True Confessions of a Digital Marketer #7: I Spend More Time Selling to My Boss Than Selling to My Customer

confessions of a digital marketer girl laying on couch illustrated

As a former CMO, I’ve seen and heard a lot of unique (and some downright crazy) marketing techniques along the way, and “True Confessions” is my way of sharing it with all of you. Like all good legends–marketing or otherwise– there’s always a mix of truth, exaggeration, outright fiction, and just plain wishful thinking. We’ll let you decide which is which below.


I hosted a panel a few weeks ago for high-level marketing execs. I thought the content was sound, the presentation compelling, and the participation steady and enthusiastic. I was all ready to pat myself on the back. Until the Q & A at the end.

“This stuff’s all well and good, Janet,” someone sneered (Yes! Sneered!). “But how do you suggest I sell this to my management team in the corner office? They don’t see the potential, they see the expense. They don’t want to take a risk without certainties. They want guaranteed results before we even take a chance. In fact, I spend hours putting together PowerPoints of proof points and RTBs just to get shot down in five minutes.”

The overwhelming chorus of agreeing noises and scattered applause among the other attendees brought me up a little short.

I’m a marketer. My work is about conversion and winning customers. Not HR sessions on how to manage up and communicate with HPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) and other difficult people—although, wait a sec. The parallels between bosses and customers is a bit uncanny:

  • They only look at things from their perspective
  • They expect miracles and instant results to occur
  • They think they know best

I get it. The HPPOs often get in the way of marketers doing our best work. They often have their own precious (read: outdated) ideas about what will succeed, even though they haven’t been in the trenches or come face-to-face (via a one-way focus group window) with an actual customer since the Bush II administration. Or when they still think their design and ad writing chops are still sharp and something needs to look this way or say that thing.

But the HPPOs often have their own good reasons. Particularly if your HPPOs have their own set of HPPOs to sell to: they’re going to be cautious and demanding and require documentation for everything. Or if they’re looking at things from a “brand” and “corporate goal” perspective and not a “customer solution” perspective.

The result is that it often takes more to sell my management than my customer.  

We all know one of marketing’s biggest occupational hazards is drifting into that Pre-live echo chamber where we think our messaging is talking to customers, but we’re really talking to ourselves (insider jargon much?). We all know another danger is rarely having the intel we need to help the higher-ups make the decisions we need them to.

Happily, the one thing that all in the room agreed on is that getting real, customer data and verbatim response can help overcome the HPPO bias. WEVO, our Pre-live testing tool is the rapid, low-risk, quantifiable way to predict conversion performance and customer reaction without going into hypotheticals, what-ifs or echo chambers. Because you hear verbatim feedback from target customers who will tell you exactly what they think—and why—about your prospective web site campaigns.

It’s quantifiable, predictable, and accurate.

It’s exactly the tool to help you sell the HPPOs. In five PowerPoint slides or less.

About Janet

Janet was the first CMO of Constant Contact, and part of the team that created much of what is known as inbound marketing today. She has also held leadership marketing roles at what is now 3M MicroTouch and HP. After creating HSG, a product and marketing consulting firm, alongside fellow entrepreneur Nitzan Shaer, they soon realized that market research is long, expensive, non-actionable, and does not work at the pace of digital marketers. As a result, they created WEVO – the first company to optimize website experiences before going live. WEVO uses target audience testing to diagnose web pages without the need for live traffic. With actionable, validated insights, WEVO enables you to pinpoint reasons why customers aren’t converting, empowering marketers with a low-risk way to uncover why people take action.

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