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Money talks – but do you speak the language?

A basic thesis for good communication is to be able to adapt the message to the target group. To be able to “speak to peasants in the manner of peasants, and to the learned in Latin” as the saying goes.
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It may seem like a paradox that many in the marketing and communication industry unfortunately seem to lack these skills, at least when it comes to how we communicate about our own business. And if the recipient of our communication is your CFO, CEO or someone else in the management team or the board, there is a high risk that you will not be heard about your marketing budget and your communication efforts in the way you wish.

The importance of language in creating an effective marketing organization that is well anchored in the company’s development was highlighted in a report from English EffWorks a few years ago. One of the authors was Fran Cassidy. This summer, she came up with a new book, produced together with the B2B Institute, an initiative from LinkedIn to develop skills in B2B marketing. The writing is called “Marketing to the CFO” and, just as the title suggests, is about the relationship between the marketing department and the company’s finance manager.

There is a lot of good advice and tips in the book, but one of the main issues is precisely the language. And above all, the marketers’ inability to communicate with finance managers and others in management and the board in a way that these people understand and value. It is both about which words are used and in what way the market side argues for its efforts, but also about the lack of logical arguments and numerical support for the activities and measures that are proposed. Fran lists three key questions for marketers who want to create an understanding of the importance of marketing in the management team:

1. Use “business language”, not “marketing jargon”.

2. Utilize your ability to create insights about the target audience so that you put all communication with the CFO and management team in a business and financial context.

3. Have a continuous dialogue with the finance department, so that you don’t just meet when it’s time for the budget process.

A simple solution to the language challenge is to think about which words and concepts we use.

• Brand awareness can be seen as an indicator of how our future sales will develop. The more people who know about us, the more potential customers. So why not call it e.g. future sales potential instead?

• Brand preference shows how many people prefer us. And those who prefer us tend to be less price sensitive than others in the market; ergo perhaps we should instead use a concept like marginal defense factor?

• Production costs for campaigns and marketing efforts are, after all, a way to develop and maintain our visual identity, i.e. a way to manage and enhance the intangible assets. So why not call it this?

And now that many of you are in the middle of the budget process, it is a definite advantage if you can argue like Rossa Shanks, CMO at Dow Jones, about why you should increase investment in marketing.

“This is going to be additive from a revenue point of view. It is going to increase our productivity overall, which will increase EBITDA. If we don’t do it, this is the revenue at risk (number).”

It is perhaps not such beautiful language, and the forms of expression have clear similarities to “consulting”. But if that is the way money talks, you had better learn the language – or else…


Do you want to know more about how the correct language can help to do better business? Ask Pyramid, our imagepartners member agency!
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