Marketing must drive the future

Cultivating profit & planet, shareholders & stakeholders

Marketing today is the key to customer success. This mission has never been more significant and more challenging. Today we marketers must have a digital sense, a purpose sense and, most critically, a business sense as our companies and institutions strive to balance shareholders and stakeholders, profits and our planet.

Yet, how many of our colleagues will agree with us and proclaim that marketing is the most important function? How many indeed? Not enough. Especially not enough of our C-level and Board-level people, those legal and financial leaders, who typically occupy those positions.

We need everyone engaged and committed, not simply compliant, if we are to deliver the best end-to-end customer experiences across our businesses, from operations, to customer service to sales, from multi-channel to omni channel.

In attempting to make this customer first vision happen, how many people will marketing have to interact with? Everyone, almost. Yet how many of those people will report to marketing? Very few.

This reality means we must generate impact without direct authority. It means we have got to be incredibly good at mobilizing. We can’t just be doing marketing, we must be leading marketing.

  • Mobilising our boss
  • Mobilising our colleagues
  • Mobilising our team
  • Mobilising ourselves

Unfortunately, doing this, generating positive momentum, is typically difficult in most traditional, hierarchical, matrix-structured, geographically distributed organisations populated by silos.

In this complicated landscape marketing is often not truly aligned with the business.

All too often there is a trust deficit, a credibility gap.

In marketing we are talking about the future, which is what we must do. However, what we have claimed about the future often has not been realized. Too often we have focused on our perceived need to build tomorrow’s brand whilst not aligning with the business around the commercial imperative to generate demand today. In contrast the people in Finance and Operations, are mostly focused on the factual present and the past.

Too often we are not talking the business language of our colleagues? What Chief Executive talks about Google analytics vanity metrics, or is genuinely interested in our augmented reality trial campaign or gets animated about our new Customer Data Platform. Maybe the CEO should get interested in the CDP, but the other stuff?

What Sales leader gets excited about MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads)? Shouldn’t we be focused instead on SALs (Sales Accepted Leads), our marketing-sourced leads that the sales team is agreeing to own and progress?

And don’t we understand why customer service gets irritated by our shiny new brand campaign that promises a bright blue sky when they know the reality for too many customers is thunder, lightning & gale-force winds?

To close this trust gap we must align with the Chief Executive and the organic growth goals, that critical intersection where customer and company needs meet. Marketing must balance the inevitable tension between shareholders and stakeholders.

This means we must first close the skills gap. Marketing leaders must build a team with the best mix of creative, analytical and leadership skills – and then foster trust and excellence.

Marketing must be important to everyone, especially the Chief Executive. Marketing cannot be the discretionary operating expense budget number that is the first to be sacrificed when the EBIT target, our profit target, is threatened.

Fundamentally, we must inspire and credibly measure our impact. Profit and planet. Shareholders and stakeholders. This is how we ensure that we build a great marketing-driven, values-based, genuinely diverse company, that people want to work with not for, want to subscribe to rather than buy from. The marketing-led companies who get this right will out perform their peers, grow faster and deliver sustainable profits. And marketing will have a seat at the top table, recognized as the most important function.

2 days ago