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The three C's of addressing Marketing's marketing problem

I love my role because I have an opportunity to regularly connect with so many experienced marketing leaders from different industries through Accenture Interactive’s CMO Community.

In October I had the pleasure of hosting our regular CMO Community virtual roundtable discussion on a topic that’s close to every CMO’s heart – how, as a profession, we can address marketing’s marketing problem!

This is a fascinating subject, and we had a very stimulating discussion, following some insight shared by our guest speaker, Mark Evans, Managing Director of Marketing and Digital at Direct Line Group. We know the challenges well – the tenure of CMOs is reducing and marketing budgets are often the first to be cut, stakeholders don’t “get” marketing or why it’s so important right now. Even with science-based marketing functions, the perception of our profession has been slow to shift. We’re facing a marketing credibility crisis!

One of the reasons for this is that marketing deals with the future, results are unknown, uncertain and hard to predict. In comparison finance deals with the past, with hard facts. However, marketing is arguably more important to the business now than ever. CMOs have a vital job to do in terms of bringing energy and excitement about the future to conversations and decisions about the organisation’s strategy. The pandemic has created volatility and our board-level stakeholders haven’t been immune to the Covid crisis themselves. Customer needs are still evolving. Now is the perfect opportunity for marketing to step up and market itself.

My conversation with Mark began with three Cs that CMOs can major on right now to win support for marketing and propel our organisations forward with a future-thinking mindset:

Credibility

Even among the most successful brands, marketing can retain the out-dated perception of being the “colouring in” department. CMOs must consistently challenge this label day in, day out. Your role in convincing the rest of the business that marketing is much more than making adverts is never done! One way to stop perpetuating this caricature of “marketing” is to never show creative content at board meetings. This is quite an extreme solution, though. The key takeaway is to ensure that you also deliver the hard facts. Focus the board’s attention on the econometrics of your marketing’s effectiveness to win their minds, rather than just appealing to their hearts with the creative.

Capability

In previous CMO Community sessions we’ve focused on the dual role of the CMO and the fact that marketing today is both an art and a science. It’s time to double down on the science. Metrics can be a double-edged sword, so ensure you pick the right things to measure. Focus on the value creation zone – the sweet spot for your CEO. Invest in the capability of marketing effectiveness, in the digital tools and platforms and talent that will help you garner the insights you need. Focus on the outcomes not the inputs.

Confidence

The rest of the business must have confidence in you as CMO and in your marketing team. There can be a hidden barrier to trusting in marketing, as mentioned earlier, because it deals with the future – the unknown. World-renowned trust expert, Rachel Botsman, says that trust is having a “confident relationship with the unknown” – so how can CMOs create this confidence among the executive team and board? There’s a fine balance between confidence and arrogance, but you need a dynamic, engaging team who demonstrate some “chutzpah”. When you are delivering measurable results, presented to the board in a way they understand and can buy into, you’ll build trust. This can pay dividends when it comes to people having confidence in you at those times when you don’t have all the answers. 

No one of these three Cs outweighs the other. They’re equally important and inter-dependent.  And there’s another important C that arose during our discussion – curiosity. Marketers must be curious about people, demonstrating empathy to understand what makes them tick. As one member said, there are two ways to listen; listening to learn and listening to win. Listening to learn – or active listening - must extend to board members as well as customers and employees. A recent study points to the fact that only 26% of CMOs attend board meetings regularly. If you’re one of these lucky few then be sure you take the time to learn about your key stakeholders – their interests and concerns – and to build solid relationships with those you know to be allies. 

By applying core marketing principles to how you present marketing and your team internally, you’ll win the confidence and trust of your board. If, like me, you remember the ‘shirtless guy on a hill’ video, think about which board members will be the first followers joining you to dance!  Focus on what you want your stakeholders to think, feel and do. And keep going. The job of a CMO is never done!

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