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 https://www.cmo.com/leadership/73-ceos-say-marketers-lack-credibility

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