Blog

Restoring Trust in Marketing

Christopher Fox

Founder/Managing Partner

Ideas-Led Growth

Written by Christopher G. Fox, Founder and CEO, Ideas-Led Growth. Originally published on Ideas-Led Growth and syndicated by permission of the author.

Strengthening marketing credibility and alignment within financial institutions and fintechs requires intentional efforts. By implementing regular internal reviews and fostering open communication, marketers can bridge the gap with other departments. Doing so enhances organizational effectiveness while achieving better outcomes. 

The Problem

In many financial institutions and fintechs, marketing struggles with credibility. Other areas of the business don’t understand or care about what marketing does. They dismiss it as fluff until they need something, and then they engage marketing resources to make something pretty. 

If you spend much time on LinkedIn or in various professional communities, you’ll hear marketers talking at length about how to create internal trust and respect. At companies across all industries, CMO tenure is shrinking. Some companies have even eliminated the role in the belief marketing isn’t important enough for the C-suite. 

Stepping Up

A significant piece of the problem in areas like institutional finance is the need for deep understanding of the industry. Topics are complex. So are client needs. Marketers need enough subject-matter expertise to participate in coherent conversations with internal stakeholders. They also must offer robust understanding of how clients make decisions. Just invoking the word “clients” isn’t enough.

Beyond subject competence, marketers also need to be able to challenge stakeholders. Every generic question detracts from credibility just a little bit more, so it’s crucial to ask informed and relevant questions.

Building Bridges

 It’s equally valid that stakeholders in sales, client, and product functions don’t fully understand what marketing does. They see the final product, such as ad creative or a thought leadership piece, but miss the underlying strategy and effort. As a result, it’s hard to see the nuance of a brand strategy or a messaging architecture behind the surface. 

But marketers shouldn’t wait for these other stakeholders to develop some marketing smarts. Maybe it’s not fair, but the responsibility is on marketers to build these bridges proactively. 

The Quarterly Review 

One practical solution to this persistent organizational challenge is for marketing to schedule quarterly reviews (QRs) with internal stakeholder groups such as sales leaders, client leaders, and product leaders. QRs are a common practice for service organizations to update and check in on client needs and satisfaction. 

It only makes sense for marketers to do something similar to align with their internal clients. 

These QRs should become an expected part of the cadence of doing business. A separate formal conversation can often surface issues that don’t emerge in the normal course of business. Regularity helps ensure that alignment becomes part of the culture rather than a one-off effort. 

Setting the QR Agenda

When we support our clients with developing an agenda and presentation for QRs, we focus on a few core elements: 

  • Progress:
    • Communicate yearly marketing plan highlights.
    • Share quarterly progress on each major initiative.
    • Highlight results and wins.
    • Describe and explain any changes to plans.
  • Collaboration:
    • Provide deep dive into recent campaigns or deliverables.
    • Conduct project post-mortem.
    • Review “keep doing, start doing, stop doing” recommendations.
  • Alignment
    • Discussion questions for sales stakeholders
      • How are you progressing with your quarterly/annual targets?
      • What have prospects been asking or telling you about?
      • When we win, why? When we lose, why?
      • What would help you close more/better/faster?
      • What could marketing do better (sales enablement)?
    • Discussion questions for client stakeholders
      • What have been recent client successes and challenges?
      • What have prospects been asking or telling you about?
      • What do you wish we could communicate to clients?
      • What could marketing do better (proactive client communications)?
    • Discussion questions for product stakeholders
      • How are you progressing with your quarterly/annual roadmap?
      • What new releases/features/etc. are on the radar?
      • Which elements of the product roadmap are putting us ahead of competitors?
      • What could marketing do better (launch announcements and assets)?

 Creating the Right Vibe

We also coach clients to run QRs by telling as many stories and encouraging as much conversation as possible. A conversational model is essential for achieving the underlying goal of building a bridge. Marketers build credibility by sharing stories and engaging listeners with good questions. 

Tips:

  • Emphasize that stakeholders are actually a part of those stories.
  • Avoid bland, self-serving, or bloated presentations.
  • Embrace tensions and challenging questions if they arise.
  • Keep things light to allow room for genuine mutual engagement.
  • Facilitate QRs as a two-way discussion to stimulate dialogue.

What’s Next? 

Marketing alignment is a deep organizational challenge. Misalignments often take years to develop. Every stakeholder, whether they have been with a company for years or just weeks, owns a piece of the problem. 

The good news—difficult as it is, it is also a human challenge, one that is addressable by humane means. Even with the formal apparatus of a QR, the basic message is simple. 

Get people talking with each other.


Three Grace Notes

“A carefully detailed knowledge of what needs to be explained is the best preparation for an attempt to formulate an adequate explanation.” — Adam Phillips, On Giving Up

“It is painful to watch decent and distinguished people struggle to function politically in this non-rational and valueless environment.” — Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought

Our goal, for the most meaningful discussions, should be to have a ‘learning conversation.’ Specifically, we want to learn how the people around us see the world and help them understand our perspectives in turn.” — Charles Duhigg, Supercommunicators: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection

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