Marketers are Failing Miserably at Building Business Credibility

by · April 16, 20139 comments

Does that make your blood boil a little? It sure does for me. I’ve spent my entire career as a marketer trying to prove marketing’s value to business results. To see that my “peeps” lack credibility and are viewed as not understanding business is disheartening to say the least. In the early days in my career I noticed there were two different types of companies that had a large impact on marketer credibility: sales-driven companies and market-driven companies.

The Sales-Driven Company

The sales-driven companies I have experienced view their sales team as the bread and butter of the organization. Marketing was viewed as an expense that ultimately takes away from the ability to hire more sales people. This created a battlefield between marketing and sales for budget and resources that was absolutely counter-productive. It was an US vs THEM mentality. In a sales-driven company it was very common to have a Vice President of Sales AND Marketing who was really just a sales person who inherited the marketing team through a shallow attempt at getting the two groups to work together. In these companies marketers have NO credibility, regardless of talent or business understanding.

The Market-Driven Company

The market-driven companies I have experienced focused on how the market responds to the company’s product and service offerings. They viewed marketing as a central source of intelligence for seeing market shifts early to keep the company ahead of competition. Marketing positions were highly coveted because they hold “sizzle” and “influence” in driving the company into the future. In the market-driven companies, marketers were celebrated and viewed as central to the company’s progress. In these companies marketers have SOME credibility based upon talent and business understanding.

But you know what? Neither of those types of companies had CEOs that came from marketing. Why is that? Why do marketers get overlooked for CEO positions? To be fair there are CMO’s who’ve taken the helm, but I find it far less often than I would like. Just last week at Social Media Marketing World, I asked a room of 300 marketers how many of their company’s had CEO’s that came from marketing. You know how many raised their hands? EIGHT!

Marketers Are Losing the War

While marketers may be winning the battle for getting larger budgets for things like digital marketing and social media, they are losing the war. Three stats from an article in Marketing Week cited from The Fournaise Report that validate that for me.

1. “More than a third (69%) of CEOs say they have stopped enforcing key business objectives and indicators on marketers because they have ‘continuously’ failed to prove marketing strategies and campaigns delivered business growth.”

No BS Translation: CEOs think marketers lack credibility, that they don’t understand business, and that they are failing.

2. “The report says that many CEOs have marketing departments ‘purely out of tradition’ and have ‘made the conscious decision not to expect more from marketing than branding, look/feel good ads and promotions.”

No BS Translation: CEOs think marketers are a cost of doing business, they don’t expect much from them, and that marketers are fluff stealing from the bottom-line.

3. “Just 20 percent of CEOs consider their top marketers to be ROI marketers but those that do, believe they have a ‘solid influence’ within the organisation and could go on to senior management.”

No BS Translation: 80% of CEOs don’t think marketers have influence or a path to senior management.

This report actually came out in December of 2012 so it’s not trending news. Its news that upset me so much it took me four months to process, absorb and reflect on the ramifications.

I’ve come to the conclusion that marketers are in trouble.

There are too many marketers out there who don’t measure results

Maybe marketers don’t have their eye on the ball? Maybe marketers have lost sight of the big picture? Maybe marketers aren’t credible? Maybe marketers don’t understand business? Who knows, but the reality is that marketers who understand business and how to deliver ROI through marketing have the advantage. The problem is there aren’t enough of them. There are too many marketers out there with “shiny object syndrome” who aren’t focused on optimizing what they are already doing. If you’re focused on social media and your website sucks, you’re one of them. There are too many marketers who want to be on every social channel instead of the right social channel. If you’re a marketer who is barely able to keep up with the 5 social networks and being average on all of them, you’re one of them. There are too many marketers who don’t measure results or present decks of fluff stats to “satisfy” executives for awhile. If you’re leading with stats like followers, likes, or mentions to executives you’re one of them. Frankly, there are too many marketers focused on “social media” instead of driving business results.

As a result, I think business is in trouble.

 Technology is moving quickly. Buyer’s are changing their buying behaviors every day. Marketing is evolving and I believe companies with non-marketing CEOs will struggle to keep up.  The Fortune 500 list is changing more rapidly than ever before with giants being eaten up by companies that are agile and adept to the changing marketplace.

Frankly, we don’t have time to “teach” executives about the realities of how digital is changing business. We can’t teach CEO’s what Twitter, Facebook or Path is and why it matters because they’ll probably never really get it. More marketers should be in the driver’s seat, but unfortunately too many aren’t even in the same car. It’s time to get real marketers. Too many of you are failing at building business credibility. Start focusing on what drives business and figure out how marketing can support that. Start measuring results down to sales volume, revenue and cost so you can optimize and increase ROI. Get out of the social media echo chamber and start focusing on integrated marketing. Then and only then, will you have a fighting chance of winning the war, one battle at a time.

What do you think? Do marketers lack what it takes to lead companies? Are CEOs right? Or are marketers getting the short-end of the stick? Leave a comment and join the conversation.

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About Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://twitter.com/gregbardwell Greg Bardwell

    As a business owner who sells marketing technology to marketers and business owners, this is no real surprise. What did surprise me was learning this from talking to both marketers and business owners. You hit all the key points. CEO’s and many marketers do not know how marketing can drive revenue — or even if it does. There is so much wrong here it boggles my mind at times.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Greg – It’s always an interesting conversation to ask a CEO if they feel their marketing team drives revenue. It’s even more interesting to ask the question while the marketing team is in the room. The shifting of the butts in chairs, the dropped jaws, and the CEO trying to politely say no. I’m a firm believer in that marketers need to know where they stand. It’s amazing how we can be so in tune to our personal relationships yet oblivious to our professional reputation. If my husband wanted a divorce, I’d like to think I’d have some signs, see some issues and have warning so we could fix it together. Yet, in business we put our heads in the sand and hope some “campaign” will save us. We’ve got to face the music and start talking the same language or we have no shot. Just my two cents and it sounds like you’re coming from a similar perspective! Thanks so much for commenting.

  • http://www.feldmancreative.com/ Barry Feldman

    I think we have a branding problem here. Perhaps a new generation of marketers who actually do the things you’ve said they should need a new name other than “marketers.” Perception is reality, right? The perception is: marketers are costly must-haves who don’t get the register to ring and have no place in the corner office. And you can probably make a case we did this to ourselves by enjoying the fact that in the broadcasting age we didn’t have to deliver real ROI data.

    C’mon now peeps. Toss in a new name. It’s time to rebrand the CMO. Chief Lead Officer? Your turn.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Do you solve the problem with a new name for marketers? I don’t think so. That’s just more marketing spin that makes people even more leery. I’d argue we need to fix the perception problem by actually starting to prove we understand business. There are numerous examples of companies that fell short in perception and turned it around. If we can’t market “ourselves” as marketers than perhaps the CEO’s are right.

  • Dara Khajavi

    This is something that greatly frustrates me. I often find that consumers do not trust people in marketing. In the end, I do not think it is completely marketers at fault. I believe it is also the company as a whole not fully representing and supporting the marketing decisions or campaigns. Therefore, the marketing is less effective because the whole brand is not fully supporting the marketing. Consumers are smart. They can tell when a brand is not being fully honest. In order for marketing to be effective, the whole company must support the marketing. I think marketing execs can lead the company, but it is up to the CEOs to trust the marketers.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Is it that the company doesn’t support marketing? Or that marketing hasn’t gained credibility with the company? I think many times it’s the latter. If marketing had credibility and management knows they drive real results, getting support isn’t an issue. What do you think?

      • Dara Khajavi

        I think that marketing and management need to have a strong relationship. Both need to support each other. Neither can be credible or efficient without the support of the other.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cea.roadster Cea Roadster

    One of the main reasons i have found for the failures of marketers when it comes to building business is the lack of usage of social media. It is really important for them to market their products over every good social networking site, as just focusing over Facebook, G+ and Twitter is really not enough! By focusing over every big social network they can get organic traffic, good sales as well as higher search engine rankings, and in order to do that in the best possible manner and in minimum time frame all a person has to do is to go with a content management tool as it allows you to post your marketing pitch to over 50+ social networks and in a matter of few seconds, and ofcourse it is free to use!

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