Why marketing gray area means year-end bonus blues for CMOs

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Congratulations, you scored big on your year-end bonus. Or, maybe you didn’t do so well but wish you had. Either way, you likely feel that you didn’t have as much control over your bonus as you might’ve liked. Here’s the good news: For marketing officers at RIA firms and boutique fund companies alike, there is a way to set the table for next year to ensure you have greater control over your bonus.

Of any position, CMOs face the greatest challenge in justifying and defending their year-end bonus. For producers, it is what it is, and numbers do not lie. But in the murkier world of marketing, where reputation and image are equally as important as growth and revenue, all is not as it might appear — at least without some careful consideration before going between the ropes to face the fire head on. Things to consider?

Do your homework and plan your strategy beforehand. Revisit your 2013 goals and objectives or defined areas of focus and make sure you tick the boxes on each deliverable. Was the new website completed? Did you successfully make updates to companywide marketing collateral? Were you effective in replacing your ad firm with a better partner? While your overall bonus doesn’t rest with completing the obvious, it’s still important to note all completed deliverables against plan.

Slant the scorecard in your favor. As with any combat sport, you want to lead with your best moves and use your opponents’ force and momentum against them. Set up your scorecard in advance. Identify each area of responsibility. List expectations and show where you exceeded them. Talk from your script instead of following your opponents’ narrative.

Quantify success. Talk to the powers that be in language they understand. If the goal was to launch a new blog, show the number of visitors and how traffic has grown by the month. For sponsored events, recount the number of attendees and the volume of follow up on the back-end. If you produced new collateral, what’s the uptick in demand for them from the field? Every number can be a plank in the platform for arguing your case for 100 percent or more of your bonus.

Connect marketing to growth. The more you can do to connect what is done in marketing to the growth of the business, the better. For RIAs and asset management firms, growth in assets under management is the most obvious barometer. But be careful. The market is up 25 percent since the first of the year. You could undermine your entire argument if firm growth hasn’t kept pace with the broader market. Rather, focus your argument on new wins that are directly attributable to your marketing plan, and remember to give yourself credit for attrition and account drawdown that you could do nothing about.

Introduce new analytics to prove your case. Who visited your website in 2013? Where did they spend the most time? What materials or information did they download? Where did they come from and what were your top online referral sources? Where are these prospects now in the sales pipeline? What is your share of voice against a set of peers? How have your Google rankings improved on key search terms? What was last year’s cost per lead? How did you improve those marketing economics in 2013? Don’t have those numbers at your fingertips? In today’s digital economy the tools now exist to gain true insight into the trajectory and effectiveness of your online and real-world marketing efforts. Introduce these new analytics during this year’s review as yet another value-add you bring to the firm and the rationale for a greater year-end bonus.

Demand accountability from your agency partners. It’s their job to make you look good and provide you with the ammunition you need to prove your case for maximum bonus. What dashboards have they provided you to take to your superiors? How do they measure their success, which, after all, is your success, considering that you chose, groomed, and manage them. Let them know that part of the game is focusing on your need to show value at every turn of the corner. Convert them into advocates for the “make me look good to my boss” club this and every year.

Making the case for your bonus and your future on the job can be a delicate task. But with a little preparation and a lot of perspiration, you can improve your chances of making this holiday season a prosperous one for you and your family!