Six tips for building a successful martech investment pitch

Throughout my martech career, I have experienced challenges in gaining support for enterprise investments.

Some investments are more difficult to secure buy-in for than others. For example, foundational capabilities like Customer Data Platforms (CDP) are usually costly because by nature they tend to require lots of integration or change management time. For these types of investments, the benefits are often an incremental uplift across the entire marketing function, meaning they are "top down" and usually not specific enough to satisfy most finance departments. 

You might have an open-minded financial team that is happy with your top-down business case – congratulations by the way! However, in my experience, project sponsors are often asked to do a "bottom up" business case and go to that next level of detail and specify the use cases that will be implemented to deliver the benefit. This is where a business case can fall apart – a small set of specific use cases won't produce an attractive business case because they will lack scale.

So how do you sell the merits of these investments when it is so hard to make the financials attractive? Here are six pointers to help you build a successful martech investment pitch:

  1. Don't just focus on one aspect of the benefits case. We all have a bias. I'm a numbers person so I am more likely to focus on the financial benefits and try and make a case with the numbers. However, your business case will be much more powerful if you cover all of these areas:

    a. Customers: How will this capability improve the customer experience?

    b. Shareholders: What are the financial benefits that you aim to achieve? Note: express these in terms of real financial outcomes like revenue, not in terms of lead metrics like clicks.

    c. Colleagues: How will this capability make it easier or faster for your colleagues to deliver? Included in this is reduction in risk or improvements in quality.

  2. Tell a story up front and get your audience emotionally engaged – you are a marketer after all! One of the most effective ways to cover the benefits for the customer and colleague dimensions is by telling a story. Finding a way to bring the emotional aspect into a presentation is a great way to engage.  
  3. If you cannot be precise on benefits, find equivalencies, demonstrate how they relate and be strategic about how you state them. When you are pitching a new capability, it can be hard to be specific on benefits for the reasons noted above. In these cases, find some equivalencies like industry benchmarks or instances where you have launched something similar. For example, I had a situation where we were pitching a refresh of a capability that underpinned many of our leads. We analyzed another project that had updated some leads as part of its roll-out and we isolated what the average performance uplift was from just the leads update component. We then used industry benchmarks to show that the internal uplift was conservative. This is how you can be strategic about how you state the benefits:  you don't want to lowball your estimates of course, but you also don't want to seem overly optimistic. Anticipate that someone might have a reason why "that won't work here": show how your benefit estimates are conservative compared to what they could be.
  4. Place the capability you are pitching in a larger enterprise context – e.g. your martech roadmap – to ensure that the strategic value is understood. Martech is a rapidly evolving space, and there are so many "shiny toys" out there that promise to do so much. Make sure what you are proposing to do has a strong strategic argument and fits well into your roadmap. Many senior executives won’t be interested in the details of your roadmap but they will want to know that you have one and that you aren't just chasing new capabilities for the sake of it.  
  5. Communicate both a" burning platform" and a "burning ambition" to maximize the appeal of your pitch​. Organizations have different ambitions depending on their goals and the particular state of their market. In a growing economy or growing company, a pitch focused on increasing revenue or driving growth is probably going be well received. This "burning ambition" pitch is focused on (as it says!) an ambition -- i.e. "we want to be better at X so we should do Y". In tougher times or in a more established market, a pitch more focused on remediation or removing risk is going to be better received, particularly if there is an efficiency dividend that results. This "burning platform" pitch is problem-focused, i.e. "we have X problem, so we need to do Y". Make sure you cover both angles because it is rarely clean-cut: there will always be some stakeholders focused more on one of these factors and you maximize your chance of broad support if you cover them both.
  6. Sell the big picture but be specific. Tailor your pitch to your audience by focusing on specific capabilities that will mean the most to them – not just the enterprise benefits and capabilities. My roles in marketing have always been cross-enterprise focused, and so my natural focus has been on the cross-enterprise benefits. In a recent pitch I noticed that I didn't get real engagement until I spoke about a niche capability that really helped the particular sub-group I was pitching to. In retrospect, this is obvious, but it is important to remember that before pitching to a stakeholder, you should do research to see if there are any specific applications of your capability that they will find particularly appealing. I guess it is equivalent to a core tenet for martech and personalization: know your audience and personalize your message using that knowledge.

No tactic is 100% foolproof, but if you cover all of these points, you will maximize your chances of getting your investment approved.  Good luck!

Author: Patrick McQuaid
Patrick McQuaid is the Vice President of Marketing Technology, Analytics and Insights at TD and a member of the CMA Martech Council.

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