CMO Council Survey

According to Marketing Management, CMO Council findings revealed "only 10% of respondents to a recent survey said their marketing groups are 'highly influential and strategic' within the company."

What's the deal?

Isn't the marketing arm supposed to be the most influential and strategic department within a company? Isn't marketing where we look for customer knowledge, brand messaging, product development direction, sales messaging, product knowledge, market forecasts, competitive analysis, pricing strategy.... The list goes on. I know. I've spent the last decade and a half making sure all those things are being done correctly. And that's why I don't get it.

If only 10% of marketing groups are providing influence and strategy, what are the other 90% doing?

I have some ideas.

In my experience consulting with companies, two scenarios seem to make up the bulk those who follow the forms of marketing but lack the inspiration and direction that should come from a healthy marketing arm.

First, a large percentage aren't really marketing groups at all. They are micro-managed, task oriented creative departments that get labeled "marketing." They build brochures that sales asks for. They build packaging that product development asks for. Their interaction with market data stops after collection, when it is handed up to an executive committee who determine for themselves what the raw data means.

This group may have great ideas, but they lack influence because they don't know how to consult in a way that speaks to the business. They don't even interact well with their nearest neighbor, sales. If they do come up with some strategic direction, they don't go through the steps to collaborate with sales and create a business case that can be sold up the chain to the CEO.

The end results of their efforts are lack-luster creative pieces that constantly shifts from one brand message to another without inspiring anyone outside the company any more than they inspire inside the company. They are cogs in a machine, putting in forty hours and living for the weekend.

The second scenario is not as much the result of poor consulting skills among the marketing group as it is extreme mismanagement by the executive staff. It's generally a case of executives stepping down and forcing their will on the marketing team. Attempts at influence or strategic thinking from the marketing group are punished. Those who may drive the company forward by inspiring those around them are stifled and eliminated so they don't take the spotlight away from the executive team.

In short, the failure within this type of company comes from the top. It comes often from a CEO who wants to be idea originator. His ego demands that he be seen as the marketing, sales, operations, and accounting genius of the company. What he ends up with are cogs putting in forty hours a week and living for the weekend.

So what do you do if you're in one of the 90% of companies who's marketing group neither highly influential nor strategic?

Assuming you want to have a marketing group that is influential in driving the growth of your company, something has to change. If you keep doing the same old thing, you'll keep getting the same old results.

You can approach change in several ways. You can clean house and start over. You can empower marketing and see what happens. Or you can empower, train, and coach your marketing (and sales) team so that they resemble one of the 10%. (Here's a little secret: the 10% are the market leaders.)

Whatever your business problems are, influential and strategic marketing should be part of the solution.