Do you and your top execs speak the same language?

We don’t mean English (nor Dutch nor Esperanto), but rather, do your objectives—and the way you express them—align? A common vocabulary can bolster your career.

Would you like top-tier executives to perceive you as having strong business acumen? Do you want to be viewed as influential, credible and relevant to business?

Of course; who wouldn’t? Yet only one in five marketers is perceived that way.

What’s special about them is the language they use.

You can spot them right away. They talk about marketing’s impact on market share, category growth, product adoption, pipeline contribution and customer value.

Other marketers talk about programs that result in brand awareness, website/event traffic, opens, “likes” and shares. Those metrics are important, but they don’t convey marketing’s impact on the business.

The 2015 Marketing Performance Management Study—as well as studies from Fournaise and Eloqua—have found that 80 percent of marketers use the word “brand” in their marketing vocabulary. Only half (51 percent) of marketing departments have any form of revenue targets, even though revenue growth is cited as the most important metric for CEOs, that study found.

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When your communication with executives keys on brand-related metrics, you risk being perceived as a brand marketer rather than a business marketer.

So which are you?

If the following phrases echo those you hear from your leadership team, it’s likely your CEO perceives you as a brand marketer:

  • “Our marketing team focuses too much on the creative and doesn’t think enough like businesspeople.”
  • “We’re bombarded by data and reports from marketing, but we can’t relate any of it to the company financials or measures of success.”
  • “Marketing is always asking for more money, but it can never explain how much incremental business the money will generate.”
  • “Marketing is always talking about brand, brand value and brand equity, but they never link marketing activities back to revenue, customer acquisition, market share, sales, etc.”
  • “Marketing talks about the latest marketing trends and how important it is to harness them, but they can’t demonstrate how those trends will help generate more business for the company.”
  • “When we ask marketing to be more accountable and increase ROI, they mainly understand it as reducing costs in some way rather than being more effective.”

Do any of those phrases sound familiar? If not, feel free to stop reading now. If they do, it’s time to transform your “marketing language” into a “business language.”

Here are five ways to change your communication so that top executives see you as a relevant, credible and influential member of the business team:

  1. Shift from brand to customer. Change the conversation from being about brand to being about customers. Engage leaders in discussions about acquiring and retaining customers and increasing customer value.
  2. Understand their expectations. Collaborate with the leadership and sales teams to understand the number of new, retained and customer growth targets and the product/service focus.
  3. Create a visual roadmap. Exchange your extensive PowerPoint slide deck for a visual roadmap that shows the direct link between marketing activities and business outcomes.
  4. Measure what matters. Focus on measuring how marketing affects business priorities.
  5. Develop an actionable dashboard. Use your data and metrics to create a marketing dashboard that enables the organization to make better and faster decisions.

Understanding “business language” and communicating effectively with your organization’s leadership team can greatly improve the perception they have of you.

With 2016 planning season right around the corner, now is the time to upgrade your marketing accountability and improve your ROI.

Doing so may require something small, such as modifying your language, or bigger steps that entail learning how to improve your alignment, address accountability, and harness data, analytics, processes and systems.

If need be, seek outside help to realize the next milestone on your journey to becoming a marketer of excellence.

Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. A version of this article originally appeared on Marketing Profs.

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