Marketers unable to create value in the boardroom should leave the industry. No ifs, no buts. And I’m not apologising for that point of view.
In case you’re wondering, it’s the cover story from last week’s Marketing Week which has got me all hot under the collar. To précis the piece, it appears that companies of all sizes are failing to see the benefits of having marketers at the top table, and marketers aren’t exactly helping themselves (for some extra background, check out this post – also inspired by an MW cover a while back).
So, last night (picture the scene – jammed in a packed train carriage beside a man whose armpits reek of garlic) I fire off an angry Tweet at Mark Choueke – ‘Unbelievable – I think that marketers unable to add boardroom value should leave the industry’.
Mark’s reply: ‘Hmm… a bit knee jerk I think. What about simply establishing how marketers might do better at adding necessary value?’
I don’t think it is knee-jerk – and here’s why…
The article talks about the apparent friction between marketers (fluffy, lovely, creative, lots of audience insight) and the people who have to count the beans or ensure best value (CFOs and Procurement types, in other words). It appears that there’s a divide between these key groups with one not understanding the other – the CFO/Procurement Types can’t see what value marketing is actually adding, and the marketer can’t see why they can’t see it.
There’s also the allegation that many marketers are sitting at the top table unable to explain how their actions translate into bottom line and business strategy – or even whether they want to follow the grander overarching business strategy. Not good.
Look at it this way:
CFO equals the banker. She tells the marketer how much money he has got to spend. And sets out the projections for how much money she wants back.
The Procurement Type sets out who the marketer can buy from (presumably to create best value). They organise, argue, negotiate.
This is the structure which gives the savvy marketer something to work with. In fact, the Procurement Type should make the marketer’s life that little bit easier and make the CFO’s money stretch further. And the CFO’s restrictions give focus.
We need focus to give structure. Businesses run on focus – it’s how they survive. Focus helps make strategy. Strategy makes direction. Direction makes purpose. Purpose aids a mission statement. A mission statement is part of the brand values. The brand values show the way to the future. And the way to the future is made by the work we do today in pursuit of that future.
So where’s the problem? Why can’t people see this – or have I missed something truly fundamental?
Further to that, why is it seemingly so hard for the marketer to translate his actions into metrics that the people who like spreadsheets can follow?
Perhaps rather than saying:
“I’m going to spend a load of money making a gorgeous advert that will be remembered for years, so viral and win awards”, the marketer could actually say:
“I’m going to make a gorgeous advert because our audience insight shows that they expect quality from our brand. We will tell a story which will drive immediate brand interest/purchase and be remembered for years thus building our brand equity and long term customer loyalty (therefore increasing purchase inclination). I’m going to use online technologies because they are more cost effective and easily shared and promoted (plus our demographic prefers online information acquisition). And yes, I hope to win awards which will further increase our visibility, creating increased message retention and hopefully, in conjunction with our other activity, build on long term customer loyalty and purchase inclinations.
”This campaign is designed to support business strategies and grow our market share [or whatever the objective is].”
Yes I know, it’s a bit more long winded. But it sounds somewhat more strategic – i.e. I’m going to make something appropriate to our audience’s needs/desires/wants in order to help the bottom line increase in line with organisational desires.
What is so hard about that?
It is all about business objectives. What are we (the business) trying to achieve? What do we want to have on the books by the end of the year? Where do we see ourselves in five years time? What’s our survival plan/growth plan?
And similar, yet related questions:
What are our front of house staff doing to help us achieve our business aim?
What is our website doing to help us achieve our goal?
How is the CFO working with our spreadsheets to help us get to this position?
And what is the marketing department doing to achieve this?
You see where I’m going with this. The whole efforts of a company need to be focussed on the business objectives (need I mention integrated branding here? No, probably not – but you know how important that is and if the people around the top table aren’t integrated into the brand…) And these efforts need to be explainable as such.
Not operating in some silo, doing cool stuff because it’s cool.
Perhaps I’m out on a limb here. You tell me. But I think that it’s blindingly obvious.
Further to all of the above, if you’re invited to sit at the top table, there’s a lot of responsibility there. Not just to pipe up and defend your own work, but to learn about the work of others and make sure that you can talk their language, at least for a while.
Those people who don’t feel that responsibility, who can’t market to the dozen or so individuals around a boardroom table who already have a relationship with the brand/product in question (rather than the millions of people they need to convert in the big wide world outside), who don’t know why they can’t make their voices heard – those people should leave the industry and make way for the next generation who can deal with the truly integrated roles of a modern CMO.