Bridging the gap between CEO’s and CMO’s

Fournaise, a London-based global marketing performance measurement and management company, just released survey results of more than 1,200 small, medium and large corporate CEO’s as part of a 2012 Global Marketing Effectiveness Program. As a marketer, the results of this survey were disappointing to say the least, but not entirely surprising. Around 80% of the CEO’s surveyed were not impressed with their marketers, finding that they consistently fail to prove how their marketing strategies generate business growth and customer demand. Because of this lack of accountability, 64% indicated that they have removed critical responsibilities from their marketing departments, such as product development, pricing and channel management, leaving them primarily with marketing communications. Having been on both the corporate and agency-sides of marketing, I’ve seen this disconnect more times than I wish to acknowledge. And I’ve certainly seen how misunderstood marketing can be – often more so than other functional areas. However, dwelling in the blame game isn’t going to get us anywhere. So, what can we marketers do to bridge the gap?

1. Define marketing as more than “the group that makes things pretty”. Believe it or not, someone actually said that to me at an organization I worked at many years ago. As crazy as it sounds, we all know that there are a lot of corporations in which marketing is just that. They make cool ads and spruce up your PowerPoints. So, how do you get beyond this mentality? Demonstrate that you know your market, your customers and competitors just as much, if not more, than other stakeholders. Make connecting with your customers a key part of your strategy. Research, quantitative and qualitative, identified and anonymous, is critical. Make your research an enhancement to information the sales team “already knows” helping them better understand and adjust their strategies to connect with their targets. But make sure you use your findings to legitimize your own strategies and plans. Marketing can be subjective, but if you have research to back up your decisions, you’ll not only have stronger strategies, but less argument (i.e. more respect) from other stakeholders.

2. Measure. Measure. Measure. I know that we hear this over and over again, and it’s tough to connect marketing programs to business generated. But if you want to demonstrate the importance of marketing, you had better look for ways to measure performance whenever and wherever you can. And if you want to connect with your CEO, you need to talk in his or her terms. Website hits and email clicks won’t work. You need to correlate marketing activity to leads, revenue, profit margin, etc. You’ll have to dig for it, but once you start, if you’re systematic about keeping it up, you should be able to start attaching correlations between sales data and marketing activity. Of course, this will involve cooperation from the other teams, which leads to the next point.

3. Get marketing out of the silo. Effective marketing and its measurement cannot be done in a vacuum. It will require involvement and cooperation from other functional areas. You may put together a program to generate leads, but the leads go directly to sales, and you never hear anything again. Find a way to cooperate with the sales team or your CFO, so that information doesn’t disappear into the funnel. Get other internal teams involved in your programs to generate buy-in and cooperation, demonstrate how your programs bring greater value and contribute to their own goals, and rely on your research findings to help validate and sell your ideas when there are disagreements.

Let’s face it. We will always have to deal with non-marketers who fail to see marketing’s value or think marketing is something they can do themselves. But if we force ourselves to be a little more disciplined and strategic about our thinking and activities, we can demonstrate to all that our voice is worth taking a listen to.