Rewriting the Formula: Groundhog Day

To the CFO it’s unnecessary and avoidable expense.

To the CEO it’s a quote in Forbes—or not.

To the VP of Sales it doesn’t help drive revenue fast enough (but things would be different if it only worked for him).

To the CIO it’s an incomprehensible bundle of mushy stuff that has no value (except for the occasional cool shirt or tchotke).

To everyone else it’s easy, so what’s the big deal?

To me it’s Groundhog Day.

“It” is Marketing. Yes, the department that, when things are going well, isn’t credited with any of the success, but when times are bad, is the accused source of misspending and unproductive activity.  Rome burned, Nero fiddled.  Company’s in a funk, Marketing’s eating shrimp at a conference.  OK, I’m exaggerating, but not by all that much.  What I want to put on the table for this blog is why this perception exists, and why it has persisted for so long.

While I am primarily a CMO, I have also run field and inside sales teams, channels organizations, and business development teams so I’m not a Marketing-ista (you may use that if you like).  I’ve been able to look at both sides, sometimes in the same job.  But even with that perspective it surprises me that around the executive table (and therefore across their respective departments) there is often a view of Marketing that I argue isn’t—or maybe more properly–doesn’t need to be true: there’s no accountability in marketing; there’s no measurement; everything’s a big deal—I just want a stupid brochure; can you run an event in Denver for me on Thursday—and invite 50 people? (And make sure they’re the right 50 people!)

Contrast that to, say, Product Development or Engineering, whether you’re making a software package, a Bluetooth headset or corn flakes.  The strategic plan is one thing, but resources, allocation of those resources, testing, rework, and a raft of variables complicate the path from idea to delivery.  That said, ask that same team to do something unplanned and the department head breathes fire and no more is said about the matter.

IT gets to say no.  Finance gets to say no.  There’s no time, there’s no budget, there’s no one to do what is asked.  You’ll have to wait until November or the next budget cycle—maybe.  But when was the last time you or your Marketing team got to say “we can’t fit it in this year’s budget” without some other part of the organization saying, “well, I’ll just go do it myself…”

Would it surprise you that I think it’s our own damned fault? Yes, as marketers we bring many of these things on ourselves. But before I share my solutions, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.  If you’re a marketer, kvetch away (or tell me what you’re doing to change that formula).  To my CxO readers (friends and strangers) what does your Marketing team do (or what do you wish it did do) to have a positive impact on your company?

Let’s keep the dialog going!

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