“Marketing is a cost center.” “We need to cut costs – marketing should go first.” “Marketing budgets are too high with not enough value.” “Do we really need marketing?” “Branding is a nice to have but it’s not essential.”
Every CMO has heard statements like this during their career. How often have we wished we were part of the core executive team and included in decision making? Especially because once the decisions are made, we’re the ones who are expected to make it work.
Whether it’s stated explicitly or just implied, marketers know that our role is often seen as a “nice to have” or, at best, as “an important support function.” Not to mention those who consider marketing part of everyone’s role with no real need to specialize. Creativity, considered central to marketing, is often seen as being about the development of visually appealing advertisements, witty copy and fabulous events, with little sense of how that creativity can also be applied to innovation and growth.
And because marketing is not seen as central to the business’s success, marketers and their teams are losing budgets and, in many cases, their jobs.
My fellow marketers, let this be our moment to change this. We know we can and should be more. We know we have useful insights and skills that, utilized properly, could change the way businesses operate. Too often, to play this role, we need to change our title – Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Growth Officer – but it’s not necessary. Marketing really is a key business driver so let’s rebrand our functions!
Marketing protects against recession stagnation
Can we prove it? I can start by quoting statistics that we generated at Analytic Partners where we found that reducing marketing spend leads to reduced revenues. In fact, our research shows that marketing is a crucial toll for delivering business success. During the last recession (following the financial crisis), 63% of brands that increased media investment saw ROI improvements in back-to-back years, with 17% growth in incremental sales. We have a whole report on this you can read here.
But these statistics, don’t go far enough. Marketing needs to be properly and fully integrated into strategic business and decision making and when it is, we can bring product, sales, operations, and customer relations together to support growth, improved margins, enhanced product development and more.
Show me a marketer and I’ll show you someone who has been tasked with delivering a marketing plan for a new product when they know it’s doomed to fail. On the flipside are marketers who spot new opportunities but don’t have the power to expand the brand’s footprint. The result is lost opportunities, reduced sales, or slower growth.
So, how do we convince our peers that marketing deserves a seat and voice at the table? I have enjoyed a career during which I’ve been able to work as a member of executive leadership teams where marketing has had real input into business decision making. And the lessons I’ve learnt will, I hope, help other marketers to play the same role.
Focus on commercial outcomes
First and foremost…what are you trying to achieve? Marketers have huge amounts of data, but if we focus on all the data and not the outcome, we can get lost. We’re crazy if we’re not leveraging the data, but we must do this strategically – vanity metrics don’t matter, click through rates (CTR), and SOV are nice to have but won’t game change an organization. By understanding the desired outcome and the real questions that need answering, and sourcing the right data we can and should drive insights and business growth for our brands that focus on leading indicators not lagging indicators. Growth needs to focus on increased geographies? We can use our data and insights to identify those opportunities. Our business needs to overcome supply chain challenges? We can leverage our data to offer useful input.
We can also be creative by shining a light on new ways to look at things or different angles from which to approach the data. We can identify new markets and opportunities, understand delivery channels, and do all of this from a sales perspective but also operations, product development and finances.
Speak the language
As marketers, our job is to create powerful connections with our customers in a way that drives sales and growth. To do this, we must be part of the strategic conversation. Marketers have insights, experience and skills which are unique in building these connections to add value.
However, to showcase this, build and, ultimately, be more effective, marketers absolutely must speak the language of our peers. Marketing metrics and tools are useful in your day-to-day life, but they’re signals, not business drivers. Translate these signals for your peers and use their language to explain the impact. You don’t want to hear about accounts payable, depreciation, agile methodology, or enterprise resource planning. Likewise, your finance, operations and other senior executive peers aren’t interested in lead scoring, TOFU (top of funnel) or CTR. Revenue growth, retail sales, customer acquisition costs, margins… these are the things we all need to understand and work towards improving. So, make sure you’re clear on how marketing, branding, connections with customers and all the work you do has a direct and measurable impact on this.
Let’s unite and rebrand marketing
We all want our businesses to succeed. Marketers can add to this, but only if we insert ourselves into the business. As leaders, we need to be commercially-minded, we need to have a holistic view of the business and we must deliver on the metrics that matter. The tide is turning – CEOs are starting to talk about this and are expected to have a much better understanding of brand and marketing so maybe we’re pushing on an open door. But to get it done, we need to keep working. Focus on the outcomes and lose the marketing jargon. Join the conversation and use the language of your peers and I promise you, you’re 90% of the way there. And if you aren’t, call me – I’ll help you figure out what else you can do.