to get a clearer view of this.

“If you're coming into a role into an organisation, getting a feel for who already has a voice and influence, and getting to know them is key.

What has made the company tick to date is really, really important. Utilising those people and your own observations to figure it out at different levels, this is what you have to ask.”

#1 - Who steers the ship, sets the overall business goals, and makes the financial decisions?

#2 - Who are the first point of contact for prospects/the target audience?

#3 - Who are the people executing services or providing products?

#4 - What resources do you have to match up marketing activity with the business goals? What does the team around you look like?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you should have an idea of where to start with building buy-in for your strategy.

Kirstie Leadley, Head of UK Marketing and Group Digital at Zedra Group on how to get genuine stakeholder buy-in for your marketing strategy

7 tactics to get buy-in from stakeholders for your marketing strategy

You know where you fit, now it’s time to start engaging your stakeholders.  

Here are 7 ways to more effectively gain buy-in and investment from your business when it comes to your marketing strategy.

Prioritise your stakeholders

For Amber, one of the most common mistakes marketers make is trying to ‘engage everyone, all the time’. To focus your efforts, try to map your stakeholders in order of priority.

“As marketers, we're always figuring out how to communicate in a more effective method with stakeholders.

The priorities, the triggers, that's our job - so, we can very easily get sucked into doing this for the entire organisation and not have it be reciprocated at all.  

One of the first things that I do regardless of the size of organisation is first figure out my primary, secondary and tertiary stakeholders for the project and for my department.  

This includes external to your team, within your team, department heads, whomever it is.”

Amber Skinner-Jozefson MBA, CXO for e.pop AI and advisor for Pier HQ on how to get genuine stakeholder buy-in for your marketing strategy

Start with the more ‘difficult’ stakeholders

Amber continues with advice that may seem counter-intuitive at first - starting your efforts with the most ‘difficult’ stakeholders as you see them.

Start with the person who has the most influence, that is most diametrically opposed to you. In most of our cases, it's the CFO or the finance department who just see marketing as a cost centre, who don't really know what you do.  

Figure out how they see marketing, their priorities, and work backwards from there.  

Marketers are very naturally, organically gifted at influencing people, so you don't start with your easiest ones. You start with your hardest ones, and then work backwards.”

Leverage your marketing team to build buy-in

Kirstie shares that marketing team leaders can run the risk of overlooking one of the most valuable assets they have when it comes to stakeholdering - engaging your own team.

“I try to make it my first thought, whenever we have something new to embark on, or we want to kind of initiate change.  

Having a clear vision and being able to tailor the way that I communicate that to each person in the team is really important.  

Everybody has their own motivator you can see within your teams. If I've got a team member who I can give part of this project to upskill them in areas that they want to take forward in their career, how do I focus on that?

Considering the emotional sides of that, the passion that you can then get from them will be seen in the rest of the team and all of the stakeholders that they're encountering.”

Identify the core values of your leadership stakeholders

So what happens when you need sign-off from the board for your strategy or projects? We asked Amber to share her best advice for getting buy-in from leadership teams.

“Ask yourself - how do you want to set the tone for your position within the business?”

Your board, or business overall, may be driven by many areas:

  • Customer acquisition
  • Revenue
  • Efficiency and agility
  • Innovation

At this level, there's an opportunity to really shape the culture for the whole company - so identify the core values that your business holds, and adapt your approach to that”.

Reminder - don’t get complacent with your leadership team

Amber adds the reminder that it’s absolutely crucial to be proactive when it comes to your leadership teams.

“Things move really quickly at the C-suite in terms of conversation. You might think okay, this is a preliminary conversation. In fact, no, your budget was decided in 30 minutes.  

Don’t underestimate where - and when - key decisions are made. Come to every interaction over-prepared and read to fight your corner at the drop of a hat. ”

Read: Leaders' Perspective: Starting from Scratch as a Business Owner

Adapt your messaging frequency and style amongst your stakeholders

When it comes to demonstrating your value to other teams, a common pitfall for marketing leaders is to over-communicate, without necessarily demonstrating value in line with the priorities of other stakeholders.

Kirstie stresses the importance of engaging different teams as you deliver your strategy.

“Set out really early on what is vital to communicate and what isn't.

Whether it's within your own team, other stakeholders or even externally, you need to ask yourself, “What really does need to be communicated for this project or campaign or change to work?”

Streamline that to be concise, and format it into their language.

Some stakeholders want an email with four paragraphs in it, some want it written down in bullet points - somebody else won't even read the first line of that email.”

Offer a push and pull for your key stakeholders

As Emma shares, “Other teams have their own challenges, their own pain points, their own things that they want to achieve.

If you can understand the external influences that are making their lives difficult, you’ll have a better understanding of why they're having a tough time supporting you.  

Use your marketing superpower for a more effective approach to stakeholder buy-in.

The final point from Amber focuses on using and appreciating your primary skill as a marketer - the ability to understand your audience.

“It’s a superpower of marketing that we can adapt any narrative to anybody's learning style, information, preferences - that’s our skill.

You might find yourself wanting to ask every person, do you want me to update you on this? Or how do you want to hear about this?

There’s such a thing as spending too much time on these efforts - remember, you are most likely the ONLY department adapting your reporting style internally, so try to limit this to a few key different ways.  

You can ask everyone, sure - but the superpower of the marketing department and the comms department is that we can put ourselves in people's shoes - you can probably sit down and say, ‘you would probably find this information most useful if I presented it to you like this’ without ever asking.”

Advice for new-to-business marketers

Finally, we asked our experts to share their best advice for marketing leaders that are starting in a new role.  

Whether it’s sign off on new agency support, or getting a sales team into your strategy, Emma says it comes down to understanding your value, and what others value too.

“I think you've just got to know who you're talking to, and whatever journey you’re going on, bring them along with you in a way that's going to have value to them.”

If you'd like to know more about GO!, and how we build lasting brand-agency relationships, you can book a call with one of our team here.