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Shut the door as you leave the nursery please…

By Dave Stevens

And so it’s back to business!  Whether it’s the arrival of Labor Day, the end of the school holidays, or simply the change of the weather, you can’t help but have picked up the signals that the final business term of 2012 is upon us.

For marketers, the season ahead is always a busy one as we focus on achieving or exceeding the business targets we signed up to some time ago now.  There’s little time for thought.  It’s all about execution by this time of year.

But I’d like to urge you to stop for a moment during the race to finalise an event, design a web-page, or test a new product – stop and consider the optics of what you are doing internally within your business.  Do the people in your organisation actually know what you are doing?  And why you are doing it?  Does your business actually know what marketing is?  And do you?

I’ve worked in a fair number of businesses in my career – public and private sector, large corporates and SMEs, B2C and B2B.  And I have to say that I’m not convinced that I’ve met many people in those businesses who have known what the role of the marketing department actually is.  That’s reflected in the remit of marketing in different organisations.  There’s astonishing diversity here:  should it include product management, price-setting, promotion, or distribution – or a mix of the same?  And if it’s only about marcomms, should the department include public relations, online, and what about social media?   It’s reflected too in reporting lines – should the marketing department sit in sales or operations or somewhere else?  It’s reflected in many, many CMOs not having a seat at the Board table.  And this ignorance of marketing is self-perpetuating, because business owners do not know what to look for in a marketer and so they recruit someone who does not have the right marketing skills to do a marketing job.

Why is marketing in this position?  Because marketing is an astonishingly young discipline.  It was practically unheard of as a term before 1970 and if you are in B2B before 1985.  Marketing did not reach most MBA syllabuses before 1990.  And then it took businesses a generation to get on board and build a department dedicated to marketing.  So we shouldn’t be surprised if, by 2012, businesses still don’t get it.  Those people reaching senior board positions right now started their business careers in firms with no marketing department.

It is our responsibility as professional marketers to work to turn this around.  Here are some suggestions for what we can do to fix the misconception.

1.  Marketers should establish a trade body that is able to set a common standard of qualification for the marketing profession and marketing leaders should insist that all practising marketers have that qualification.  It is through this model that accountancy got on the business map as a profession.  Why not marketing too?  In the UK, the Chartered Institute of Marketing has made an effort in this space, but its qualifications are too slanted to FMCG marketers and its qualifications are not enforced as licences to practice.  Professionals first of all need a profession.

2.  Marketers need to take the time to explain to our internal customers what marketing is and what it can do for them.  Start from the assumption that your internal audience does not know what you do and take the time to explain.  As marketers we should know how to market.  But we need to take the time to market ourselves as much as our products, services, and organisations.  We need to apply all of the skills that we have learnt over the last forty years – on ourselves.

3.  Marketers need to be more scientific in our marketing.  As our profession grows up, so must we.  Far too much of our work has historically been based on assertion not fact base.  We can no longer afford not to know which area of our marketing is most effective.  We need to understand the contribution of every part of our marketing to our goals.  We need to operate in a constant state of test and learn.

I think it’s time that our profession grew up.  It’s time for us to leave the nursery.  Who’s with me?

Categories: b2b marketing marketing social media marketing

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Dave is an experienced global B2B Chief Marketing Officer / Marketing Director with an established reputation for delivering commercial results in start-up, mid-tier, and blue-chip businesses across technology, and business services and professional services sectors.

Dave has worked for major brands such as Telefonica O2, EY, and Barclays and held posts from Chief Marketing Officer to Director of Online, has run his own business, and managed a P&L for a major corporate. He is chair and co-founder of the Business Marketing Club ( - a network of B2B marketers. In 2019, he was named one of the top 100 B2B European marketing leaders ( He is a graduate of Cambridge University, a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Chartered Marketer and holds a MBA with Imperial College, London. Dave is a keen cyclist and adventure traveller, is married, and lives in Buckinghamshire. You can read his blogs at

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