You’re selling the wrong marketing metrics. (Here’s what business leaders really care about.)

You’re selling the wrong marketing metrics. (Here’s what business leaders really care about.)

You’re selling the wrong marketing metrics. (Here’s what business leaders really care about.) 700 467 Windy Rose Content & PR

If your marketing and public relations proposals are full of promises for increased page impressions, social post shares, or placements in leading industry publications, you’re leaps and bounds ahead of marketers who don’t even cover measurement until it’s time to report, but you’re selling the wrong metrics.

No, no. We’re good. We have SMART goals tied to our KPIs. CFOs love that.

Actually, what CFOs – or anyone standing between your marketing campaign and the budget to execute it effectively – care about is protecting the business (and protecting themselves). How do they do that? By ensuring they get a return on their investment, minimizing risk, and focusing on the organization’s priorities.


Marketers hate being asked how a campaign or initiative will contribute to the bottom line. It’s frustrating to hear that our educational content, media interview, or social media campaign should directly sell a product. (I once had an executive ask why each and every single Facebook post didn’t link to the sales page for a product. Oof!)

But the person approving your budget is investing real money in your idea, and they need to know that’s going to pay off. When global spending on media nears $2.1 trillion, and only 7% of financial directors “can exactly quantify” what they get from marketing spend, it’s time to rethink how we sell a project. A compelling story with great imagery and a deep emotional appeal isn’t going to reassure anyone that the money is going to come back – with measurable growth.

How do you quantify the financial impact of messaging, engagement, and outreach? By taking a step back and looking at the business goals the project is supporting. Start from the intended business outcome, and then look at what marketing metrics can offer insight into how your project is solving the problem at hand.

Here’s what this might look like:

  • Is the organization struggling from lack of brand awareness? That’s where you set goals for social media followers and reach.
  • Do you need to drive more qualified traffic to specific information? Reference available Google Analytics metrics and the demographic information you can find on relevant social channels.
  • Does the CEO need more visibility within the industry? Share circulation information for key publications you intend to target for bylined article opportunities.

Always come back to the business objective you’re serving, and don’t bog down your proposal with a glossary of marketing jargon. Focus on ensuring your campaign won’t waste money.


We tend to focus heavily on reward in proposals and pitches. What’s the benefit of this campaign recommendation? How are we driving traffic? Where are we getting recognition for the organization and/or its leaders?

But the people who manage the company’s money are focused on risk. CFOs live in a world of balance sheets, quarterly earnings, and cost-benefit analyses. They’re constantly accountable to various stakeholders to ensure the money going out will eventually come back in, and the longer it takes to get there, the bigger the payout needs to be to get their buy-in.

It all comes down to presenting your project as a sound business decision, says Meghan Casey in The Content Strategy Toolkit. You need to demonstrate that the reward outweighs the risk.

Calculate the potential reward (aka, anticipated ROI) by estimating the cost of the work and quantifying the cost-savings or profit-earnings opportunity.

Then calculate the risk. Casey provides a thorough step-by-step process in her book. The gist comes down to:

  1. Determine the best-case potential financial gain.
  2. Determine the maximum loss (your high-end cost estimate).
  3. Estimate the probability the project will succeed.
  4. Calculate the risk of doing the project by multiplying the cost from step two by the probability of failure (the inverse of step three).
  5. Calculate the risk of not doing the project by multiplying the potential gain from step one by the probability of success from step three.
  6. Compare the maximum risk to the potential gain.

If the result doesn’t make the case for you, you might want to consider whether it’s worth proposing the project at all. It might be; there are non-financial benefits to some projects (Casey’s example: organizational change). But at least now you have some actual data to consider and – hopefully – help make your point.


Finally, as marketers, we’re always able to justify marketing as a priority. It’s our day-to-day, our bread and butter, our specialty. But just as we have competing priorities among clients or projects or departments needing our help, a business has competing priorities vying for budget, attention, and approval.

The easiest way to ensure budget approval is to tie marketing projects directly to the most pressing business goals. Keep a thumb on the organization’s strategic priorities, and pitch accordingly, speaking clearly to how marketing will bolster what’s most important to the business. Build trust by promoting what’s best for the business ahead of what’s most exciting to work on, and you’re likely to earn the respect to take exciting creative risks down the road!


If you want your budget approved, you need to start treating your project proposal like a marketing campaign and consider your audience. Talk about measurement, but make sure it ties back to what the finance department needs to know: what’s the ROI, how much does the reward outweigh the risk, and how will the project support overall business priorities?

Ready for a results-driven approach? Let’s talk about your business goals and how content marketing and public relations can help reach them!

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