Teddy Cheek

How Marketers Can Earn Credibility (8 Tips)

As a general rule, high-level executives are skeptical of marketers. According to research by Fournaise Marketing Group, 73% of CEO’s think “marketers lack business credibility.”  

And here’s the deal – it’s our own dang fault. Our unrelenting desire to pitch and persuade is stuck in overdrive. Because we can’t risk looking ineffective, we put a positive spin on everything. And savvy executives are calling bullcrap

Is this you? ➡️ Hmmmm, if sales aren’t up, are leads? If leads aren’t up, are clicks? If not clicks, how about impressions? Ok great, impressions are up. Let’s report on that. Good news boss…impressions are up!

Look, before we go further, I’m willing to admit that I’ve been guilty of all of the offenses that I’m describing. When a top level executive asks me a difficult question, I want to sound smart and like I’ve got it under control. I bust out some of my most impressive marketing jargon, throw in some vanity metrics, and smile like an idiot to appear confident. 

But if we want to earn the trust and the ear of company execs, we’ve got to do better. 

Tired of being a cliche? Here are 8 ways marketers can earn credibility

1. Don’t use vanity metrics

According to Tableau, vanity metrics are “metrics that make you look good to others but do not help you understand your own performance in a way that informs future strategies.” They lack substance, context, and aren’t actionable. So stop talking about all of the impressions your Facebook ads are getting. No one cares. You don’t even care. If a metric can’t be closely tied to business outcomes, don’t present it.

The following are vanity metrics:

  • This month we saw a 32% increase in impressions.
  • Our TikTok account grew 10% in just one month.

Your marketing team might actually use these metrics to make small tweaks to your strategy, but they don’t mean anything to high-level executives.

2. Cut the jargon

You know in movies when a ninja drops a smoke bomb so they can make a stealthy escape? Stop using marketing jargon as a smoke bomb. Company leadership is smart and can see that you’re using marketing buzzwords to avoid answering questions directly. 

You think you sound like this:

But you actually sound like this: 

Explaining complex marketing concepts in a way that non-marketers can understand shows real mastery of the topic.

3. Question your constant desire for a bigger budget

Are you always asking for bigger and bigger budgets? If so, it’s time for some soul-searching. It’s likely that you aren’t being objective or critical enough of your expenditures. And trust me – executives are tired of arm wrestling with you over budget. To them, it feels like you see the world through marketing-colored glasses and don’t truly understand the business. Try to think like an owner – would you increase the market budget if it were actually your money? Every dollar that doesn’t return more dollars could have been profit instead of marketing spend.

4. Stop being defensive

I get it. Fielding direct questions from company leadership can feel like an interrogation into the validity of your marketing efforts. It typically isn’t though. Don’t be a roadblock, be a teammate. Answer questions directly, not defensively. 

When questioned, avoid these credibility-killing defense mechanisms:

The porcupine: You get prickly – short, brash, even belittling. If you make it unpleasant to ask you questions, maybe you’ll be asked fewer questions?

The chameleon: You try to blend in. You attempt to pass responsibility for the areas being questioned to other departments and people. 

The opossum: You play dead. You collapse. You feel that you may have failed the company and become apologetic.

All 3 of these kill credibility.

5. Cut the spin

When you create a marketing report, are you trying to put a positive spin on the numbers no matter what they are? Cut the crap and serve it up straight.

6. Show your work

  1. If you plan to spend a lot of time or money on a new idea, show your work. Before you do anything, answer the following questions publicly: 
  • What exactly do you think the extra spend will accomplish? 
  • When do you expect results? 
  • When will you report on the results?

No matter how the new idea performs, report back like you said you would.

7. Be willing to admit when something doesn’t work as planned

Not everything you do will be a success. Earn credibility by being honest about results – both good and bad.

8. Develop an internal locus of control

You know those people that can never accept responsibility for their actions or work performance? They constantly make excuses. They aren’t coachable. Their failure is always someone else’s fault or the result of bad luck. These people have an “external locus of control.” Everything bad that happens is out of their control. 

If this is you, realize that an external locus of control and it’s hurting your credibility. Rather, take responsibility for results. If you’re going to accept credit for a win, be prepared to accept responsibility for a loss. Developing an internal locus of control means that you are responsible for outcomes.

Ok, now I’ll get off my soapbox

Sadly I’ll probably break some of these ground rules this week myself. But, I’m trying!

In short…Stop marketing yourself to company leadership and start serving the company.

About Teddy Cheek

Hi, I’m Teddy

I’ve led marketing teams since 2013. I believe that good leadership is marketing’s only cheat code. More important than tactics or talent, it can send a team into hyperdrive. Fortunately for me, it’s a skill that can be developed. I hope my blog helps you build a dominant team and career you love.

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