How to Establish Credibility and Trust in Marketing

How to Establish Credibility and Trust in Marketing

May 13, 2020
5 min read

A recent survey found that 73% of CEOs think that marketers lack credibility and have quite a bit of work to do to earn their trust.

Establishing credibility and trust in marketing is more important than ever before.

Marketing Week reported a similar finding that revealed that only about one-third of B2B CEOs consider marketing an important part of their business.


It might be us. We’re often so eager to create catchy slogans and clever copy that we lose sight that our work depends on its effectiveness for the businesses we serve.

Math, we’re just not into you.

Too often, we stay there in our little marketing silos, doing what we’re told. Creating content and campaigns that we think will make everyone happy. Never thinking about the CEO that needs hard numbers to justify her marketing spend to the company’s investors.

Quantifying – or even thinking about quantifying our results – is a challenge for too many of us in marketing!

Quick Takeaways:

  • Tie everything the marketing team does to quantifiable business outcomes.
  • Own the customer experience, boosting revenue with word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals.
  • Activate employees’ passions and expertise, and empower all to gain thought leadership.

Tie Everything to Quantifiable Business Outcomes

The data reveals that 69 percent of the marketers surveyed know that they have a weakness. They know that try as they will, it’s an uphill battle to translate the fruits of their labor into bottom-line value.

Perhaps it’s because we:

  • Spend too much time telling our C-suite about our brand’s equity and value instead of revenue, profit, and growth
  • Focus on how well we’re following social media and marketing trends instead of showing the bosses how these trends can generate more business
  • Forget about Marketing ROI in the data on our reports
  • Focus way too much on the creative, so we sound more like starving artists than like businesspeople

Ouch. All those statements reflect the beliefs of roughly 70 percent or more of all the CEOs in the survey.

Until marketers start speaking the P&L language of their CEOs and stakeholders we will continue to lack credibility. Those with the courage to push back on bad marketing ideas are the ones who create the massively successful marketing programs.

Yes, I know that some marketing strategies are a challenge to quantify. But to build your CEO’s trust and your team’s credibility, it’s well worth the effort.

If we want the C-suite to take our team seriously, we need to think like a team. Tear down those silos and learn the CFO’s lingo. Translate our digital marketing ROI stats into the kinds of words that your CEO and CFO uses, instead of marketing jargon.

marketing ROI challenges

Learn about the science behind the numbers. Learn why those numbers are so important to your CEO. Learn how to quantify every marketing strategy in the language that your C-suite understands.

  • Have the courage to admit that maybe you haven’t mastered all forms of communication yet.
  • Get the knowledge it takes to put your results in numbers your CEO will respect.
  • Show the kind of leadership it takes to get your whole team on board with your new direction.

Tie all your efforts into business outcomes, like more demand, higher sales volume, and more lifetime value per customer. Deliver the kind of short-term and long-term information that will make your CEO see you as a valuable member of the team.

Own the Customer Experience

The lifeblood of customer experience is great communication. No one does communication better than a data-driven marketing team.

When you own customer experience, your team will gain a place at the leadership table. Delivering a seamless customer experience will boost your company’s reputation.

With a better reputation, your company will gain the lion’s share of the all-important word-of-mouth advertising metric. Credibility and trust from the customers’ end will yield the same from your C-suite – provided you’ve quantified it with data. Always show how your command of customer experience has enhanced your company’s bottom line – in your own P & L statement.

When you become an advocate for your customers, you’ll have a better chance of making a sale. As I’ve said in the past, marketing is a conversation between a customer who has a problem that needs solving and a business that can meet those needs.

When your marketing focuses on pointing out how your company’s product or service can meet those needs, suddenly, clever phrases and catchy slogans become less important. Today’s customers, whether other businesses or individuals, appreciate it when you don’t waste their time tempting with something they need. Conversely, they’re grateful when you take the time to find them exactly what they need – quickly, and without a hassle.

Then, track the results of your efforts with a robust data analytics program. Be sure to measure what will grab your CEO’s attention – the revenue your efforts yielded versus the costs.

Then, march into her office, proof in hand. That’s how to earn marketing a place at the table.

Take Charge of Culture – and Activate Your Company’s Employees

Culture and employee engagement are two of 2020’s hottest buzzwords. Rightly so, because employee turnover can cause a company’s costs to rise astronomically. Furthermore, engaged employees are more productive employees.

The numbers bear those statements out. There is a provable link between ROI and employee engagement.

Usually, your HR team calls the shots on culture. If you don’t partner with them and take charge of employee engagement, you’ll miss out on taking engagement to the next level.

Here’s why. As Everyone Social CEO, Cameron Brain points out, most companies still haven’t gotten the memo when it comes to culture change. Seventy percent of the US workforce still isn’t engaged.

There’s no better team to handle culture change – or any kind of change – better than marketing. From Agile methodology to being on the cutting edge of trends in every industry we work in, we rock change.

And, lest we forget, communication is our thing. Who better to point out the benefits of setting a company’s employees free to take ownership of their work than the marketing team?

Not only can we help HR attract the best talent, but we can also teach every employee who wants to learn to spread the word about the company’s solutions for its customers’ challenges. And that, my fellow marketers, is what we can take to the bank – and the C-suite.

  • What CEO in her right mind wouldn’t want the kind of leads that convert seven times as often as official messages?
  • What CEO wouldn’t want brand messages that get 561 times the reach as ones shared on official channels?
  • And what CEO wouldn’t want 26 percent more revenue each year?

All these quantifiable results – and more – can be hers when your marketing team activates employees to share brand messages. Here is some data to prove it:

Employee advocacy stats

When we find a way to quantify the results from every dollar the company spends on marketing, we’ll find the door to the C-suite a bit more welcoming. Focus on messages that bring measurable results, solve customers’ problems, and activate your employees, and you’ll go from zero to hero in your CEO’s eyes.

If you are ready to get more traffic to your site with quality, revenue-building content published consistently, check out our Content Builder Service. Set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books. Get started today – and generate more traffic and leads for your business.


15 thoughts on “How to Establish Credibility and Trust in Marketing

  1. Eric Wittlake

    Yes, marketing lacks credibility, and not just with CEOs (have you ever paused as you introduced yourself as a marketer?). Yet some very successful companies are driven by marketing.

    What seems to set these companies apart is investments made in becoming better marketers, both in measurement and in creating marketing opportunities.

    Consider soap operas, decades before marketers becoming media companies was a standard marketing topic. Or the early investments made in media mix modeling in the same category.

    Today, most marketers are not making similar investments to make marketing a better business within the business they support. And with it, they are losing credibility.

    It is a great post, and it makes me sad to say it. Thanks for sharing.

    — @wittlake

  2. kenny

    Marketing tends to have even less credibility with Buyers.

    Marketing is a triangle funnel and buyers are a circle. To Eric’s point companies that make investments in becoming better marketers both in measurement and in creating marketing opportunities will win. I work with 1.6 Million business tech buyers every day and the ironic thing is. They will actually HELP the IT vendor sell and market to them. Unfortunately, the IT vendor has to do it on their terms and not the other way around.

    A great post and i have to agree unfortunately.

  3. Brenda Stoltz

    Another great post, Michael. This is a topic I’ve noticed and been interested in for awhile. An oldie but goodie on the topic (and a bit academic) is Marketing As Strategy: Understanding the CEO’s Agenda for Driving Growth and Innovation by Nirmalya Kumar.

    I think there is an attitude about marketers that is similar to Congress, people dislike them, they have a low approval rating, but how do you get rid of them?? 🙂

  4. Michael Brenner

    Thanks Eric,

    There’s a lot of treading water out there unfortunately. I like your point about investing in becoming better marketers. I shared this study because I agree with the findings as well but believe we can turn it around if we focus on metrics, customer experiences but also to your point in creating the focus around the skill set of being able to relate to CEOs and speak like a business person.


  5. Michael Brenner

    Ha. Now if we can figure that out, we would be famous (and maybe rich). But you are right, “Marketing as Strategy” is close to the point I was making about owning the customer and representing their needs to the business – the goal of any enterprise.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Adele Revella

    Hi Michael:

    I can’t remember if we met years ago when I was teaching the Integrated Marketing Strategies workshop at SAP (2004 – 2008).

    You’re so incredibly right about the problem, and the opportunity, for marketers to get strategic.

    I’m optimistic that we can solve this problem (albeit gradually) by giving marketers new tools and skills to discover real insights about how their prospective buyers make decisions . . . and then show them how to leverage those insights to make better choices about everything from segmentation to messaging and marketing mix.

    My understanding of the problem has evolved significantly since I was working with the SAP product marketers. I’ve had the chance to see these ideas implemented in other large companies, and developed an entirely new curriculum based on my findings.

    I’ve also published an ebook explaining my proposal — The Buyer Persona Manifesto — available for free on my website. I’d love to hear your feedback.

  7. Susan Oakes

    Hi Michael,

    I came over from a link on Twitter. I have one question for you and that is of the companies that were surveyed did the marketers have responsibility for the P & L? The reason for the question is and I can only speak of my past experience as a marketer in the corporate world if you have the responsibility then every decision you make ties back to the financials and you are held accountable. This is common practice in consumer companies and marketing is seen as a business discipline affecting all areas of the business. I actually can’t see how a marketer can set objectives,select strategies and choose tactics if they are not tied to financial objectives.

    If they are only given responsibility for the tactics and that is their only experience then I would imagine it would be difficult unless they were taught the financial side and how it all ties in.

  8. Michael Brenner

    Hi Adele,

    I don’t think I had the pleasure of taking your course but wish I had.

    Thanks for your support of my argument. It sounds like you have some pretty detailed views on this whole subject based on your incredible experience. I promise to check it out and wlecome all of my readers to do the same.

    Best, Michael

  9. Michael Brenner

    Hi Susan,

    You know it’s a good question that the group who ran the survey should add the next time they run it.

    And a really great point. Having had P&L responsibility as a product marketer at a former company, I can tell you that I think you are abailsutely right. Classic product marketers own the P&L and run their businesses like a CEO so they already know the language, understand how to carry that responsibility and make better decisions as a result.

    Unfortunately, many businesses do not respect marketing at such a high-level and so do not trust marketers to carry P&L responsibility. This can then lead marketing down a path toward essentially tactical order-taking for the business. And this can start a vicious cycle whereby marketers cannot seem to escape the credibility gap this survey references.

    That’s why I think marketing needs to do more than just “speak the language” of the CEO and the business but needs to claim the “high ground” of leadership and ownership of the customer.

    Thanks for adding your valuable thoughts!
    Best, Michael

  10. Rob

    Isn’t part of the problem that many people confuse marketing with just advertising, pretty pictures and tradeshow giveaways? It’s an internal perception problem. And marketing needs to be the department to change that perception.

    You hit the nail on the head when you said that marketing is all about the customer experience. Marketing is about a conversation with the marketplace. If, as a marketer, you know how your intended audience uses your product, how much it likes (and more importantly, dislikes) your product, and what it wishes were in your product, you know what to say when communicating with them.

    Unfortunately, it’s sales that tends to reap the most public benefits from marketing, and in B2B especially, those benefits are far removed from the first “marketing touch.” That’s why it’s hard to talk in terms of P&L when we spend x thousands of dollars on a corporate branding campaign.

    CEO’s should know this better than most: you cannot discount the value of polish, good communication, and coherent message when talking to the market. It will translate into sales – it’s just not instantaneous.

  11. Jason Dea

    The final bullet you reference is interesting.

    67% believe marketers don’t think enough like business people by focusing too much on the “arty” or “fluffy” creative side of marketing.

    It’s ironic, that the job of marketing is to “speak the language of the audience” and it seems the perception is that we fail horribly at this.

    Focusing on the arty side of creative results in frogs that can say budweiser. Sadly as memorable as that might be, it’s not a message that resonates with business owners internally, nor does it really tell customers anything about what you do.

    I think being able to speak P&L and ROI internally and externally having the balls to just tell customers what it is you do, are the hallmarks of what good marketing will look like tomorrow.

  12. Michael Brenner

    Well said Rob! I think you are correct that marketing is more about strategy and customer experience as opposed to just advertising. And I am so happy that you did not place the burden of changing that perception with anyone but us. I also believe we need to show some leadership in making this case every chance we get.


  13. Michael Brenner

    Hi Jason,

    I could not agree more. I had never heard of the firm that conducted the survey but I do thnk they did a great job with the questions and with hitting on a really important issue for marketers: figuring out what it is we really should be doing. I see so many media “ego buys” and there are lots of “speaking frogs” out there.

    But it takes balls to tell our internal customers that we’re just not gonna be order-takers any more as well. I see it every day and rare is the leader who can stand up to an internal exec and say “NO. that is not helping to move our business forward.”

    I continue to believe that accountability is going to be harder and harder for marketers to escape!

    Best, Michael

  14. Alastair Sim

    Great thread (thank you all for sharing) and initial post Michael…sorry to have missed the height of the discussion. It’s an area of major interest having worked in different industries and across different functions (sales, services, marketing/strategy.

    One thought: do CEO’s get the marketing they deserve? If the Board doesn’t include marketers and hold them as equals in the business planning and execution (have them lead the strategy development given they should know the market) then how can marketing deliver against full range of capabilities of their profession?
    On the otherhand, if marketers are not acquiring the full range of skills and taking an education/develoment path for strategic marketing (points made about knowledge of the business, finance, P&L, revenue etc) then the marketing community has only itself to blame.

    As was pointed out earlier, many CEO’s have limited appreciation of the true value or impact of strategic marketing something that the marketing community itself has continued to perpetuate. It used to be advertising (probably because it was where the bulk of the (B2C) marketing mix went) that CEO’s linked marketing to. Now it appears that marketers have found a new love: social media! (although it’s not such an awesome line item investment on the books).

    Both Adele and Susan mentioned the word strategy which is an alien term to some of our marketers whereby, in my view, it should be the backbone to our actions and possibly the key to bridging the gap between the CEO and marketing. Is this not the role of the CMO?

    If I may throw out an associated question: will this debate ever be concluded so long as we have businesses driven by sales (deal driven, short term vision) and served by marketing (building loyalty/relationships with customers to maximise revenues)? In some industries this is definitely a “master(sales)-slave(marketing)” relationship. Sir Terry Leahy, outgoing CEO of Tesco (retailer) seemed to have got the formula right but there again he was their CMO before taking up the job in the big chair. Perhaps thats the secret, more CMO’s as CEO’s?

    Welcome your thoughts….

  15. Michael Brenner

    Oh I agree we need more CMOs to ascend as CEOs but then in a typical chicken and egg dilemma, we need more CMOs capable of being CEOs. So round and round we go. I think in the end, we need to focus on marketing as the chief advocates for the customer and marketers as business people and all the skills required to do those 2 separate things.

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Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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