Marketers are Failing Miserably at Building Business Credibility

Marketers aren’t CEO’s Because They Don’t Understand Business

by Nichole Kelly |

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.


About the Author

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