There are many myths about the role of marketing. Some perceive marketers as customer champions, growth drivers and highly creative. Yet others see them as ‘fluffy’ and lacking in commercial nous. A glance at the back pages of many newspapers or online marketing posts also reveals a variety of different titles for the job of marketing director. Including customer, experience, digital, direct, brand, communications, commercial and so on. Thus it is no wonder there are differing and sometimes contradictory perceptions. All underlines that a successful marketing director requires a combination of skills and expertise.
Seven essentials to being a great marketing director or CMO (Fig 2.1)
1. Explain, influence, manage and lead your colleagues
It never surprises how few really understand marketing. So go out of your way to explain what marketing is to your colleagues. In particular, how it works, and adds value. This will help win their trust.
At the same time, steer your business to a more successful place. Success will follow not just from what you do, but also how you do it. So manage the day-to-day and set the tempo for the business. Get what needs to be done done, while looking to the future. In particular, develop and express a bright and motivating future and work to win friends and influence.
As Jack Welch once wrote in a letter to shareholders:
“In the old culture, managers got their power from secret knowledge: profit margins, market share, and all that … In the new culture, the role of the leader is to express a vision, get buy-in, and implement it. That calls for open, caring relations with every employee, and face-to-face communication. People who can’t convincingly articulate a vision won’t be successful. But those who can will become even more open – because success breeds self-confidence.”Jack Welch
2. Be a disciple of customer understanding
No matter how sophisticated organisations might seem on the outside, it’s amazing how many hire and expect marketers to make decisions based on their own ‘gut-feel’. You’ll also make better decisions based on facts
History suggests that the most successful organisations are those that best understand their customers
This is therefore not something just to pay lip-service to. This is particularly true in our increasingly digital world. A world with more and more data, yet a world that is sadly lacking in insight. So understand who customers are, their needs, attitudes and behaviour. Accurate and comprehensive understanding on customers and their needs is vital to optimise products, services, and communications.
This also means understanding the ‘whys’ behind that ‘whats’? And investing in processes and people, and encouraging colleagues to do likewise.
3. Be the eyes, ears and ‘early warning radar’ of the organisation
The nature of customers, markets, and technology, also means that new opportunities and threats are emerging all of the time. Yet history is littered with organisations that failed to adapt or change to new threats.
It is also easy to become ‘blinkered’ by corporate cultures, and trapped by a ‘flimsy’ job specification. Someone in the company therefore needs to look outwards, and challenge and reinvent the ‘wheel’ to grasp new opportunities and anticipate and head-off threats. That someone is you.
Becoming the organisation’s ‘early warning radar’ fits perfectly with helping everyone understand and focus on customers. However, don’t do this on your own, and don’t view this as a power grab. Simply a way to empower your colleagues to feedback to your organisation’s brain.
By knowing most, and what’s going on first, gives a competitive advantage. Some also call this foresight.
4. Measure and manage the numbers
Attracting customers and making money are common business goals. This is where marketing makes its most important contribution. However, only marketing directly fuels growth. Other functions fuel efficiency. So combining both leads to more profit, and better returns.
Effective management is only possible by measuring ‘key performance indicators’ (KPIs). So as you have growth objectives, and responsibility for marketing initiatives, it is natural that you measure and manage the numbers. Simply to understand and address any deviation.
Also understand the relationship between customer and financial outcomes
Then you’ll be better able to justify where to invest, and fine-tune, your marketing activities.
The more heads on the case, the better the ‘measurement’ solution. So get your CFO onside.
A quick win is to work with your CFO to establish a marketing and financial dash-board. This will also boost your Boardroom credibility.
5. Develop and deliver your brand or brands
If your colleagues do not understand marketing, you can be sure they do not understand brands. So addressing this challenge also starts by helping them understand. And in particular, to help everyone understand ‘why bother with your brand?‘
There are lots of reasons to bother with brands
First, to simplify and drive customer choice and purchase. Second, to enhance value (brands command premiums) and shareholder value. Also, to align hearts and minds and deliver consistently over time.
While the management function to boost brand stand-out and appeal is marketing, you’ll also need help from other functions to deliver your brand.
Particularly in service companies, where the good work of an advert in raising expectations is sometimes undermined by a surly customer service agent, or poor system. So effective management of the customer touch-points or underlying processes is vital to deliver a great brand experience. The devil is in the detail. Even a tiny improvement in response could add millions to revenue or profits.
Implications for marketers
This requires you to influence in parts of the organisation beyond marketing’s job responsibility. So work with your colleagues to identify and overcome issues and deliver a consistent and high quality service.
In highly competitive markets, both strategy and execution make a big difference to the results. Misplaced or poorly articulated words in a strategy also risk confusion and mistakes in product development or marketing communication. Sub-optimal products, positioning or communication also risk missing the ‘target’ or ‘need’. All risks wasted marketing investment.
So set up processes, tools and techniques to make sure that both strategic and executional decisions are of the highest order. And then test and test again from low to high investment.
7. Use your creative skills to solve problems
Through your great advertising and promotions you’ll build a reputation for being creative. So use this strength to help colleagues and the business as a whole. Also think about it this way. If the CEO’s role is to manage the big picture and the financial director’s is to manage the numbers, then the task of creating ideas lies with you.
So take the lead to solve problems that your business faces. Also bring colleagues together to this end. With the right skills, resources and creative tools no problem is insurmountable. And if bravery does not come naturally, remember that it is a just state of mind. So go for it! Even if the problem lies outside of the marketing department, the health of the business remains your prime responsibility. And if you feel trapped by ‘politics’, bring in external help. A more objective approach could better help you unite and align your colleagues.
1. In short, you want to be a great marketing director not just a good marketing director. Though greatness comes through business success. So if you imagine your marketing job responsibility as a ‘box’, whatever the official prose, aim to ‘punch’ through that ‘box’.
3. Success will follow through your ability to persuade others. In other words through your personal skills and relationships. This is often more important than technical excellence. Especially in these Covid times.
4. So put yourself in the customer’s shoes (and fully understand him or her, and how to meet his or her needs) to make the best decisions.
5. If in doubt, sleep on it.
6. If still in doubt, then ask round and about.
7. Remember you are not alone and don’t have to do everything yourself. So ask for help.
About The Marketing Director’s Handbook
The Marketing Director’s Handbook is the definitive guide to being a great marketing director. It is unique in covering both the marketing and management responsibilities of the role. It is also packed with top tips to help you succeed. Structured in five parts and 31 chapters it covers: Marketing essentials, the marketing year, operational leadership, and how to manage key projects. An entire section is also devoted to digital marketing. It is a ‘must-keep by your side’ for all marketers and a ‘must-read’ for all business owners and directors. So read the FREE introductory chapter, reviews, and order your copy today.
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