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Why is marketing so difficult?

A review of 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader with Thomas Barta

With his imposing presence and dry humour it’s easy to imagine Thomas Barta as the McKinsey Partner he once was.

'Why is marketing so difficult?' was the provocative question he opened with.

Barta asserted the leadership skills needed in marketing differ significantly from those needed by leaders of other functions because of three distinct gaps:

  • A skills gap: marketing technology is changing rapidly, so you never know all you need to.
  • A trust gap: a marketer’s work is about the future, so bosses and colleagues will, to a degree, doubt what you say.
  • A power gap: great customer experiences involve many departments, most of whom won’t report into you.

Barta described the comprehensive study of CMOs undertaken by him and Patrick Barwise (nearly 70,000 responses analysed). This study revealed the factors that explain why some marketing leaders are more successful than others.

The factor that accounts for the biggest variance is change leadership skills.

The hardest thing a marketer has to do is to make change happen.

Not just among consumers, but critically among colleagues and departments within the organisation.

And so to Barta’s key insight: not, 'I must work harder to have more influence' but, 'I must influence harder to have more success.'

Barta then raced through some of the tips he recommends. Here are three:

  • Tackle big issues – ensure you focus efforts on those customer needs that overlap with the CEO’s priorities.
  • Side with the revenue camp – if you’re not seen as driving revenue, you’re cost. And costs get cut.
  • Hit the head and the heart – what is the story you tell about your work? Since you can’t tell colleagues what to do, you must mobilise them with a vision. And the best way to communicate an inspiring vision is through a story.

Thomas Barta was passionate and convincing. He says there are dozens more tips in the book.


By Fellow of Marketing Society, David Magliano, Consultant at Be the Business. Purchase a copy of Thomas’ book, containing first-hand accounts from top marketing leaders from around the world.
 

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