As marketers, many of us start our careers mastering our craft and learning the art of marketing, advertising and communications. A few years pass and we start managing teams, and with this comes the development of new craft: balancing the needs of the day-to-day job whilst inspiring our colleagues and team members to help them achieve their full potential.
Then, there’s leadership – not just leadership of large marketing teams but leadership within the organisation, flying the flag for business growth and the ability to inspire everyone with a vision that will rally the troops towards a common goal. Unfortunately, that’s not a skill that is directly taught but, it’s an area where most of us want to be successful.
However, the path to becoming a marketing leader presents inherent challenges which can, in part, be progressed if we have honest, uncomfortable and brave conversations around the topic with peers and leadership experts.
With this setting in mind, the Marketing Society and Gain Theory partnered to host a dinner for marketers in Delhi, India addressing two topics:
- Marketing leadership
- Challenges and pain points around measuring marketing’s value
Our 20 high-calibre dinner guests spanned a range of industries – banking, telco, tech, retail – and passionately took part in the conversation. The opinions expressed were lively and arguments were passionate – there was no place to hide for those lacklustre in opinion.
The table was set and by god, the conversation was going to crackle throughout the evening.
Find the Value Creation Zone
To set the scene, Thomas Barta – a marketing leadership author and speaker – spoke about what it takes to drive business impact and career success based on research of over 8,600 leaders in 170 countries worldwide. He highlighted 12 specific ‘marketing powers’ that help mobilize your boss, colleagues, team and yourself. Amongst many inspiring insights, some of the truths that resonated with us are:
- Marketing is often perceived as a cost, the ‘fortune teller’– with little tangible value attributed to efforts, specifically value defined in business metrics that impact the bottom line
- Many marketers spend time on things that don’t really matter to the business
- You have to find the ‘value creation zone’ – projects that matter to your CEO and your customer. Where the two overlap should be your point of focus.
- Spend time getting commonly agreed metrics in place, to validate marketing contribution to the business
- …and articulate marketing value in business KPI terms
Mad Scientist Effect
When it comes to focusing time on the right things to become a marketing leader, a few bemoaned the ‘Mad scientist’ effect where many spend time following the latest shiny marketing toy which, in the end, distracts them from becoming a leader. One marketer said, “you need to heavily prioritise what you take to your CEO/CFO/CIO.”
However, the lesson is simple – when it comes to investment in innovation, test and learn and rather than wait to sell in change, just get on with it prudently under the radar with small portions of budget. One marketer at the dinner said, “Cypher off an amount of investment in your annual marketing budget for innovation and see this as ‘under-the-radar’ investment.”
Balancing the Spinning Wheels
One of our guests pointed out that whilst we try to become leaders, marketing is under immense pressure to answer a multitude of questions. Who are our high value customers? How do we cross-sell across category? How do we invest in innovation? How can you deliver and exceed customer experience?
Then there is the tug of war between short term results and long-term effects of marketing activity.
There is no other department being asked such a range of questions.
One solution offered was to balance the expectation of these questions, how they ladder up to business objectives and agree metrics by which to measure them.
When the conversation shifted to the trend that marketing initiatives and budgets are getting the last slot at the board meeting, there were a number of empathic nods around the table. There’s an expectation for marketing to come into the Board meeting with the fun campaigns, the pretty pictures and talk about softer metrics which don’t resonate with business language used in that forum.
One marketer said we need to ‘de-glamorise marketing’ and present the numbers that ladder up to business key performance metrics. Once you do this, the Board will start to lean in and take notice of the value that marketing brings in. Marketing can then start to be perceived as an investment that has tangible impact on the P & L instead of being perceived as a cost.
Marketing Value – Challenges & Pain Points
Manjiry Tamhane, Gain Theory’s Global CEO shared some insights from an independent research commissioned earlier this year with CMOs from brands representing over $1.9bn in advertising spend. The research revealed several marketer challenges and pain points around marketing measurement. A sample of quotes from the research were:
- “Can’t agree on which few metrics to measure or focus on”
- “Too many data points = paralysis”
- “We are making observations versus true insights into what’s driving the business”
- “Still too many silos in our organisation and not enough sharing between the data scientists and marketing”
- “We need one source of truth, a True North, that will drive our metrics and resulting insights”
- “No agreed method for cross media attribution”
Many of these quotes resonated with our dinner guests but on the last point,
one senior marketer pointed out that Marketing Attribution – understanding which marketing investments are working, in real time – is a real challenge and there is no common standard. There’s a need to understand which tech platforms to invest in, education around the topic and a need to invest in the right skillsets.
Metrics – the Cornerstone of Success
Metrics were a recurring theme, underpinning most conversations during the evening. Thomas pointed out that agreement on the key success metrics takes time, it might even take a year, but is worth investing the time.
“Ask sales what is meaningful to them in terms of metrics and work hard to satisfy and if not exceed this” said one marketer. Another said “It is your job as a marketer to set expectations. Satisfaction is ultimately about managing expectation and matching that with the right delivery”.
What we learned
As W.B. Yeats once said, “Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.”
Whilst the take outs listed above are all immensely helpful to our journey in becoming leaders, W.B. Yeats’s quote rings particularly loudly in relation to our dinner in Delhi. Mostly because the fire that was lit that evening through honest, uncomfortable, passionate and brave conversation led to the education of all around the table.
This article was originally published on The Marketing Society site.