How to Do a Successful Marketing Pitch

Last Updated Aug 15, 2009 7:24 PM EDT

For all the marketers out there, I feel your pain. There's nothing more challenging and discouraging than getting senior management to buy into your ideas. But take heart. I've gone up against some of the smartest, toughest, nastiest, marketing-distrusting CEOs, boards, CFOs, and GMs you've ever seen.

One particular executive staff meeting (at a Fortune 1000 company) sticks in my mind. The product division VP went on an emotionally-charged, 20 minute filibustering rant because he thought every penny of a $50 million marketing budget should be spent promoting his products. In the same meeting, the VP of worldwide manufacturing asked, "why do we even need this promotion stuff?"

It isn't always pretty, but those are the meetings that thicken your skin and help you hone your skills.

I don't care if you're pitching an executive level strategic planning process, a worldwide product launch, a corporate-wide CRM project, a branding strategy, a new product line, or an enhanced PR program. These five tips will help you break down the "resistance to marketing" brick wall.

How to Do a Successful Marketing Pitch
First, get over yourself. Marketing is about facilitating business; it's not an end onto itself. If you can't relate your project to developing market-leading products or increasing market share, revenues, or profits, then selling it will be infinitely harder and justifiably so.

Make stakeholders part of the process. As a marketing manager, your key stakeholders include product development, sales, HR, finance, and in many cases, executive management. Make them part of the process - bounce your ideas off them and get their input one-on-one before pitching to the group.

Don't shove it down their throats. Instead, build a top-down story that relates your project to key corporate goals or business fundamentals. Explain using data and logic your audience understands. Think teacher-educator, not pushy salesperson. Encourage debate and grow thick skin.

Stick your neck out on tough metrics. Offer up aggressive metrics that will raise eyebrows. If you end up falling a bit short but the project is still a success, nobody will give you a hard time. That said, don't go over-the-top or you'll lose credibility.

Learn how to build consensus. Be prepared for a long haul, iterative process that may take several meetings and revisions. Still, you need to keep it moving forward toward a consensus plan. Learning to walk that fine line takes experience and maturity. But I think this topic warrants its own post.

Remember, this is really hard stuff you can't master overnight. But if you work hard at it and persevere, it will pay off. For more resources, check out: How to Be a Great Marketer and The Sequel.