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What Tech CEOs Should Expect from their Marketing Leaders

This article originally appeared in the Renaissance Executive Forums May 5, 2015 newsletter.

Many Marketing staffers in companies that are trying to get to the next level are not serving their employers as well as they can. Whose fault is it–the CEO or the Marketing staffers?

In a popular 1980’s song, Howard Jones famously said no one ever is to blame. That’s not the case here. Marketing needs to deliver more purposeful servicing to the company, and the CEO needs to communicate more clearly what Marketing should deliver. It does not matter whether the marketing staff is internal or outsourced.

Most CEOs have an intimate understanding of the markets they serve or the product/service they bring to market. They have built or now run a company that is trying to more effectively bring these offerings to market. For the entrepreneurial CEO, they are usually even more intimate with their business offering and the market they are serving. To take their company to the next level, they might need to learn new skills in finance, hiring, and operations to ensure they have the best management team, people and processes to succeed. Companies such as Renaissance Executive Forum and Vistage provide guidance and resources to make this happen.

One part of the company, however, that they usually get wrong is Marketing. Here is why that is and three suggestions to help CEOs get more value from their Marketing organization and related investments.

THREE REASONS FOR THIS DISCONNECT

Although there are probably a dozen reasons why there is a disconnect, let’s take a look at three:

  • Marketing means many different things to different people
  • Too many marketers still gravitate towards cool but unimportant things
  • Marketers frequently don’t understand their role in the organization

Ask ten people what Marketing is, and you might get ten different answers. They’ll say Marketing is branding, lead generation, nurturing, graphic design, CRM, or even the logo. Ask them what sales, accounting, or HR is, and there’s usually no fuzziness.

For instance, I once had a client, a CEO who made a fortune as a sales leader at multiple big-brand companies, who was obsessed with his PowerPoint slides. He insisted that Marketing’s main job was to keep coming up with imagery that made them look nicer.

I’ve had other clients who were obsessed with lead generation. They expected Marketing to come through regularly with enough leads to fill their struggling sales team’s pipeline. It didn’t matter if the leads were ever acted upon, as long as a lot of activities were being done to bring them in.

And still, other clients expected nothing more than glorified branding from the Marketing team, such as graphical support, web site design, and recently, social media.

Many times, the CEO lets Marketing off the hook by only expecting the above and even then, with limited deliverables. For the small to midsized company, Marketing’s primary job is to accelerate the sales process by removing obstacles that slow or inhibit the sale. This could mean ensuring that the web site positions the company properly and smartly drives targets to the right person. Utilizing marketing automation technology expertly should help to enable quick action and follow up. And content marketing best practices can help get critical messages to prospects that might be interested in hearing them.

I’ve led dozens of marketing efforts either as an in-house marketing leader or an outsourced consultant for companies across many different sectors. One thing I continue to see is that Marketing is often doing things that do not support the company’s mission. One can argue that it might be the only department in the company that can get away with it. If Sales is not meeting its quota, it’ll be obvious when a weak top line results. If Accounting is not managing expenses properly, the shock will become apparent when cash flow slows. And, if the Product Development team is not delivering new products on time, there will be nothing worthwhile or competitive to sell.

Sometimes it might seem that your Marketing staff can be the hardest working team in your company, and it won’t even matter if they’re not focused on what’s really important – starting with removing obstacles from the sales process. When this becomes apparent to the astute CEO, frustrations arise and tensions mount.

WHAT CEOS SHOULD DO ABOUT THIS

  • Tell Marketing that it must play a lead role in removing obstacles in the sales process
  • Push Marketing to ensure that all of their activities support the mission
  • Push Marketing to understand the competition and the industry so that they can add significant value to your mission

I’ve used the mantra “marketing that does not lead to revenue reward is a HUGE waste of time and money” for years. It’s resonated with many of the CEOs I’ve supported. The Marketing team needs to live this. The big brands with large budgets can get away with wasting a lot of marketing dollars on activities that may not have any lasting value, such as supporting big commercial events that just “get the name out” or large scale advertising campaigns with little staying power or remembrance.

For smaller firms where Marketing’s role is to help the firm grow by increasing sales, it must be focused on activities that are helping the prospect base understand the firm’s value proposition and how the firm’s products and services can help. Working to ensure that the contacts in the CRM system are fresh and correct is critical. Constantly refreshing the messaging in the nurture campaigns is also essential. The CEO needs to ensure that these people stay focused on this mission.

Working with sales to understand what messages are currently resonating is a critical function that many marketers still shy away from doing. The CEO must ensure that the marketers are meeting with the sales team regularly without excuse to learn what’s happening on the front line and why the new messages are important must be clearly put into context.

Another expectation should be that the Marketing staff knows what’s going on in the marketplace. They should be using Google alerts and social media tracking tools to see what news is being released and what insiders are saying. Marketing sometimes still does too many tasks in a vacuum. Too often marketers think they are doing their job by producing a lot things or completing tasks. A completed blog post, a webinar that attracted 250 people or a finished PowerPoint is often recognized as a marketing job well done. Marketing staffers need to take it to the next level and add value to the firm’s mission by understanding where the firm fits in the market and how everything they do must make that positioning more impactful.

SUMMARY

CEOs need to ensure that their Marketing staffers are focused on doing things that accelerate the sales process. Even team members such as graphic designers who might not seem like they are helping drive sales must remember that their objective is to move the mission forward. The Marketing team needs to constantly check itself to ensure that it’s helping the company achieve those goals.

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