Martian is the language of business, and marketers must learn it

John Gray, the author of the 1992 bestseller Women Are from Venus, Men Are from Mars, argues that men and women have fundamentally different mental make-ups, which can lead to miscommunication and dysfunctional relationships.

Both marketing professionals and those without a marketing background, especially those with financial experience, suffer from the same problem.

Profitability is significantly reduced when dysfunctional relationships are present in a corporate environment. Sadly, the marketing professional is often blamed for sub-par performance.

Marketers must learn how to use financial language.

The Root Cause of the Problem

Gray’s book asserted that fundamental differences between women and men affect how they think and react to stress and what they expect from communication. These expectations can be so vastly different in many cases that men and women may appear to come from other planets. Gray says that to make a relationship more functional for both men and women, they must understand the cultural context on the “planet” where their partner grew.

Marketing professionals and nonmarketing colleagues may seem to be from different planets. The natural interests of marketing professionals, their training, and, most importantly, their language may differ significantly from those of nonmarketing colleagues.

Both sides are anxious about the language gap. Marketers feel frustrated when their budgets and marketing strategies are contested. They worry that C-Suites perceive them as a source of problems rather than a resource for finding solutions.

Nonmarketing executives worry about their investments in marketing activities ranging from Social Media to developing new channels. They may even view marketing as a dark art that is difficult to measure and carries a high level of risk.

Why Marketing Managers Must be Linguists

This planetary divide is cultural in most organizations. Both sides expect the struggle between Marketing, Finance, Operations, or both. The marketing team is responsible for changing the dynamic.

The benefits of this effort are significant. Marketing professionals should learn to use financial terms for three reasons.

Market leaders are bi-lingual

Our research shows that executives who fundamentally understand marketing lead the most successful companies or leaders in their respective industries. In most cases, the CEO is the person who directs the marketing efforts of the company.

The CEO can translate the marketing needs of investors, funders, and shareholders into financial terms.

The organization will become bilingual when the CEO bridges the gap in language and behavior between Marketing, Finance, and Operations. The people within the organization should at least have a basic understanding of the cultural, linguistic, and behavioral differences between individuals who contribute to the company’s success.

This common language has many advantages for market leaders. The market leaders are more likely than not to have the same business strategy, target markets, and investment requirements. They are also less likely to stop funding critical approaches before implementation.

Unfortunately, the majority of companies are not bi-lingual. In some cases, the CEO or other nonmarketing executives may not see the value of understanding the language and discipline of marketing. In such cases, the marketer is the one who must act as the translator.

To tap into the same information and positively influence the company’s strategies, the marketer needs to learn how to interpret the data and ask intelligent questions about the financial system and market.

The universal language of finance is financial terms

The language of business is not universal. Money is.

We know it as marketers. This is why 83% say that demonstrating measurable results on marketing investments is critical to their success, and 75% list this as one of their top worries that keeps them awake at night.

Marketing can be measured in terms of financial results. Not all nonmarketing professionals agree. Marketing professionals must be fluent in financial modeling concepts to convince even the toughest skeptics about the value of investments their organization should make. To do this, you need to be fluent in the language of finance and have a good understanding of information systems that can track results against expectations.

A common language helps everyone stay focused on the same goal

Marketing requires knowledge and expertise. To achieve the goals of an organization, it is essential to maintain a constant focus and execute them consistently.

Marketing can also be sabotaged by managers who are not marketing experts and do not have the same vision. The executive team may cut funding for key marketing initiatives due to a financial downturn. Sales teams might not follow up on leads that were generated by promotions.

This lack of vision, or even unintentional sabotage, is often directly related to cultural differences between marketers. They may be unable to visualize the desired outcomes because of their different values, languages, and training.

Marketing executives can help to ensure that the entire company is moving in the same direction if they reach out and explain the financial implications of marketing initiatives, stressing the importance of consistent execution and focusing on financial results.

Here’s some good news: It’s not complicated

It is not as tricky as some marketers think. Although it can be daunting at first, the process is similar to learning a new language before visiting a foreign land. Even if you are not fluent in the language, just trying to communicate with someone on their terms will make them more willing to assist you. Even if you have a few unpolished skills in finance, they will help bridge the gap between us and other planets.

Your skills will improve as you practice. I have taught many marketers how to use financial terms. Even the most numbers-averse clients can adopt the simple ROI metrics and models we developed. It doesn’t need to be complicated.

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