As a corporate marketer or agency partner, you have heard the phrase “it’s marketing’s fault” repeated more than once. We joke about it, but this happens often when a program or campaign hasn’t met some arbitrary standard of performance set by someone who doesn’t understand marketing.
Often, marketing becomes the punching bag, blamed when a campaign fails to produce the desired business results. Yet when a campaign is successful, marketing’s role is downplayed and the success is attributed to the efforts of customer-facing departments like Sales or Operations. In both situations, we in marketing are left confused about our place, and value, within the organization. We can’t help but ask: how does a department with such potential for influence get in this position?
Marketers Are Undervalued Within the Organization
A company-wide phenomenon, the undervaluation of marketing often starts at the top with senior executives who do not fully understand what marketing is, and how it contributes to the bottom line.
Marketing, in general, is a mystery to executives and many others within the company. They see it as a “creative” department run by a diverse group of individuals with varying backgrounds who use instinct to make decisions. Unlike other fields within the organization that require a specific field of study or certification (like Accounting), marketing departments are made up of people whose education encompasses broad fields of study like business administration, communications and design.
While a print ad or TV commercial allows others in the organization to the see the tangible results of the creative development process, executives (and many marketers) do not see the value that marketing adds to the bottom line. And why should they? We as marketers do not have a way to provide the ROI that executives are looking for, and we find ourselves struggling to provide the proof that business growth is directly tied to our programs and campaigns.
Despite having our hands in every aspect of the business, we are not seen as trusted advisors. Our inability to provide the tangible and measurable results that executives are looking for has not only left us without a seat at the table, but to questions about our value within the organization.
Recognizing Marketing For What It Is…And What It Could Be
This marketing utopia is possible, but to get here, we as marketers have to do more than produce collateral and creative that the CEO likes. Instead, we have to change the conversation.
In the American Marketing Association 2016 Pain Point Survey, a quarter of marketers believed that their CEO considered business growth to be the biggest challenge, yet less than 5% of marketers felt that their departments were adequately positioned to provide this growth. In fact, of the nearly 500 marketing practitioners polled, one-third cited business growth and data and analytics as the most significant challenges they faced in 2016.
The conundrum is that these challenges are the exact reason that marketing is undervalued in the organization. But what if it didn’t have to be this way? Imagine what it would be like if you could create an environment where marketing was given clear objectives, and the bandwidth and power to accomplish these goals.
Think about how your value within the organization would increase if the work you did, the programs and campaigns you put together, were directly tied to specific revenue and leads. And you could demonstrate this in a way that aligns with the financial reports the c-suite is reviewing each week. What doors would open to you, and your department, once you can show how the marketing efforts you spearheaded translated into actual revenue?
When you connect the dots between what you do and how it impacts the bottom line, your life as a marketer gets a little easier. Once the data establishes your program’s performance, you will be given more latitude (and more budget) for future programs. As the internal departments see what you’re accomplishing, they ask for (and trust) your opinion. Suddenly, you are in high-demand as each internal department fights for the opportunity to work with you. As marketing achieves its rightful place as both strategist and business driver, your value to the organization becomes clear. Now imagine how smoothly that next salary negotiation will go.
Marketing Is Repositioned As A Business Insight Generator
Achieving the marketing utopia described above is possible, but it requires a change in the way we talk about what we do, and how we present ourselves and the data. This repositioning, which occurs on four levels, presents the information in a way that the executive team (and organization as whole) understands and sees the value in marketing.
- Expose the marketing process.
We need to help the organization understand that marketing is not an instinctual methodology, but rather a discipline focused on the customer mixed with a little bit of science.
- Take control of the data.
If marketing is going to be accountable for the ROI on a program, then marketing needs to have control of the areas that influence the performance of the program in its entirety.
- Be accountable.
Marketing needs to be accountable for not only producing results, but also ensuring that those results are communicated in a way that enables the organization to use it to make smarter decisions. After all, we can’t get credit for what we don’t measure.
- Deliver insights.
Marketing has the capacity to deliver insights into customer behavior and customer needs, both of which can influence decision making in departments across the organization.
By reporting on data that shows where the company has been, and contributing insights as to where it is going, we can help guide the growth of the company. It is through this feedback loop that we are able to close the distance between the marketing department and the executive conference room and earn our rightful place at the table.