One of the biggest challenges for a brand marketing manager, outside developing winning brand marketing activities, is managing up — that is, engaging with your company’s leaders to acquire the budget and support your marketing team needs in order to execute your strategy.
To be successful, you need to manage expectations, align with company goals, deal with feedback, explain poor results, and field critical questions.
When you’re first tasked with presenting your brand marketing strategy to your company’s high-ranking executives, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little stressed, or even a bit nervous. However, to succeed in your role long-term, you need to level up in this area.
Not to worry, we've got your back, as this article will help you prepare for a successful brand strategy meeting with C-suite.
Who are the C-Suite Executives You Need to Impress?
An organization's senior leadership team consists of several high-ranking executives, often referred to as C-Suite or C-Level. These terms come from the “C” in the job titles, which stands for Chief — e.g. Chief Executive Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Technology Officer, and so on.
C-Suite executives are generally considered the highest-ranking and most influential members of a business. These executives set the company’s growth strategy, make high-stakes decisions, and generally ensure that the way the business runs aligns with the strategic goals.
These senior executives are usually the company’s highest earners, but they also take on the most risk. So, when gathering information from various heads of department or strategists within the company, they’re looking to gain an understanding of how the various business operations will affect their area of responsibility, what kind of risk or cost they’re facing, and what sort of impact various decisions will have.
In order to succeed in presenting to or meeting with C-suite, you’ll want to keep this in mind.
Your Toolkit For A Successful Brand Marketing Meeting With the C-Suite
When it comes to ensuring a successful brand strategy meeting with your C-level colleagues, these are the top skills and tips to keep in your back pocket.
1. Understand Their Needs
To have a meaningful and effective conversation with anyone, you first need to understand their perspective and needs. There’s often a big difference between how you conduct yourself when you’re presenting a branding strategy to another marketing colleague compared to when you’re in front of your company’s most influential team and high level executives — some of whom may secretly think brand marketing is a futile expense.
Executives have insight across the whole organization, so you need to focus on how your project and priorities fit into their overarching view. Ask yourself, what does the C-Suite want to know about this comprehensive brand strategy? Do they need to know the ins and outs of who is responsible for what on your team? Do they need to know a breakdown of weekly ad spend?
No. They need to know — on a high level — what problems you’re solving, how it all fits into the broader company strategy, and what return they can expect to see on the investment your project requires. C-Suite executives generally want to gather only the information that they see as relevant to their decision-making process — things that affect brand equity and long term goals.
Pro Tip: Anything you can learn about the people you’ll be meeting with and how your work will influence their department is beneficial. Challenge their goals and draw on their resources to better prepare for your meeting and the questions they might fire at you.
2. Be Prepared
With a sound understanding of who you’re meeting with, what their needs are, and what expectations they’ll have of you, the next thing you can do is prepare, prepare, prepare. Know your strategy inside out and be ready to discuss any aspect of it — including any anticipated criticism of brand messaging or brand identity.
This doesn’t mean you should bombard meeting attendees with data, graphs, and charts galore. And please — for your own sake — avoid subjecting your colleagues to “death by PowerPoint”! Instead, coming prepared means being equipped to answer any difficult questions that may come your way.
But unless you’re asked to provide specific detail, you should plan to keep things high-level. Focus on the big picture and on the stats and insights that will be most meaningful to your audience.
3. Sell Your Strategy
Of course, the purpose of a brand strategy meeting is not just to please your superiors, it’s to convince them that what you’re doing is important enough to warrant their support. That means convincing them it’s taking the brand in the right direction and is in alignment with the company goals, mission, and values.
You must be able to sell your strategy and argue your case. Tell the story — why are you taking the brand in this direction? What is it going to achieve? Why is it the best way?
Be ready to explain the relevance of your brand KPIs and to fight for the importance of things like strong brand awareness to the company’s wider goals.
4. Back It Up With Numbers
Although they should be used selectively, numerical data and insights will certainly have their moment in any C-Suite meeting. Backing your strategy up with reliable stats is a key way to engage your executive leadership team and can help to put things into perspective for them.
Brand monitoring can help ensure your data is reliable and accurate — and saves you time pulling numbers together to help build your case. Using brand tracking software, you can build and track custom target audiences and segmentations — allowing you to quickly illustrate the impact your brand marketing has on the audiences that are most important to your brand.
There’s often that one exec who fixates on conversions and struggles to see the value of brand metrics like awareness, consideration, or association. Use your insights to illustrate why conversions aren’t the only indicator of performance, and how things like brand integrity and general brand healthcan influence overall company performance.
It’s easy to be intimidated by people who seem to wield so much power within a business. However, it’s important to keep in mind that C-Suite executives are people too, each with their own lives, priorities, and insecurities.
Take it back to the basics and remember that, at its core, a meeting is a shared conversation. The purpose of your brand strategy meeting is to demonstrate the importance and impact of your work, but if you run into any tough questions or concerns, take a breath and allow yourself space to think.
If you don’t have an answer, don’t panic. Let them know that you’d need to take a closer look at the numbers, and offer to follow up with an answer via email.
Influencing the decision-makers and stakeholders within a business is one of the most important challenges brand marketing teams face.
By learning about your audience, knowing your strategy, and coming prepared with relevant data, you’ll be able to relax and focus on what’s really important — persuading them to support your brand campaigns and provide the budget you need to succeed.