I was lucky enough to be able to write this article below that first appeared in SmartCompany on 13th August, 2019…

We’re increasingly transacting in a customer-first environment. So, if we’re serious about reaching more customers and growing our brands, why aren’t we giving more weight to our marketers’ ability to drive that growth at the boardroom table? 

Let’s take a step back and have a reality check. In today’s digital landscape, marketing is one of the fastest, and in some instances, the only, way to drive and accelerate the growth of sales and transform businesses.  So to not have a chief marketing officer sitting at the decision-makers’ table, to direct and steer the ship in the correct direction, is madness. 

Sure, accountants, lawyers, and a series of business consultants all have seats at the big table, but where is the marketing lead in this mix? A recent study by Spencer Stuart reveals less than 1% of board seats in the Fortune 1000 have been held by active marketers.  In fact, only 26 of the thousands of public company board seats are currently occupied by marketing leaders. 

Splurging on tech but saving on executives

One of the mistakes I’ve seen companies make in my 30 years as a senior marketer, is businesses spend so much on sales tech, CRM tools, analytics and ‘shiny new things’, there’s no money left for marketing, let alone hiring a leading marketer to drive change from the top down. They think the ‘idea’ is good, but they think they don’t ‘need’ marketing if sales and customer service are doing their job. In fact, many don’t even know what marketing actually does.

But then they wonder why people forget about their brand, or an idea doesn’t fly. The answer is simple: they undervalued the power of marketing from the beginning. 

The biggest question or challenge these days is: ‘How do all the marketing pieces of the puzzle and customer touchpoints come together to create a cohesive and consistent brand, both in the customers’ minds, and to create momentum in the market place to compete against their competitors?’

We need to create a world where ‘every marketing and sales road leads to Rome’, where the outcome is a positive economies-of-scale effect, or the classic phenomenon ‘1 + 1 = 3’. But only a seasoned marketing person who can rely on their real-life experiences, directing these things at board level, can create this calibre of outcome.

Transformational skills a board needs

In today’s highly customer-centric, digitised landscape, a forward-thinking company board that values the skills of ‘modern marketing’ will essentially be setting themselves up for a stronger future.

Specifically, chief marketing officers with experience in digital transformation, social media management, CRM agility, CX, VoC, customer loyalty and omnichannel marketing will become invaluable as board members. Importantly, those who will be revered will be those who know how all these pieces tie back into ultimately building an emotional connection, brand and sales.  

So, it’s time now, more than ever before, that boards realise the inherent value of having a specialist marketing leader sitting at the table. Because only then will the wider C-Suite understand the complexities of digital, data, customer insights, and the true leadership vision needed to tie all these together with the company’s wider growth strategy. 

Marketing as the epicentre of a healthy business

If you’re serious about growing your company and future-proofing your brand in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace, you need to value marketing as the core driver of your business. 

Sit up, and think, ‘marketing is important’ and start reviewing its position at C level. Once the value of the marketing is noticed and celebrated by the C-suite, the investors and by the wider team, then you’re on your way to becoming a marketing-led company.

And most smart brands today are. Take a look at Sportsbet for instance, who’s promoted their chief marketing officer Barni Evans to chief executive officer.

If you’re a marketing-led company, like Apple, Coca Cola or Nike, then everyone within the organisation has a clearer understanding of the ‘deeper philosophy and vision’ of why they get up and go to work every day.

When you’re not marketing-led, that’s where the board is blindsided and when things get tough budgets are cut, and marketing budget allocations and investments are shrunk immediately.

But in the real world, this is a time when marketing budgets should be increased, because it is the main lever to generate sales and grow the business again in troubled times.

Vision alignment

So, who is responsible for driving the vision? Ultimately, it’s the chief executive officer.

Ideally, they will have the vision to hire a smart chief marketing officer to drive that vision and lead it.

If the chief executive officer and chief marketing officer are not aligned, then nothing is going to happen and valuable opportunities will be missed. The chief marketing officer is going to sit in a box, managing a whole bunch of campaigns and initiatives, but really, so what? 

The chief marketing officer needs a seat at the board table, the marketing decisions need to be valued and defined from the top, then spread like a positive wave throughout all the arms of the business.

Because if the grander vision is aligned, then everyone can steer the ship forward.

This article appeared in SmartCompany on 13th August 2019.

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