You (Finally) Got a Seat at the Table… Can You Keep It?

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by Kate Beihl

You started out as a talented designer before morphing into a creative strategist and building a career as a successful leader of marketing and design teams. As your leadership abilities and ideas have shaped your brand, you’ve become a recognized thought leader within the broader organization. You’ve earned your voice at the executive table, but you also know that you’re dealing with other executives who don’t necessarily speak your language. Maybe you’re one of the rare creatives who loves to crunch numbers and get into spreadsheets, but if not, you’re going to need a new set of tools to keep your seat in the boardroom.

Today’s designers have to deal with the complexities of winning business in a hyper-connected, global marketplace. Your role as a creative team leader had you focused on the creative expression of the brand—the strategies, tactics and stories that would gain attention and affection from your target audience. Your new role as a strategic partner with the C-Suite demands that you understand, leverage and quantify the real dollar value of your team’s creative work in the language of your peers. Here are a few ideas to help you bridge the gap.


With the CTO

A recent study conducted by Epsilon and Econsultancy, Leading a Digital Marketing Evolution: Lessons in Transformation, Culture, and Technology from the Global 1,000, found that only 44% of marketing executives surveyed say that the C-Suite executives in their firms understand digital marketing and are developing effective strategies. The companies that are leveraging changes in the digital field point to stronger communication between technology and marketing leaders in the C-Suite.

To build bridges with the CTO you’ll need to demonstrate the benefits of technology and digital investments. Automated task scheduling, collaborative dashboards, streamlined approval cycles, and shared digital file libraries used to be built in-house at great expense and effort. Show the CTO you understand the impact of these investments and make sure you include their team members when vetting new SaaS or on-premise solutions. Keeping them in the loop and showing them you understand the dollar value of a new technology in terms of staff time goes a long way towards winning good will.

With the CFO

The CFO and CMO is being billed as the C-suite’s newest power couple — and for good reason. Your CEO is looking to you both for strategic advice on almost every major initiative. When IBM’s Institute for Business Value looked at high performing companies, they identified several areas where the CFO and CMO are working together – improving business, increasing customer engagement and growing profits.

The key to this relationship lies in the explosion of big data. In order to understand the efficacy of marketing and creative work, you need to assign an evaluation framework, dollar goals and real-number values to key initiatives. As you look to clearly quantify the impact of a product rebrand, finance will have the information you need to connect your work to revenue. Consider working with finance early to develop ROI metrics for your team. Finance benefits from a better understanding of marketing’s work and your team benefits from the credibility that comes from demonstrating measurable results.

With the CEO

Historically, the marketing and creative divisions have been viewed as a cost center. But the influence of marketing and creative teams is on the rise—in large part because you have access to valuable data and market insight like never before. A CMO Magazine survey in February 2015 showed that only 34% of marketing leaders can prove quantitatively the impact of marketing spend, but that number is on the rise.

Make it your first priority to build the measurement tools necessary to reveal quantifiable value of your team’s work. Brand assets are measurable with metrics such as click rates, page views and conversion rates providing data that confirm message appeal. Workflow analytics enable you to talk about cost savings from more efficient processes, lower development expenses, and reduced development-to-deployment times. These tools provide reporting that puts the conversation about creative projects into a language that CEOs want to hear.

Having a better understanding of the roles of the other people at the table and the kind of information they need will prove invaluable. After a career of hard work, you’ve earned the opportunity to help steer your company’s strategic growth. Seize it!

MetaCommunications is a leading developer of project workflow solutions for creative and marketing teams.

t7147_3 (1)It may be difficult to admit, but we all have gaps in our knowledge — no one can know everything about design. But what if there was a way to make up for this, and catch up on some aspects of our profession we might’ve missed the first time around, without formally going back to school? This is where the How to Build a Successful Design Career Collection comes in, giving you the opportunity to learn or brush up on techniques and skills you might not have gotten the opportunity to master while in design school.