From Brother UK to Exterion Media, Lucy Fisher talks to CEOs to find out how marketers can earn a place at the top table
The discipline of marketing is becoming increasingly complex. It’s also becoming more and more technical, along with the rise in importance, and continued proliferation of, new marketing platforms, techniques and technologies.
This means it’s all too easy for marketers to get bogged down in the detail of the day job and forget how important it is to sell internally as well as externally.
But alongside this challenge lies opportunity, as a report from Gartner, published earlier this year, points out. Gartner’s 2014 CEO survey revealed how CEOs see a leading role for marketing in digital business, with marketers expected to aid the growth charge.
We asked a panel of CEOs what they think is the best way for marketing teams to go about this and to please the head honcho in the process.
Nicholas Green, founder and CEO, Printed.com: “Help us understand what is or isn’t working”
“We need people who understand data, the sales funnel and the principles of optimisation. It’s very maths-heavy these days. Marketing traditionally was more about an idea. The catalyst has been the growth of online.
“You’ve got a lot of different channels now and you’ve got to find a way to bring them together. That’s the great challenge for marketing.
“It’s not easy to attribute revenue. You’ve got to find people who understand the value of likes and shares. We want people who can think in terms of lifetime value and revenue models, to help us understand what is or isn’t working.”
Shaun Gregory, CEO, Exterion Media: “Get involved in the strategic shift of the organisation”
“With the advent of social and digital, marketing is more integral, culturally, to an organisation.
“Marketing teams five years ago were seen as more of a risk area, and definitely a cost centre. But in the last three years it’s become more strategic as a discipline.
“Where marketers become really valuable is when they get involved in the strategic shift of the organisation; when they go beyond straightforward marketing. That said, as a CEO, you find that how people deliver information could always be better. I like graphics and summaries. My advice is to adopt a ‘brutalist’ approach.”
Gracia Amico, CEO, PetsPyjamas.com: “Come up with creative ideas, but in a commercial way”
“Marketing is changing and becoming a lot more commercial. It’s no longer seen as the pretty pictures department. But some marketers are not ‘owning’ the numbers yet, although I can see that this is changing. Marketing has to come up with new and creative ideas, but in a commercial way.
“Most CEOs come from financial backgrounds. I was marketing manager at Burberry, head of e-commerce at Topman and global director of ecommerce at Hobbs – and I think the case for the marketer in the boardroom has become stronger. This is, in part, because the digital era requires good analytics skills and those marketers who have this have more gravitas.”
Reggie Aggarwal, founder and CEO, Cvent: “Give sales good leads”
“Marketing is becoming technology-driven. It’s now about measurement of return on investment (ROI), analytics and efficiency. If you don’t give sales good leads or know what to say to prospects, that makes all the difference as to whether the company survives or not.
“A lot of people think that marketing is about creative geniuses, but you want people that are fluid in technology. You need a combination of skills. It’s important to embrace technology and to align with corporate strategy and business results. Even with branding campaigns there are now a lot of ways to measure ROI.”
Phil Jones, CEO, Brother UK: “Spend time with customers”
“CEOs want teams to be number-aligned, and intent-aligned. And there is a need to spend more time with customers. For me, that’s the number one thing. It allows you to do a better job.
“The customer can wreck your reputation. You have to retain intimacy and relevance, on a human level. The more we can derive from our own intelligence, not just through analytics, but also as a sales organisation selling through distributors, resellers, dealers, partners and end users, the better.
“You’ve also got to think like a CEO. CEOs are quite summary-orientated. They have to synthesize masses of information. Those who provide actionable insights shine out above the rest.”
Debbie Williams, CEO, MyPropertyAngels.com: “Communicate from a business-case perspective”
“The CEO agenda is very focused on revenue and profitability, so marketing has to communicate how it is contributing to revenue growth. Historically the department has not given answers to these questions and consequently it’s been seen as a cost centre. Marketers should stand up and be accountable. They need to communicate from a business-case perspective.
“Marketers are good at external marketing to prospects but they need to get better at internal marketing, which is equally important, particularly at board level.”
In other words, marketers who can help frame and shape the discussion around digital business will become increasingly influential. They should also earn a place at the top table, if they’re not there already.
Hopefully that’s farewell to the days when marketing was seen as the ‘colouring in’ department.