By Dave Stevens
I’ve been thinking rather a lot recently about the connection between businesses and their marketing departments. In all too many of the organisations that I come across, there is a regular complaint from execs that they do not know what their marketing department does or how it benefits their business. Frequently I find that the marketing teams in those organisations have lost their focus on delivering the goals of the execs or else are not communicating in KPI language that the business understands how what they do delivers those goals. Marketers frequently assume that business leaders know what marketing is. Business execs do not.
An excellent article in the Cambridge Marketing Review led me to seek out a great paper from the Capsicum Group (www.thecapsicumgroup.com) on the subject this week which was based on in-depth interviews with C-suite and senior marketers from 40 corporates across a representative range of sectors. Capsicum conclude that the business-marketing gap is caused by marketers not being seen as peers by the leaders of the business – something that then goes on to make the gap still wider. This means that marketers are not getting a seat at the strategy table and are focused instead on tactics. The gap isn’t helped by the increasingly back office nature of the marketing team that gets them away from clients and instead focuses them on the things that matter less. If marketing are responsible for brand in such organisations, it’s usually that they’re responsible for the visual elements, but not the way the brand is actually experienced by clients and employees each day. It all seems a bit bleak for marketers then. Could the last marketer out of the back office turn out the light?
What turns bleakness into frustration is that marketing has a lot to offer the top table. Done properly the marketing department can be a critical constituent of doing business well, growing orders, increasing revenue, deepening margins, and driving cash by building and maintaining executive networks, attending business events, identifying pipeline opportunities, growing the pipeline, planning workshops for the business around how to respond to environmental challenges, creating and pricing and testing new offers, developing programmes for key accounts, and engaging with delivery teams to ensure a total brand experience for clients and employees – as well as running a damn fine event.
There is a real need for marketing out there. And in my experience, it is possible to rebuild the link between marketing departments and the businesses they serve. It takes time, care, and proof of delivery to create trust. It requires a brilliant and dedicated team of marketers committed to the cause and it requires the preparedness of a few business execs to go on the journey to provide air cover. There’ll be slip-ups and set-backs along the way that require remedy and re-work. There will be times when the gap feels less bridged than ever. But what a brilliant feeling when things begin to change! And that makes all of the effort so very much worthwhile for the business as a whole – including the marketing department.