The Bottom Line for Marketing

24 06 2013

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Sometimes I wonder if Marketing Execs should wear a helmet!!!  Many CEOs whom I know want marketing to be successful (in essence moving the cheese) but complain that marketing execs have no accountability.    And I think that is a shame and the crux of why many marketing people are not as highly regarded as they should be and why many are not invited as a C-level sitting at the table with other senior executives.

The funny thing is that I hear more and more that start-ups as well as more mature companies want marketing.  Notwithstanding the fact that many of these companies are not exactly sure what they exactly want, it is clear that all companies desire good brand positioning and messaging as well as demand generation.  As an aside, I am part of TechCoastAngels in California and entrepreneurs are always asked about their marketing and sales efforts and the positive answers are required prior to funding companies.

In the old world of marketing, we had the push marketing i.e. promoting the product to the sales people and the distribution channel for them to “push” the product to consumers and businesses, and pull marketing, i.e.  promotion, and free samples coupled with  heavy-up radio and TV advertising.     As many realize, though the world has changed and the customer is extremely capable today.  Technology, primarily through social media (Facebook, Yelp, and YouTube) and the internet (via special portals, clubs, and exchanges) has been the driving force.  This is the era of customer enlightenment, engagement, and emancipation.  Marketing, today, deals more with the content that the company (as championed by the marketing executive) provides, the ability to be found by the customer, and the clear use of analytics and tools to manage the marketing process.

The Marketing Leadership Council and Marketing Roundtable of the Corporate Executive Board defined 23 attributes of a world class marketing organization.  I know that not all companies – except for the largest companies- cover all attributes. Even if they do, the emphasis is on only a few.  This is particularly true if the company is a startup or small.  Yet, regardless of the size and the attributes which the company considers the most pressing, there are some common items that the marketing executive needs to consider.

A marketing executive today, in my opinion, needs to have the following characteristics to be successful.  Here are my prescriptions:

  • Accountability:  Gone are the days of making something “pretty” or merely creative.   Most of my friends and colleagues know me for saying this is “fluff and stuff.”  And I don’t mean to denigrate anyone who is creative and artsy.  I think those areas are necessary but not sufficient to assuage the CEO and be part of the team.  The marketing executive (CMO or Head of Marketing) needs to be accountable for top line revenue growth as well as MARGIN (bottom line) growth.  If you are not accountable you don’t belong in the C-suite.
  • Innovation:  If I have one idea and you have one idea, we each now have at least two.  We have more because layered ideas may propagate.  Since technology and ideas proliferate almost at the speed of the internet, marketing execs need to remain focused on innovation.  I don’t believe fast followership works today because customers want to be associated with a leader.  Innovation doesn’t have to mean product innovation.  It could be the way the product is merchandised, distributed or otherwise marketed.  And it can certainly affect the way that sales enablement is developed to support the sales team.
  • Customer passion:  Marketing executives need to be out in the field supporting sales peoples in front of customers and be talking to customers to see and listen to how customers use their products.  How many marketing executives do mystery shopping?  (How many executives actually play the role of Undercover Boss?)  It is critical not only to be in the field but to use technology such as Twitter, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn Groups, and online “clubs,” to listen to what customers are saying.  The tools exist and the marketing executive needs these listening posts.  Then, more importantly, the exec needs to be the linking pin from the outside world of the customer to the inside world of manufacturing and production.
  • Analytics:  I have to admit I am an engineer and have a business degree in economics.   I love quant!!!  The marketing executives today must be able to measure nearly everything to show that an investment in dollars will provide a clear return.   This goes a long way towards accountability.   Analytics represents the tools to provide the numbers. They can include tools from your CRM system or Google Analytics. More importantly, though, the analytics have to measure the right thing that makes the business run.  Metrics may include cost per gross addition, average revenue per user, order size, return rate, and even some customer satisfaction and loyalty metrics.
  • Business perspective:  Above all, the marketing executive needs to have a solid business perspective.  The marketing plan and the marketing team are there to support the overall strategic and business plans of the business.   As the linking pin between the outside world of the customer and the internal production and operations world of the company, the marketing executive can contribute significant knowledge that can help generate profitable revenue.  The best complement a marketing executive can obtain is when the CEO says that you are a good business person.

Marketing is an interesting and complex discipline not well understood by many CEOs. I do believe that some of the above prescriptions can help put our discipline in a new light and that we won’t have to wear our helmets when we try to move the cheese.

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