10 Ways to Convince Your CEO and Management Team to Embrace Social Media

by Marcus Sheridan

We have a serious problem my friends raging in businesses, small and large, across the world—Social Media Buy-In from management.

Never was this so apparent than when I spoke in Toronto this past week at the MeshMarketing conference and among the many emails I received, these two really struck a chord:

Hi Marcus,

It was great meeting you at Meshmarketing yesterday.  My biggest struggle with content marketing is getting buy in from my senior management.  I’ve been pitching this idea at them religiously for a year now but they keep countering that we don’t have the time, the resources, enough subject material, etc.  I am seriously looking forward to hitting them with all the new stuff I’ll be learning from you.

Stay awesome!


Or this one from Alice:

…. I work for a very small company led by a CEO that refuses to see the light when it comes to ANY marketing strategy. I am about to pull my hair out. I came on board about 4 months ago, thinking they were open to new ideas. Nope. Not a one. Doesn’t believe in social media – claims Twitter is a “lie” and that there’s no one really listening. Doesn’t let any content hit the website unless it’s been sanitized to look like a college brochure. Doesn’t force the sales guy (yes, only one) to get on board with me…in short, this is a place I’m looking to get out of as soon as I can.

….. This (marketing)is a brave new world that I came back to and I want to be a part of it. So if THIS place is destined for the slag-heap, I don’t intent to go down with it. The saddest thing of all? I’m a great writer, if I do say so myself. I’ve written everything from plays and short stories to IBM training classes and technical case studies. Ah well. What was that you said about leading a horse to water? They will probably never get it.


So there you have it. We have a management buy-in problem with respect to social media and inbound marketing, and it’s happening everywhere. It might even be happening in your office.

Alas, what is the solution to dealing with antiquated business leaders who simply ‘don’t get it’?

Great question. Hopefully the following suggestions will be exactly what you’re looking for:

10 Ways You Can Convince Your CEO and Management Team to Embrace Social Media

1. Show them competitor keyword phrases

Here is the key to ‘motivating’ CEOs, especially when they’re a hard-headed and prideful male—Take advantage of their competitive nature.  Personally, I’ve never known a CEO/owner of a company that wasn’t a little bit competitive. With this being the case, it’s time to allow the competition to do the convincing for you.

For example, a great idea is to find a competitor who has done well with ranking for certain keyword phrases in your niche. Once you’ve identified 5 such phrase that your competitor ranks high for, and your company doesn’t, simply walk into your boss’ office and ask him/her if he has a minute to look at what your prospects are finding when they research online.

Next, as him to type in each phrase, and allow him to see that the competition is showing up while he is not. Go through all 5 phrases slowly, and make him search each one closely.

I can assure you by the 5th phrase and search, your boss will likely be ready to punch his desk, and might just be willing to give you what you’re looking for.

Here is an actual snap shot of a few keywords my pool company is crushing the competition with.

2. Show them competitors/peers who have been involved in case studies

Every industry has case studies of people who have crushed it online. Heck, my pool company has been featured in at least 10 different online publications. If you want to see an example of many different niches, see Hubspot’s case studies, where you’ll find an incredible range of business types.

Again, management and CEOs are competitive by nature. Allow this to work in your favor by showing how your company is an online ‘slacker’ compared to these others that are getting so much internet attention.

Case studies like this one are all over the internet

3. Show them general competitive stats

I love this one. Hubspot is especially good at it, as it allows me to compare my website with the website of many others. In fact, check out this awesome screenshot:

With certain analytic tools like this one from Hubspot, you can easily compare your company website with that of another.

By seeing the various ways your company stacks up against others, there is a very good chance you’ll stir some serious emotions within the management team.

4. Analyze with marketing the amount of money that has been spent on other advertising and marketing tactics.

This one takes a little work but is incredibly effective. It’s actually pretty shocking the fact that many CEOs have little to no idea just how much they spend on advertising each year. And when you compare that steep amount with what they could be spending (or not spending) on social media, it suddenly appears more enticing.

As an example of such stats, in 2007 my swimming pool company spent about $250,000 in advertising to achieve a gross sales total of about $4,000,000. This year, in 2011, we’ll spend  $18,000 and reach a gross sales of roughly $5,000,000. (Heck, you can just show your boss that number and then have him call me if you’d like ;-) )

5. Analyze where sales have come from specifically with all other advertising. Is it quantifiable?

This one is very similar to #4 but the fact is, old-school marketing stinks in terms of its ability to be measured and quantified. Unlike social media, blogging, and inbound marketing that can track specific numbers of leads and sales, most outbound marketing methods have a very, very cloudy Return-On-Investment (ROI).

If a CEO realizes that he can finally start to track real numbers, he may just get excited enough to give you a green light.

7. Show real-time conversations happening online about your product.

Just as Alice’s boss in the opening thought Twitter was ‘a lie’, it’s possible to show real-time mentions of products and services happening all over the world, as well as businesses interacting with those real-time mentions.

8. Survey existing customers/previous leads

Have you ever surveyed your existing customer base and asked them if they would appreciate an educational/how-to blog explaining your products and/or services? Or even better, what would happen if you surveyed your leads that didn’t convert into customers and asked them if your lack of a powerful web presence had any effect on their decision not to choose your company? If but one person says they chose one of your competitors because of their website/social media interaction, I can guarantee you’ll then be in business.

9. Hubspot’s Webgrader

Hubspot’s website grader tool was what really started it all for me in March of 2009 when I scored a whopping 17 out of 100 for my company’s website. So mad was I at this low score that I just had to see it rise.

So do yourself a favor and take a moment to try this tool out and if the score isn’t a ‘passing’ grade, print that baby out and neatly set it on your boss’ desk :-).

What's your website score on Webgrader??

10. Utilize the Power of Video

Remember, over 60% of all people are visual learners, and your CEO or management team might fall into this category. If your competitors are making great videos, make sure your boss sees them. Also, take advantage of educational videos that teach proper marketing concepts. As an example, just last week I had a client tell me  her boss gave her the green light to use my services when he was forced to watch my ‘Vision of Inbound Marketing’ Video. (sweet! :-))

So there you have it folks, 10 ways you can attempt to bring your CEO and management team into the 21st century and embrace the social media marketing principles that you already know to be true.

It is my hope that if you’re struggling like Dorothy and Alice you’ll take a moment to see if some of these actions work. And if all else fails, just tell them to call The Sales Lion, and he’ll get’em straight. ;-)

Your Turn:

I’m curious to know if you’ve ever tried any of these suggestions here. If so, what were the results? Also, have you found other effective ways to wake up hard-headed bosses so as to help them see the light that is social media and content marketing?

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan Hanley November 18, 2011 at 8:39 am


I am literally having this talk with the President and future President of my insurance business today. For everything that I do with my personally branded website our actual agency website is horrible and hasn’t been updated since April of ’11.

This is going to be a defining moment in our Agency. What I am going to do is show them real results that I have gotten from my Blog and attempt to convince them that I can do that and 10 times more if I was using the Agency page and Brand.

I wish I had some good advice to add to the conversation because I think it is the most important conversation that many internal sales and marketing professionals will have over the course of the next few years.

We are in a defining time. There is still opportunity to be had by companies and brands that are willing to step out into Online World… But these days won’t last. I hope everyone will wish me luck on my conversation today as I wish everyone else luck on theirs…

And Marcus as always, great stuff buddy!

Ryan H.


Leon Noone November 18, 2011 at 9:30 am

G’Day Marcus,
I agree with everything you say about getting involved with social media. But there’s one thing that underpins all marketing of any description.

Your business must, yes must have a precise focus and a specific, narrow, target market. All the social media in the world will be wasted without those two prerequisites.

So I’d recommend to the Dorothys and Anitas, and also to Ryan Hanley, that they read, and get their bosses to read, “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

You see, I think the problem isn’t that they don’t understand the importance of social media.
The problem is that they don’t realize that ” marketing isn’t everything, but everything is marketing” as that curmudgeon bloke keeps saying.

And clearly, they don’t wanna have fun.



Marcus Sheridan November 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Ahhh yes, “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing”, you always seem to point out the greatest classics Leon. ;-)

But you’re right (or they were right ;-) ), there must be a clear target. Without it, all the SM in the world won’t mean squat.

Have a great weekend yourself my wise friend,



Jason Diller November 18, 2011 at 9:37 am

Great post Marcus.

My boss was sold after he saw your case study on hubspot. Thanks again!

P.S. Your traffic rank for River Pools is insane. Makes me realize how much farther I can take our site. And 909 linking domains?! grrrrrrrr I gotta get to work!

Have a great weekend Marcus!


Marcus Sheridan November 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Hahahaha, thanks man. But I bet if we compared your site to those in your industry, with my site to those in my industry, you’d be doing just fine brother!!

Keep rocking my friend,



Anthony_Rodriguez November 18, 2011 at 9:59 am

I’ll be incorporating these into my social media plan to hopefully get management to get on board and start using social media. We need it and we need it bad.


Marcus Sheridan November 18, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Awesome Anthony, make it happen man!!

And good luck!



Jen Kloter November 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Hi Marcus,
We’re a landscape contractor in CT, and started using HubSpot at the end of September. I’ve been very impressed with everything they’ve taught us so far. I was struggling with trying to convince the boss that we needed to start writing a blog and that he needs to contribute… it was a challenge to get the message across until I had him look at http://www.riverpools.com. I haven’t gotten him to actually write an article yet, but he’s on totally on board because of what he saw on your website. He gets it. So… thanks for the inspiration, and keep up the good work. We’re learning from the best!


Jason Diller November 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm


Let’s chat. Our businesses are very similar and our stories are basically the same. Check us out. I was wondering how long it would take for a landscaping company to sign up for hubspot. I couldn’t find one. Welcome to The World Of Results!

Feel free to email me at jason (at) dependable-mulch.com

We’ve been with hubspot for a year and a month.

Marcus’ case study helped sell my boss too!


Marcus Sheridan November 18, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Jen, boy do I love hearing comments like this!! BTW, I’ll be speaking at the National Landscapers Conference in Louisville in late January in 3 or 4 sessions, so it would be cool to see you out there.

But thanks so very much for the kind words and I’m thrilled to hear you’re having success!



Dean November 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Management reluctance is one of several obstacles in developing a social media marketing strategy. It’s unfortunate because of the opportunity loss and the simplicity and cost effectiveness of reaching the masses through social media. I would suggest a company with a mindset that’s stuck in the mud to either hire a firm or get educated, but get in. The University of San Francisco offers social media courses that are online and available 24/7. The school is highly ranked by US News and World Report. No excuses!


Beth Kinder November 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm

The proverbial don’t just tell them what they need, show them why they need it! Very true, very true. I love how you took the feedback emails and wrote a solution to the obvious need.



margie clayman (@margieclayman) November 18, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Definitely some interesting ideas, but the thing we tend to run into more than anything is, “Um, who is actually going to do all of this?” We have to be honest and tell people that it’s really hard to just dip your toe into social media, especially if you’re using it to promote your business. That gets scary. Is that a new hire? That’s a lot of money for someone to “tweet.” Is that time out of your extremely busy schedule? Do you do social media instead of make in-person calls?

There is no one right answer, and it certainly varies from company to company, but even the companies we meet who are totally interested in social media can’t get to a place where they can figure out how to integrate it into their already extremely busy schedules. It’s a tough nut to crack.


Davina K. Brewer November 19, 2011 at 11:48 am

What she said. ;-)


Marcus Sheridan November 21, 2011 at 10:10 am

Ah yes Margie, the old “Who the heck is going to do this stuff?” question. I agree. That’s part two of this article I guess. ;-)

No doubt, it’s a very tough nut to crack.

So I guess I’ll get cracking now ;-)

Good to see ya,



John Falchetto November 19, 2011 at 8:07 am

Hi Buddy
I moved my business from brick and mortar, old-school, to online a year ago.

Social media and blogging are my lead generating tools, because I’m isolate from any large client core I have to leverage my site as much as I can.
It’s a no brainer. Businesses can choose to take advantage of this new tool and spend some time to learn or just watch others take their clients.
When I mean take their clients, when someone Googles and you rank higher than others, you have just taken that lead before your competition has any chance to start the conversation with them.
Simple math for me.


Marcus Sheridan November 21, 2011 at 10:05 am

learn or just watch others take their clients.…Love it man…and boy does it sting when it happens.

Which is why if someone really wants to convince their boss about this stuff, they should start with the competition.

Thanks for dropping by bud.



Davina K. Brewer November 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Part of the buy-in is the money, which means the people to do this work as Margie mentioned. More than just hiring someone to do it, it’s the right someone – either to work or consultant to train the people you already have. Alas too many SMBs think anyone can throw up a Facebook page, automate some tweets; but when they get no results, or get sold on some package that doesn’t move the needle, convincing them is that much harder.

I still fight the good fight of pushing the web when some clients don’t think they’re ‘e-commercey’ enough for it to really matter. *crazymaking* Looking at the competition, where they are and where they ain’t is very important, as is looking at the best data you have (your current customers). And to point #4, well a lot of these take money b/c they require time and talent to make sense of all this. Ex: a short SurveyMonkey questionnaire may be ‘free’ but it needs to ask the right questions and be sent to the right respondents to get any sort of meaningful data. (Just read one of Amber Naslund’s post on this point.)

I agree w/ you and this is what I ‘sell’ – which is the problem. SMBs on a budget, want to spend more time/money doing and less on planning/research/measurement; you can’t do one w/ out the other but it’s a tough sell. See also, ‘social media will work but only if you put in the time and work’ – an even tougher sell. If you could just tell me the trick of tying a few clients to a chair, making them watch a vid or read a few case studies, look at some of these great ideas – maybe that’s what I’m missing. ;-) FWIW.


Marcus Sheridan November 21, 2011 at 10:00 am

All great points Davina. None of it is as easy as so many think, and the concept of training businesses to handle their SM is so very much in its infancy, and I think a market that will continue to explode as we move forward through these crazy times.

Thanks for your awesomeness lady and keep fighting the good fight. :-)



Ryan Critchett November 19, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Hey Marcus,

I especially like showing them the conversations taking place. That gets them conscious of the fact that RIGHT NOW, people are talking about your stuff, or industry. I’ve actually done this before (showed an owner of a company why he should be engaged in the convo on Twitter, and yea, he was sold on it but perhaps in the wrong kind of way! He was like “we could jump in there and pitch, or offer!”

As if I had just eaten a lemon, I said… “noooooooooo!” We should just talk with them.


Marcus Sheridan November 21, 2011 at 9:56 am

Exactly Ryan, there is a power behind the ‘right now’ phenomena. When CEOs realize they may be missing or left out of the conversation, they’re certainly more inclined to get with it. ;-)

But once they do see the conversation happening, let’s just make sure they have someone like you to reel ‘em in man ;-)

Thanks for dropping by bud,



Ameena Falchetto November 20, 2011 at 11:12 am

60% of people are visual learners? Where did you get that stat?

All depends on what you GOAL is – once you have established that everything falls into place … playing with tools without a goal can be a waste of time


Marcus Sheridan November 21, 2011 at 9:52 am

Goals? We need goals? ;-)

I forget where I saw that stat, but it’s true, and getting higher, as the internet, youtube, and all that other ‘stuff’ is increasing it daily.


cathern November 23, 2011 at 11:54 am

Your first about Show them competitor points really resonated with me, will use it to the best of my ability.


Marcus Sheridan November 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Thanks Cathern. It works, as I’ve seen CEOs turn into a ball of fire knowing they’re losing an important battle. Good luck!!



Amber Avines December 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm


This is the most valuable blog post I’ve seen all year! Most every innovative thinker who’s embracing the future is coming up against these same obstacles and the dreaded ROI question. It’s the one complaint I’ve heard consistently from employees at both large and small companies.

If someone employs these tactics, I have no doubt that they’ll be able to move the needle at their respective businesses.

This is undoubtedly the most shareable blog post I’ve seen in ages, because you’re offering up real solutions. Thank you for that. No wonder you’re so good at what you do. And I mean that. Now…I’m off to share this ;-)


Marcus Sheridan December 9, 2011 at 11:41 am

You’re wayyyyy too sweet and kind Amber. That’s so much :-)

I’m curious, if you don’t mind telling me, what the #1 method you’ve used to convince hard-headed CEOs and management teams? (And you’re not allowed to say that smile of yours. ;-) )



Dr. George Suarez December 17, 2011 at 10:16 pm

I think giving to them the stats will be a home run victory. Management bosses and leaders tend to focus more on the numbers. It’s hard to imagine any company today who has not understood the power of Social media yet. At any rate, these are great tips, Marcus.


Jen Allen February 8, 2012 at 10:22 am

Hi, Marcus!

I’m not sure how I missed out on this blog when it was originally posted, but I was glad to read it today. I just recently convinced my management staff that what I am doing with Social Networking and our website (including blogs)! I printed off our statistics from when I first started working on these things (April 2011) to our current date, called a meeting, and showed them how things have grown, what kinds of reactions we’re getting, and how much MORE it could do. They aren’t as gung-ho as I am, but they started to see the light, especially the owner of the company. I think he’ll help me do what I need to do now, instead of wondering if I’m wasting company time. ;)

Showing them that our Facebook has grown over 10x what it started out as, and that we have as much traffic on our website now, in the off-season, as we used to during the spring and summer was great. It helped them realize that we may have 2-3x more traffic on our website and through our store this year.

Thanks again, Marcus.



Marcus Sheridan February 9, 2012 at 11:17 am

You’re a pioneer Jen. Seriously!

Proud of you,



Jennifer February 24, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Great advice! It’s hard to believe there are still management teams out there who just won’t get with social media, but they are definitely out there. In the seo training I just completed, we learned about the escalating importance of social media. I hope as time passes, more companies will take advantage of these tools just as they eventually took advantage of having a website. Sometimes it just takes time.


Marcus Sheridan February 28, 2014 at 9:55 am

Appreciate you stopping by Jennifer, and best of luck to you as you (and the rest of us) continue to learn how to find success in this digital world :)



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