How to Sell Marketing Automation to Your CXO

How to Sell Marketing Automation to Your CXO 640 427 C-Suite Network

by Kelly Jo Horton


You’ve reached that point: You need to take your marketing to the next level, beyond the email program that your company is outgrowing.
You know that marketing automation will let you scale your efforts across the board, provide your customers and prospects with more relevant and timely content, save time on campaigns and track everything, so you can prove marketing’s value. You’ve either gleaned this from your time in the trenches, or you know it instinctively from all of the research you’ve done. You could go on and on about all of the things you could do — if you just had a great marketing automation platform.

What’s in it for your company?
That’s all well and good, but the key stakeholders you need to buy into your plan don’t care about what you love about marketing automation. They want to know what’s in it for them.

Sell the CMO
First, you need to find a champion. Selling your CMO on marketing automation could go one of two ways. If the enthusiasm for adopting a marketing automation platform originated with your CMO, then you probably won’t even need to pitch the idea. However, if your CMO has been in place for many years and is satisfied with current marketing efforts, you’ve got an uphill battle ahead of you. Either way, your CMO won’t get fully on board until you can prove that investing in marketing automation is a good business decision — because his or her reputation is on the line.

Three things the CMO cares about:

  1. Marketing you can brag about
  2. Ability to segment and target
  3. Doing more with less

Every CMO dreams of having stellar marketing that is respected within the company and the envy of every competitor. One of the highest forms of flattery for a CMO is to have sales reps tell them that the leads their team is generating are awesome. Come to the table with case studies from companies that have implemented a marketing automation solution, and see a marked increase in the close rate of leads generated by marketing.

Whether you’re a team of one or many, marketing automation will help you scale your efforts across the board. Automation and scheduling are your friends. Your CMO will want concrete examples of how a marketing automation platform will allow you to provide more relevant content to the right audience at the right time, as well as the numbers to prove that marketing is contributing to conversions — and the bottom line.

Pitch specific examples of how you and your team could be more productive and prolific if you had access to a marketing automation platform. Develop a scenario or two about the outcomes in terms of generating and converting leads, and use numbers to help tell the story about how that would affect revenue.

80 percent of CMOs at top-performing companies indicate that their most compelling reason for implementing marketing automation is to increase revenue, and 76 percent say it’s to get higher-quality leads. (Gleanster, 2013) That’s a roadmap for the case you should make to your CMO.

Sell the EVP of Sales
Great sales organizations are successful because they have honed their sales processes and made them repeatable. The relationship between marketing and sales may be strained or non-existent if marketing has been delivering low-quality leads in the past. Adopting a marketing automation platform can help you foster conversations about sales and marketing alignment.

Three things the EVP of Sales cares about:

  1. Quality of leads
  2. Cost per lead
  3. Disruption of process

You can bet your EVP of Sales knows exactly how many leads marketing delivered to the pipeline last year and exactly what percentage of those leads became customers. The challenge will be to convince the EVP of Sales that adopting a marketing automation solution will increase the quality of leads generated by marketing efforts and shorten the sales cycle. Come armed with data points from industry case studies.

Be aware that your EVP of Sales may see marketing automation as a disruption of their tried-and-true ways. Emphasize the fact that the sales team will not have to learn the new platform but will benefit from the additional lead information generated by the marketing automation platform and synced to their CRM. (And when you begin to look at platforms in the market, look for one that delivers marketing and contact intelligence right into the CRM platform, so the reps don’t have to leave the CRM to make use of it.)

Companies that use marketing automation see 107 percent better lead conversion, 40 percent greater average deal size, 20percent higher team attainment of quota and 17 percent better forecast accuracy. (Aberdeen Group, 2012) What EVP of Sales doesn’t want a higher rate of lead conversion and bigger deals? The numbers speak for themselves. Use them.

Sell the CEO
Depending on the size of your organization, you may or may not have to pitch to the CEO. This will be your most complicated sell because you will have to address both quantitative and qualitative concerns. And let’s not forget, the CEO has veto privileges over everyone, so it’s imperative you get buy in from this person.

Three things the CEO cares about:

  1. The entire revenue cycle — top-line growth and profitability
  2. Customer satisfaction and loyalty
  3. The competition

The CEO is more concerned with the big picture than the minute details. Focus on how a marketing automation platform will benefit the company’s bottom line by increasing sales and revenue, maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty and keeping a leg up on the competition. Provide your CEO with a few bullet points of data from case studies relevant to your industry.

Sell the CIO
Your CIO is not concerned about the marketing piece of this solution, so drop the marketing speak and put on your technical hat before you talk to him or her.

Three things the CIO cares about:

  1. Data and system security
  2. Implementation requirements
  3. Ongoing demand on IT team

You have to get your technical ducks in a row before pitching to the CIO. If your company has a standard list of security questions for vendors, get that filled out before you schedule a meeting. Do you know what DKIM is? How about DNS? Whitelisting? Be honest. If you aren’t completely comfortable with fielding technical requirement questions, set up a call with a technical resource on the vendor side so the CIO can get answers to any questions he or she might have.

The CIO will want to be assured that implementing this new marketing automation platform will not have a big impact on his or her (already overburdened) team. Prepare an implementation timeline with estimated hours for each task so there are no surprises down the line.

Sell the CFO
You may or may not get the opportunity to pitch to the CFO, but even if you don’t, you can bet the CFO will be looking closely at any of the financial breakdowns you put together for the other executives. So be very sure your numbers are accurate.

Three things the CFO cares about:

  1. Controlling costs
  2. Return on Investment (ROI)
  3. Reducing risks

The CFO’s main concern is controlling costs for the company, which includes understanding the ROI of every proposed purchase that comes across his or her desk. The CFO is not someone who takes risk lightly and will require data to prove that other companies in the same industry have made the investment in marketing automation and seen success.

The CFO will also want to review any financial terms and agreements that need to be signed off. 70 percent of top-performing companies indicate their investment in marketing automation generated a positive ROI after the first year of use. (Gleanster, Nov 2012) Emphasize the fact that a marketing automation platform will allow you to generate reports, which will give the executives better visibility into the ROI of your marketing efforts.

You Can Do This
Are you still with me? You can do this. You now have some insight into what it’s going to take for you to sell your passion for marketing automation to your C-Level executives. There’s no shortcut to success here. Do your homework and be prepared.

*This article originally appeared at

kellyjoKelly Jo Horton is a marketing and technology consulting for B2B, B2C and hybrid. She works in the trenches of digital marketing, constantly searching for the emotional hook and human connection in every interactive campaign she designs and deploys. Kelly is a Primetime Engineering Emmy winner in the Interactive Media category. Follow her on Twitter @KellyJoHorton.
Act-On Software is the world’s fastest growing marketing automation company; its cloud-based marketing automation platform is the foundation of successful marketing campaigns everywhere – from small, simple and direct, to complex globally implemented programs. Follow @ActOnSoftware on Twitter.