Portfolio companies often believe that their investors only care about EBITDA and, therefore, that they’ll refuse to invest more into an initiative. If you’re a PE investor, you’ll know that’s far from the truth.
After an acquisition, aligning the management team and the board around core initiatives as quickly and efficiently as possible is the number one priority for both portfolio companies and the PE firm. Scaling Marketing is often at the center of this, and most PE firms are keen to give Marketing budget to grow—if Marketing can prove they’ll deploy that additional budget responsibly.
Too often, Marketing walks into the boardroom and asks for another $1 million to supplement their budget, without data to back up their request and without explaining how these projects support the key investment thesis growth levers.
Do you know where and how Marketing would be using the extra budget, and what their projected growth metrics are? Does Marketing even know this?
Without the supporting data, PE firms are reluctant to give extra budget; without the extra budget, Marketing can stagnate. It’s a cycle that leads to limited revenue growth and distrust between Marketing and the board.
If Marketing is requesting more budget, they should show you:
Make it clear to Marketing what you need from them in board meetings to make their requests feasible. It’s important that Marketing speaks your language—the language of data and accountability—in the boardroom. Spell out what they need to be presenting and why, so they come to the meeting armed with the details you need.
Below, we’ll go through the information that Marketing should be presenting and PE should be reviewing at each board meeting to make informed decisions about Marketing initiatives and budget.
Your CMO steps up and starts their slide deck. They have dozens of slides full of ideas, all with images and charts, but it isn’t clear how (or even if) these ideas work together or which opportunities need urgent attention. If Marketing doesn’t present their opportunities in an organized way, do you feel confident that they will carry them out in an organized way?
Marketing should present the core marketing initiatives they’ve identified in a tidy, well-ordered spreadsheet that includes a breakdown of the key data points. To see where an increased budget can make the biggest difference, Marketing needs to merge all their opportunities into a single list and to rank across initiatives to settle on the tasks that will provide the biggest ROI on an increased budget.
For example, is content a huge weakness that’s leading to lost deals in the pipeline? Are the best MQLs coming through a channel with minimal investment? Can Marketing help you pull a particularly lucrative product lever?
To get a full picture of the impact each initiative will have on the company, the initiatives should be ranked in terms of priority, based on:
Each opportunity should be scored for the following:
The RICE prioritization framework is a good place to start here. To calculate the RICE score for each piece:
Reach: How many people will this impact?
Impact: How much will this impact each person? (Massive = 3x, High = 2x, Medium = 1x, Low = 0.5x, Minimal = 0.25x)
Confidence: How confident are you in your estimates? (High = 100%, Medium - 80%, Low = 50%)
Effort: How many “person-months” will this take?
An SEO blog post might get 200 visits in a month, but the impact on purchase intent is fairly low. You’ve published dozens of posts like this before, so you’re confident about how it will perform, and know it will only take half a “person-month” to create.
(200 x 0.5 x 100) / 0.5 = 20,000 RICE score
The campaigns with the highest RICE scores are likely to deliver a bigger potential return for the effort.
Marketing remains a servant as well as a leader in the company, so they need to consider how their initiatives relate to the whole company’s priorities, including collaborative efforts across departments and integration needs. Marketing should make it clear that they understand their post-acquisition responsibilities, including cross-department initiatives, and are prioritizing them at the top of the list.
If there is a major growth lever, this is the top priority for the whole company. Marketing should play a large role and focus its resources on that lever. It may turn out that Marketing’s greatest post-acquisition value for the company isn’t a new ad campaign or opening a new channel; it may be laying the groundwork for your biggest revenue booster to thrive.
If Marketing is asking for a significant investment but they don't have alignment with Sales and Product, then even if they have decent data to back up that number, it seems unrealistic that this project will be a success. Collaboration also minimizes competition for investment dollars, so instead of Marketing’s priorities competing against Sales, that budget can improve both departments through the right initiatives.
This is why your opportunity map has to bias towards the broader priorities within the company. And when those two sets of priorities come head-to-head, the company has to win. So if Marketing walks into the boardroom with five marketing priorities that remain solely within their department, they need to revise that list.
Integration is always a high priority for Private Equity, and the more Marketing’s priorities incorporate that, the better. You may already be running simultaneous or even parallel organizations. By integrating products, teams, and budget together, you’re increasing your potential to hit your targets.
So while it makes sense to make the top priorities as collaborative as possible, you also want them to leverage integration as much as possible. If Marketing is considering building up demand gen blog content, perhaps this is the time to recommend creating a dedicated SEO team with responsibility across your organizations. Working with Product, you may want to emphasize not just new revenue capture opportunities with your main services but potential whitespace opportunities that Marketing can boost at the same time.
Marketing can potentially offer both quick wins and medium-term success over the next five years through marketing priorities filtered through collaboration and integration.
It should be obvious that when Marketing is presenting to the investment committee, the more Marketing’s ask is grounded in the investment thesis, the better. If the investment thesis identified that cross-selling the product with your existing customer base was a major potential revenue generator, Marketing should be tying their role in that effort into the top priorities for their new budget. They should be able to answer how the new budget will enable them to help the company achieve each investment thesis goal.
Ideally, Marketing priorities should match up with the top priorities identified by private equity before you acquired them. The new budget should be connected to those priorities and explain exactly how the new budget allows you to action each item.
However, this is not an invitation to cheat on the process and tailor every initiative to the investment thesis. On rare occasions, an investment thesis priority may prove to be a less effective revenue generator than you’ve discovered elsewhere. In that case, Marketing shouldn’t be afraid to address the discrepancy to the board and back up their assertion with data, showing why your preferred initiative doesn’t appear to be as profitable as their priority.
With the campaigns ranked in terms of priority, the revised opportunity map should end up something like this:
With this opportunity map ranking the most valuable initiatives, Marketing has the detailed information they need to present to the board.
To be clear on what the board’s options are and how they impact Marketing’s output, Marketing should present three scenarios: business as usual, minimum new investment, and the dream budget.
The BAU scenario represents no new investment: This is simply a continuation of your current budget. This is essentially the non-negotiable minimum investment Marketing needs to accomplish anything. Marketing might highlight how they’ve already shifted budget to add new efficiency to the department. If they’ve red-lighted an expensive channel and reallocated those funds to a new channel with far higher ROI, that’s relevant here. At this level of funding, Marketing won’t be able to take on most new initiatives and responsibilities.
In the minimum new investment scenario, Marketing lays out how an increased budget will allow them to meet current expectations, showing how the ranked priorities help them deliver on company priorities and hit revenue targets. For example, if Marketing needs to scale content to address new whitespace needs and develop more SEO content, they should lay out how much budget is needed for those initiatives and how much revenue they project from those efforts. Essentially, Marketing is showing the board they understand the new priorities and how the new budget will allow them to meet them.
In the dream budget scenario, Marketing explains how they can deliver on the full value the department is capable of. Here, you’re essentially imagining scaling without budget constraints. If you could give an unlimited budget, what are all the initiatives that could net significant revenue? What would be the full list of priorities Marketing would pursue and how much revenue would that bring into the company? How much would it cost to pursue this strategy?
Once Marketing has presented these three scenarios, your board has the information you need to judge which is best for the business.
All these sections are included in our marketing board meeting template. Click here to download the template to share with Marketing ahead of your next board meeting.
When determining where to invest in your business, the board has a tough decision to make. Every department will make a case for a multi-million dollar budget, and almost no department ever delivers on that case. Private equity can’t afford to squander millions on departments that won’t deliver. In order to continue to secure funding, you need to scale the business to justify the multiple you paid for it within five years.
That’s why PE can’t take Marketing’s word that they understand how to track data, scale demand gen, and handle all of marketing’s interdepartmental responsibilities. They have to show you.
Once Marketing has laid out their case and shown they can handle whatever budget decisions are made, the board will know they can have confidence in your CMO’s ability to steer marketing, no matter how much funding they provide.
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