BrainBrainTrust Query: Grow Your Marketing Credibility Before It’s Too Late

Mar 28, 2013

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Cultivating Your Customers, the M Squared Group blog.

Anyone who has a teenager in the family knows the meaning of the phrase "they tuned you out." Whether it is with the rolled eyeballs or the glance at the cell phone, you know that you can talk all you want, but they are not going to believe what you say.

What if the CEO of your company treated you the same way?

Research from the Fournaise Group says that:

  • Eighty percent of CEOs do not trust the work of their marketers.
  • Seventy-eight percent of B2C CEOs think marketers too often lose sight of what their real job is: to generate more customer demand for their products/services in a business-quantifiable and business-measurable way.
  • Sixty-nine percent of B2C CEOs believe marketers live too much in a creative/social media bubble and focus too much on parameters such as likes, tweets, feeds or followers.

The CEO may be treating the marketer politely in the meeting, but they are going back to their CFO afterwards to figure out what they can believe.

So how does the CMO begin to build marketing credibility before it gets too late?

  • Measurement is not an option but a requirement. Every marketing program needs to have a measurement plan before going into market. Then the marketing team must make it a priority to actually do the measurement, determine the key learnings and act on the implications — every time.
  • Make the CFO your best friend. Instead of avoiding the CFO in fear of budget cuts, the CMO must align with finance to gain agreement on ways to evaluate marketing programs, again, before they go into the market. Then you will have the CFO in your corner when the CEO asks, "Can I believe in these numbers?"
  • Your sales team must buy in. Often, marketing has been accused of bringing ivory tower approaches to a sales and operations team that is faced with the reality of meeting numbers every day. Partner with sales from the outset. If they agree, you have a much better chance of success. You can also present a united front to the CEO, positioning yourself as a team player — another benefit.

The good news about focusing on credibility and measurement is that you will have a more enjoyable experience with your CEO and have opportunities to increase your impact and scope in the organization. The bad news is that some of the "shiny new things" — social media, iPhone apps, etc. — may end up falling to the wayside. But unless you are willing to make the hard choices and focus priorities on the programs and tactics that drive results, your promise of accountability will ring false.

What steps should marketing teams be taking to improve support and trust from the CEO level? What suggestions would you add to those mentioned in the article?

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17 Comments on "BrainBrainTrust Query: Grow Your Marketing Credibility Before It’s Too Late"

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Dick Seesel

It’s simple: Marketing executives and their teams need to be aligned with company goals of growing profitable sales, which is not mutually exclusive from long-term branding and CRM programs. Easier said than done, I know, but measurable results as part of an incentive package might help.

Ben Ball

Having lived this very conundrum for many years, I have to say Mark hits a lot of the really tough issues right on the head.

I would add this on the new product development front—shoot your own dogs quickly. Don’t flood the organization with 25 small ideas that clog the pipeline without much hope of meaningful return. Demonstrate to the rest of the organization that you understand the value and cost of their time and commitment to your projects.

Dr. Stephen Needel

I’m having a hard time believing this data is either real or has any relevance to the world RetailWire lives in. For all of us who are doing work with CPG clients, how many of them are not marketing driven? P&G, Coke, Pepsico, General Mills, J&J, Unilever, Kraft/Mondelez—these are the type of companies that make everything we find in grocery stores and they are all marketing driven (for better or worse—not getting into that argument). You don’t ever hear their CEOs saying, “my marketers suck.”

The CFO will never be buddies with the CMO–they shouldn’t be. BUT, they should be able to work together and it’s the CEO’s job to make sure that’s happening. If the CEO doesn’t trust the marketers, fire them.

Lee Peterson

This is a funny conversation because, from my experience, ALL CEOs have A.D.D.—they literally have to. Matter of fact, “Executive ADD” is a common consulting term. So, just like children, the best way to deal with that is to try and avoid distractions, of course, but also to be VERY succinct in what you present and how you present it. Forget about small talk; get to point and talk about results. If they’re up to it, they can engage you in other discussions AFTER you’ve proved your worth.

You have to make impact in your dealings with the CEO. They don’t have time to talk about anything else. It’s not only the best way to get something accomplished, but it’s just plain good business etiquette.

Max Goldberg

As much as CEOs might like marketing to be concrete, it frequently contains intangibles. New, unproven technologies need to be tested in the marketing mix. And just because most CEOs do not understand or use Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter does not mean that they should be omitted from a marketing campaign.

There needs to be a level of trust at the c-suite level. If a CEO cannot trust his CMO, there needs to be a meeting of the minds or a change. Likewise, CMOs need to demonstrate that they understand and support the core message of company. CEOs need to be educated on how the world of marketing is changing and becoming more consumer-centric.

With better, frequent dialogue, CEOs and CMOs can become mutually supportive and pursue a similar vision for a company.

Nikki Baird

Well, while I can easily be accused of having said that marketers need to focus more on “selling more stuff” rather than just awareness—the ultimate measure of success in retail—I have to say that having that as the only “measurable” objective for marketing is short-sighted. Retailers more than ever need to build a brand in consumers’ minds, and build trust among those consumers so that brands don’t have to compete so hard on price.

That said, I think there is another important way to demonstrate the value of marketing to the retail organization, and that is by focusing on customer insights. Not for marketing purposes, but with the intent of educating the entire enterprise about who the retailer’s customers are and what they like and don’t like and want from a shopping experience. Marketers by all rights should be the stewards of customer data—growing it, refining it, and making sure that the entire enterprise benefits from insights derived from it.

Warren Thayer

This is all totally spot-on. I’ve seen all of these points in action, with the trouble lying on both sides at different times. If the CEO isn’t demanding measurable results, he/she isn’t worth a damn and you should be worried. Same goes for the MBA “marketers” who just might as well say “Let’s play business!” while they chase their tails.

I’ve had CEOs who felt their job was to make sure the window blinds were all in alignment so the building would look “nice” from the outside, and I’ve had marketing people squander enormous amounts of resources on “brilliant” web initiatives that didn’t do squat, while those same resources were desperately needed by the segments that actually drove the business.

I think all the advice offered from M Squared Group is really good. The only thing I’d add is advice I should have taken in my 20s or 30s: “If you CEO or team just isn’t doing the job, try to change them if you can. But if you can’t change them, then do yourself a favor and quit!

Cathy Hotka

Been there, done that.

It’s definitely possible to measure the success of marketing programs. But it’s also true that keeping your name in front of the customer is a smart practice—ask McDonald’s. Everyone knows about McDonald’s and the products they sell, but McD continues to run ads, to build buzz and create desire. Stop marketing for a while and see if sales grow (they won’t).

This reminds me of those old “is IT worth it?” conversations we had in the early ’90s. The obvious answer to that questions was “let’s turn off the machines and see if anyone notices.”

Tom Redd

After over 25 years in retail tech marketing, the way to gain the trust of a CEO is show them the beef. Beef? The real numberss of how business performance has changed. Okay, that is a no-brainer. Next, get them in the game. I still remember when I was back at a smaller shop and we had our CEO in the first website re-design meetings. We needed the CEO’s support and extra funding and got it as he learned more about how the web could impact the lead gen efforts and cut costs.

We also stuck to the basics and avoided all the hype tech that was pouring onto the web to ehhance marketing. Stick to the basics. Today, I would be careful with the overload of social, “shiny new things” marketing—some of it wall fall and the marketing team will be stuck trying to explain it all.

For retailers, test out new tools and ideas on small segments of the market. Nothing new here, but it works and helps gain more CEO support.

Tom…glad to be an old marketer!

Ken Lonyai

The article has some good suggestions for marketers, but I’d like to point to the obvious issue with companies that have these communications problems: customer focus.

If the C-level management and those below are not aligned in their thinking and execution, somewhere (everywhere?) that customers interact with the brand, there will be breaks in user experience and that will inevitably cost the company. Marketing, (really every department) needs the support of every other department or customers will get the short end of the stick. CEOs that don’t effectively support their own marketing team need to take a long hard look in the mirror.

Vahe Katros
One of the main themes of this story is CEO angst over the disconnect between marketers and the audiences they serve. Relating to that, it seems some firms are organizing and engaging the segments they serve in a systematic way in search of the narratives. The narrative is the proxy for your outreach. Will customers roll their eyes when they hear their own words and their own story? Drafting and maintaining the narrative can be expensive so I would suggest that firms calculate the silos of research that currently happen (for mobile apps, web sites, and customer experience projects) and pool their research budget—the central character in that effort is the Insights Manager. They have experience with quant/qual and story telling. They’re mission is to “tune you in.” And it costs money. Enter the CFO. My suggestion would be to engage the CFO to calculate the company-wide time (not usually tracked) and money spent trying to understand your customers. Once you have those numbers, you can explore alternatives. I suppose you can also calculate the costs relating to lack of relevance as well…. The other alternative is to pay your agency or others to do the research—but that isn’t happening… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson

A brand (retailer or CPG) has a million Facebook likes. So, what?! That, alone, doesn’t pay the bills.

A brand knows that “50% of our marketing is working. We just don’t know which 50%.”

Bottom line, marketers gain respect when their efforts have tangible ROI. The best marketers in the world utilize powerful performance measures that help drive real business value, like profitable revenue growth. It’s as simple as that. Show the business results that are a direct result of the marketing tactics.

Kai Clarke

Transparent communications. This is critical between all divisions, but especially between the CEO and Marketing. Also, all marketing efforts must be realistic, achievable and measurable in their goals (numbers based). This means marketing must get the buy in from both Finance and Sales before presenting it. Marketing efforts without numbers are subjective, at best, and unreasonable at worst. Marketing can avoid these issues by requiring their teams to always have numbers-based goals (and timelines) as part of each marketing proposal.

Bill Hanifin

What can be added to this list full of good advice? Possibly to recommend that any younger people considering a career in marketing and with aspirations to the C-suite take as many finance courses as they can fit into their schedule. Sprinkle in some statistical analytics and they will be better prepared than the last generation of marketers.

This is the age of measurable marketing and a foundation in business and finance is key to success. I have found it an easier path to start with finance and “learn” marketing rather than the opposite pattern.

The list shared in the article is a good one and, with a nod to the poll results, in order to become BFFs with the CFO, the CMO should have that measurement plan ready to go at a moment’s notice.

gordon arnold
This discussion is very much in tune with the current economic climate found in most retail/B2C businesses today. Modern accounting and audit practices leave little room for speculation when the board is reviewing sales and expenses. CFOs today are fully aware of the trends and conditions of core business plans. Balance sheets are massaged in real time to provide up to the minute maximized earnings results available in a choice of red or black ink. Marketing executives will no doubt keep a keen eye on the company’s profit and sales position daily. Marketing experts submit their needs to support a corporate financial plan with a usual 5 year maximum life span after carefully discussing ideas and needs from the C?O team membership an the strategic board members or corporate ownership. When the economy nose dives as we have seen over the past 5+ years very few companies have had the presence of mind to accept sales, marketing and advertising departments as powerful tools that are as necessary as any another department. These three departments are usually downsized to irrelevance as a cost savings need. Here are the realities we are all very much aware of and have accepted as normal… Read more »
Shep Hyken

Executives like numbers. It is all about measurement. With so much data that is extracted directly from customers, their buying patterns, their shopping patterns and more, it’s easy to get caught up in too much data, causing “analysis paralysis.” The best leaders know what they want know and what data will help them get that information.

Give the right data. Make suggestions on how to react or respond to the data. That’s what the C suite executive wants. Information and options on how to use it. From there they make confident decisions.

Kurt Seemar
Kurt Seemar
4 years 6 months ago

Just like any other part of the business, marketing needs to align their goals with the goals of the business then measure the progress towards meeting the goals. Too often, marketing is given goals and a corresponding compensation plan that does not necessarily tie to the end goals of the company. Then when CMOs maximize their compensation they get dinged.

Step 1: Understand the true key performance indicators (KPIs). Facebook likes, twitter followers and website visitors are not KPIs. They may be correlated metrics but they are not KPIs. An example of a KPI is incremental sales volume generated by a campaign.

Step 2: Set goals based on the KPIs that will move the business and align compensation plans accordingly.

Step 3: Measure the progress in meeting the goals based on KPIs.

Every step of the way the outcome should be based on a conversation between the CEO, CFO, CMO and sales lead.


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