They follow this simple formula: S+V+D+T+C = G

Marketing is known for branding and advertising. In today’s digital age, marketing is more than that. It provides companies with an opportunity to increase engagement and interaction online with their customers and prospects.

The marketing profession is in a great spot to shine and help companies grow faster with the rise of digital marketing. According to a 2019 study from the management consulting firm McKinsey study, 83% of global chief executive officers (CEOs) say marketing is a clear driver of growth.

Yet, 23% of CEOs don’t believe marketing is delivering on the growth agenda. Whereas, 72.2% of marketers reported more responsibilities since 2019.  Marketing is more than a branding or advertising function it was years ago. It has a tremendous opportunity to drive real business value. Marketing is in a fight to prove its short- and long-term value within the company. It all starts with a strong marketing leader.

What’s the secret to a marketing leader’s success?

A successful marketing leader delivers on what the CEO is looking for by following a simple formula.

The formula: S+V+D+T+C = G

In this formula, S = strategy; V = value; D = data; T = talent; C = collaboration. This formula equals business growth.

Effective marketing leaders follow this formula so they can secure buy-in from their executive counterparts, push the marketing agenda forward, grow their marketing budget, and help their company grow faster.

Breaking down the 5 key parts of the formula

Let’s dive into each part of the formula to find out what successful marketing leaders do well.

1. Strategy

An effective marketing leader works with fellow leaders to develop and put in place a
marketing strategy. Successful marketing leaders know whatever company they work
for, they will face some level of dysfunction within the organization. Common issues
include:

  • Conflicting goals from different lines of business
  • A resistance to change
  • A lack of marketing resources
  • A perception that marketing is only creative, not data or revenue-driven
  • Poor communication between departments


These challenges are best highlighted with an MIT Sloan School of Management survey where only 26% of senior managers strongly agree their key performance indicators (KPIs) align with the company’s strategic objectives. Furthermore, Harvard Business School research shows 95% of a company’s employees don’t understand their organization’s strategy.

A successful marketing leader knows how to define, develop, and communicate a
simple yet powerful strategy.

They define the marketing strategy

They know the heart of the strategy problem starts with the definition. People think about strategy in different ways. Some think the future is too tough to predict, so they prefer to evolve their strategy organically while some confuse strategy with goals and priorities.

The true definition of a strategy is how a company creates and captures value. Effective marketing leaders tie the marketing strategy to the business strategy. They create a marketing strategy on a page that outlines the strategy timeline, strategy statement, current state of marketing, a list of top marketing initiatives, underlying beliefs and assumptions about marketing, and what marketing should look like in the future.

They communicate the strategy in simple terms

The best marketing leaders know a strategy is only as good as it’s communicated and executed. If they can’t explain the value of marketing in simple terms, it’s probably too complicated.

Effective leaders communicate a marketing strategy in plain English and are able to define the value marketing provides. They use common metrics such as return on investment (ROI), customer lifetime value (CLV), and net promoter score (NPS).

They understand “no” is as important as “yes”

Effective marketing leaders know that strategy is about the “no” as much as it is about the “yes.” An impactful marketing strategy is simple yet effective. Successful leaders know that clearly and concisely communicating a marketing strategy is just as important as creating it.

2. Value

Successful marketing leaders know the importance of smoothly transitioning from strategy to execution. That’s how marketing shows value: in the execution of its strategy.

Let’s face it, everyone thinks they are a marketing expert, and everyone believes they know what the marketing department should be doing. But do they truly understand what marketing is and how it helps your company?

If a leader doesn’t effectively communicate the value of marketing, he or she risks not delivering on a company’s goals. This can slow down progress. It can create an inability to profitably deliver on the value proposition. Overall, it will stunt the growth of the business.

They speak dollars and cents

That’s why it’s important to prove the value of marketing, especially with the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who is looking for predictable financial key performance indicators (KPIs). The value of marketing lies in lead generation, not branding.

Successful leaders know they need to concentrate on lead generation first to produce the most value and develop a strong relationship with sales. The sales team is always looking for more leads, especially from marketing. They may not come out and say it, but it’s the brutal truth.

The know it’s all about leads

The most friction that happens between sales and marketing departments is with leads. Salespeople rely on leads for their commission checks. If new business is not coming in, it’s going to impact their take-home pay.

Successful marketing leaders know the sales team is “coin-operated” because they are compensated for how many products and services they sell. Most marketing departments are not incentivized for the number. As a result, the quality of leads they pass on to the sales team is questionable so sometimes marketing is not as motivated as sales to generate leads.

They align sales and marketing

If there is not a steady flow of leads being sent to sales from marketing, there’s tension. Everything comes back to leads.

Getting leads is a core function of the marketing team. If it’s not, marketing leaders know they have a big problem. Marketing already has to overcome a perception problem of being a department responsible for branding and advertising. If marketing has a lead-generation problem, they fall even more behind.

Many of marketing’s counterparts within an organization believe marketing is only concerned with vanity metrics such as social media followers. Vanity metrics are something you can measure but don’t have a direct correlation to business success.

They don’t undervalue thought leadership

Maybe marketing’s counterparts have been tainted from their bad experiences with marketing at their past companies and don’t believe in the value of marketing. Successful marketers find this out and fix it. That starts by concentrating first on thought leadership content.

Research from Edelman and LinkedIn found most marketers significantly undervalue the power of thought leadership, thereby impacting their demand and lead generation efforts. Trust plays a critical part in today’s digital age, and it quickly shapes a company’s brand perception and a buyer’s confidence. One of the major drives of improving trust is by producing authentic thought leadership content.

Successful marketers position their company’s subject experts as thought leaders in their industry. This helps their company shorten sales cycles, increase credibility, and subtly sell their products and services. Research shows 58% of decision-makers said thought leadership influenced them to work with that organization, and 55% of decision-makers use thought leadership pieces to vet potential vendors. Thought leadership is a big factor in building a brand, opening new doors, and closing deals.

They develop a sophisticated lead generation process

Effective marketing leaders understand the value of marketing lies in an established and formal lead generation process that is driven by thought leadership content. And research backs it up. B2B companies that have a mature lead generation process generate 133% more revenue than companies that do not.

3. Data

The next area successful marketing leaders concentrate on is data. Data quality is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today. According to ZoomInfo62% of companies rely on marketing and prospect data that are inaccurate and 64% of successful data-driven marketers say data quality is one of the most challenging obstacles to success.

It comes down to clean data. Garbage in, garbage out. The best marketing leaders build a culture of “cleaning” their data. They know they need to maximize every dollar that is spent because they are under pressure to do more with less. Since data quality is crucial for their effectiveness, they recognize that bad data leads to poor decisions.

They take a data-driven approach

Effective marketing leaders take an analytics approach and get more value from their data to make data-driven decisions. They put the power of data into the hands of employees.

According to a Harvard Business Review report, 87% of respondents said their organizations will be more successful when workers have access to data and tools to help them decide in the moment.

Successful marketing leaders are obsessed with numbers that are driving revenue such as the number of leads generated each month, marketing channels producing the most leads, marketing qualified leads (MQLs)sales qualified leads (SQLs), engagement rates, and opportunities. Effective marketing leaders are focused on data, so they understand which part of the lead-generation management process needs to be improved.

4. Talent

Effective marketers collaborate well with human resources to recruit and engage top talent. They help create an environment that marketers want to work in. One great example is Progressive Insurance, one of the biggest car insurance companies on the planet. They are known for its name-your-price tool and its witty commercials featuring Flo, Jamie, and other fictional customer-service personas.

They think differently and become a media company

Jeff Charney, the chief marketing officer, has designed his unconventional marketing organization the way marketing departments will most likely be organized in the future. Jeff told News Cred Insights, he has a “network strategy” approach.

“We’re a combination of all three of those: The breadth of ESPN, the innovation of Netflix, and the original content programming of HBO.”

Jeff says that marketers should run their marketing organizations like a television network with content, characters, and context. Jeff doesn’t use traditional marketing speak but talks like he works at an entertainment company.

He believes the mindset of marketers should change and marketers need to think like a fast-paced TV network within a company. Thinking differently about marketing attracts top talent. Effective marketers know the talent of an organization is one of the most valuable assets.

They build a culture of learning

Successful marketing leaders build a culture of continuous learning because they know learning is like a daily mental fitness program. Marketers need to keep themselves in shape by constantly learning about marketing and topics outside of marketing that can relate back to marketing. Effective marketing leaders build a team that cultivates curiosity by encouraging them to take top digital marketing certifications.

Effective marketers build internal marketing academies that reskill and upskill their marketing teams. They develop innovative job descriptions and encourage their talent to build new career paths. They also look for ways to bring non-marketers from other departments to collaborate closely with the marketing team.

5. Collaboration

With more CMOs being elevated to chief executive officer (CEO) roles, it’s a critical time for marketing. They need to get buy-in from all lines of business to be effective. Top-notch marketers know this, so they push the boundaries to grow their influence. They collaborate well with key C-suite stakeholders in finance, information technology, and human resources to drive results.

One of the most important places a successful marketing leader collaborates with is the sales leader. The marketing-sales collaboration transforms a business and can significantly increase revenue by up to 209%. If marketing and sales teams are misaligned, it could spell disaster for marketing and the company.

They understand their weaknesses and focus on their strengths

Successful marketers know sales and marketing have the same goal of driving revenue, so it’s critical they are in sync. It doesn’t help that 60–70% of content produced by B2B companies go unused, and 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales because of a lack of lead nurturing. And fewer than half of marketers would describe their sales and marketing teams as aligned.

Effective marketing leaders overcome this because they are masters at fostering cross-functional collaboration and make sure marketing is clearly defined in the eyes of their executive peers. They adopt the language and mindset of the other departments and articulate how marketing helps them.

The best marketing leaders are unifiers who establish mutual accountability and a shared vision. They have a seat at the table when critical decisions are made. As a result, marketing budgets grow, even during a downturn, and these marketing leaders enjoy longer tenure at a company.

Bringing it all together

Successful marketers know how to produce results, even on a shoestring budget. They hit revenue targets and understand the value of every marketing investment. They build a strategy that includes as many employees as possible because they know they are more likely to “buy-in” to the marketing strategy if they helped develop it.

Effective marketers make sure they build a culture where lead generation is the focus and is driven by a strong thought leadership program. They make data-driven decisions and make sure clean data is a top priority. They collaborate with their executive colleagues to show the value of marketing.

Top-notch marketing leaders understand their marketing strategy is only as good as everyone understands it. Everyone thinks they are a marketing expert and effective marketing leaders embrace this feedback. The bottom line is successful marketing leaders follow the simple formula of strategy plus value plus data plus talent plus collaboration equal growth.


Matthew Royse has 20 years of experience in marketing and communications working in many industries such as financial services, technology, media, and entertainment.

Matthew taught social media and digital marketing classes at Duke University. He has spoken at national marketing conferences in the United States and writes about digital marketing on his blog, Knowledge Enthusiast.

You can follow him on Twitter @mattroyse and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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