How to Convince Your Boss That Your Marketing Team Has Intangible Value

There are few things executives and managers love more than concrete data showing high ROI. Give your boss hard numbers indicating a measurable improvement for a tangible asset and you’ll quickly find your team gaining more trust and bigger budgets.

The growth of tangible assets (which are things like inventory, cash, equipment, etc.) is obviously necessary for a business, but since tangible assets are perceived to have the greatest value, projects that directly grow them are often given the biggest budgets, while many “softer” projects constantly face the chopping block.

The problem is, it’s actually far more difficult to measure the intangible assets that create the greatest value for many of today’s leading companies. These include qualities like:

  • Branding
  • Trades
  • Customer lists
  • Customer and business relationships
  • Licenses and patented technology
  • Databases and access to big data
  • Employee talent
  • Company culture and business processes

It’s intangible assets like these that form the greatest differentiating factors for many of today’s most influential brands.

Unfortunately, marketing KPIs often fall within the intangible category, meaning many marketing projects and teams subsequently miss out on executive advocacy, funding, and the freedom to experiment. So, how can you help your boss better understand intangible assets, to the benefit of both your marketing team and the company at large? Let’s take a look at a few key arguments.

1. Marketing teams are at the forefront of big data. If big data isn’t already on the minds of your marketing team, it should be, as it’s a key way to prove the value of intangible assets. Big data marketing can help companies:

  • Build a more accurate picture of the consumer. Big data is of no use unless it comes hand-in-hand with powerful analytical tools, which can tell your team just how your customers are reacting to every subtlety of your campaigns, and at least begin to measure the value of your marketing team’s efforts. While regular analytics can help you adjust quickly in the short term, big data can be extra effective in helping you gain a much clearer sense of your customer through long-term behavior analyses, so you can better predict customer reaction to campaigns and new product launches.
  • Narrow big customer lists. Rather than being an asset, big customer databases can often overwhelm marketers, leaving them with no choice other than “one-size-fits-all” campaigns. Big data metrics can help marketers accurately segment customer lists, so they can better create hyper-relevant campaigns that provide an easier-to-measure ROI.
  • Target customers during key decision-making moments. Many metrics, like click streams, provide powerful information about changing customer preferences, and can also indicate just where customers are in the sales funnel. Marketers can then use this data to offer discounts or loyalty rewards via email, social media, or other connected streams to nudge customers into a purchase. The complementary arm to big data marketing is data-informed customer service, which can further complete the sale with a highly customized social media or phone interaction.
  • Create new products and services. Of equal importance, as marketers sift through data, they often find new, previously untapped customer desires and market opportunities. This can lead to the creation of new and profitable services and products – and is there anything more tangible than that?

2. Marketing teams establish and grow brand identity and reputation. Many marketers struggle to demonstrate how many of the more artistic elements of branding, like a distinctive logo, tagline, voicing, and sometimes even entire campaigns, can directly create brand equity.

But if you take a look at the world’s most successful businesses, you’ll find one thing that separates them from the pack: a clear brand identity with a loyal following. Kleenex is so well-established, the brand is used colloquially as the product name. Apple’s clean designs and intuitive interfaces distinguish the company in an otherwise crowded market to the tune of $156.5 billion in sales in 2012 alone. Coca-Cola is downright iconic, in business for 127 years and with brand recognition in over 200 countries. In fact, while most companies were struggling during the financial meltdown in 2008, the top 100 brands increased profits by 2 percent for a total of $2 trillion.

In short: branding matters, as it directly influences a customer’s perception of a company as trustworthy, interesting, and worthy of her money and attention. This isn’t news to the world’s biggest companies that regularly conduct expensive mergers just to own a well-established brand, nor to those that spend billions on image research. The more your boss trusts and invests in your marketing team, the greater effect you’ll have on capturing consumer attention in an otherwise flooded field, which, of course, can have a direct impact on your profitability.

3. Marketing teams positively contribute to company culture. The penultimate research on company culture was conducted in 1988 by John Kotter and James Heskett, who used the metrics of substance, strength, and adaptability to measure economic performance, stock price, and ROI. The duo found that company culture had a strong impact on a company’s health – something that leading companies like Shutterstock.

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