73% Of CEOs Say Marketers Lack Credibility

Fournaise, a marketing consulting firm, recently completed a study that found that marketers and CEOs have a big disconnect.  I don’t disagree there is a disconnect but it is disconcerting that a study of 600 companies finds marketing has such a widespread lack of credibility.

I could dissect the study’s approach and find flaws with the methodology or with how the results were interpreted.  Or point out that the study headlines have been sensationalized and are rather self-serving given what Fournaise does.

But attacking the credibility of the study does not remove the gnawing feeling that there is truth in the headline.   The short tenure of CMOs, the persistent lack of sales and marketing alignment, widespread disappointment in marketing’s poor revenue productivity, and the ubiquitous head scratching about what exactly is marketing’s role supports the claim that there is a disconnect between the CEO and marketing.  What I don’t buy is that this is all marketing’s fault.

Marketing, as a discipline, is at a tipping point; it will either redefine its value within the corporation and the market or marketers will find themselves relegated to a tactical role in sales.  There are three driving forces behind this: An economic rebound that is growth-challenged, the rise of transparent markets where the buyer (B2B as well as B2C) sets all the rules,  and a forced fundamental transformation of marketing.

In a market flooded with new information channels that are not well defined and customers making purchase decisions based on their  expectation of lifetime experience, marketing is focused on understanding how to navigate this new landscape while redefining how it mediates the company’s value promise with the buyer’s desired outcome.  Marketing, as a discipline, is evolving from being sales’ advocate to enabling and empowering buyers.

Not many CEOs understand that.

To CEOs who lament about marketing’s lack of “speaking the P&L language”, I say start by first reaching a common understanding with your CMO of what marketing means to your company.  I can assure you that your definition of marketing is very different from your CMO’s definition; and just because you’re the CEO doesn’t make your definition the right one.    Second,  develop some empathy and try to understand the transformation that is happening.   You need to understand this because it’ll help you make better investment decisions that drive revenue.   Then, together, set some meaningful goals and KPIs for marketing.

To CMOs who complain about being misunderstood, under appreciated or Sales’ punching bag, I say step up to the challenge.  This is a critical time for marketing. You need to lead the company through this transformation with an inspired vision, gutsy and decisive leadership, fact-based decision making and a laser focus on how to drive constant revenue growth in a world where unpredictability is the constant.  Your KPIs need to reflect marketing’s new scope and measure what matters – revenue growth, quality of customer experiences, reputation and effectiveness of strategy.  The real opportunity is to transform marketing into the company’s guiding light for continuously creating meaningful value; however the market defines ‘value’.

If you’re interested in the Fournaise study, here is the link http://www.cmo.com/leadership/73-ceos-say-marketers-lack-credibility

Comments (6)

  1. Muhammad Waheed -
    June 20, 2011

    Yes, off course, i would like to study all the things. I really found it interested as i strongly agree & disagree with a lot of comments & opinions given here.
    When i will be in touch with you, i will be studying all issues in details, then i will be giving comments also.


  2. Adele Revella -
    June 21, 2011

    I haven’t read the study but agree with your assessment Christine. Whether it’s right or not, the burden of solving this problem is probably on the shoulders of the CMO. The CEO has so many competing priorities.

    Part of the problem is that the role of marketing is so poorly defined. To the rest of the organization, the work accomplished there looks like something anyone could do.

    I’ve just published The Buyer Persona Manifesto ebook (free, no registration) and proposed a plan for marketing to assume a role that is completely unfulfilled in the organization today. The ebook is published under a Creative Commons License so that you can feel free to email it or post it on your website (with attribution).

    I’d love to get your feedback.

  3. Bill Wiersma -
    June 22, 2011

    Misalignment between Sales and Marketing is one way to describe this problem. A downright Hatfield and McCoy feud between the two departments is another. The Marketing/IT interface is also troubling…as it too is typically less-than-desired. A big dose of fence-mending and future-focused collaboration would go a long way in serving Marketing’s best interests.

  4. Mircea -
    July 12, 2011

    I believe the CEO in this case has an accountancy background.. unfortunatelly, (or fortunatelly for shareholders…) more and more CEO.s have financing background.. hence less understanding of marketing, is the classic conflict between accounting and marketing people… however, I believe we can find plenty of examples where marketing is a clear waste of $… so I do understand some CEOs, therefore aligning the visions between the two should be a good opportunity for both.

  5. Christine -
    July 12, 2011

    There is an extended discussion on this topic on LinkedIn in the Corporate Planning & Global Industry Segmentation Group. This is an open group and the discussion there is very rich and insightful on the topic of measuring marketing. I encourage you check it out.

  6. Mark Mankin -
    July 22, 2011

    I’ll agree there are some fundamental issues around defining Marketing’s role in a lot of organizations. However, the adage about “50% of my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which 50%” is still stuck in many non-marketing functional leads (i.e., finance). Today’s technology and channels allow for a much lower “wasted” percentage, but unless and until CMO’s start to produce more credible linkages between their budget and revenue, the conflict in the C-Suite is likely to continue.

    The ability to create this linkage is typically available, but it involves a great deal of change, and usually a not insignificant investment. The CMO must make a decision to redirect budget towards this sort of infrastructural investment for the long term, or keep spending for dubious short term gains. It’s obviously difficult to rationalize a longer term investment, when the pressure is so high on ninety day results, but short term decisions are more likely to lead to short term tenures.

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