Marketing Directors are increasingly getting a place at the top table. Marketers are appearing on the board alongside their Finance, HR and CEO counterparts.
But what do their fellow board members think of the Marketing function? How does the C-Suite really view Marketing?
Who are the C-Suite and why do their views matter?
The C-Suite is the top tier of any firm – the board and senior executives who make the decisions about the organisation’s strategy and direction.
It typically comprises the CEO, Finance Director or CFO, HR Director or Chief HR Officer, Chief Information Officer and – in regulated firms – often a Head of Compliance. Increasingly, the Chief Marketing Officer is joining this group, giving Marketing a place at the top table.
The term ‘C-Suite’ to describe this group is various attributed to the fact that many of their job titles start with a C – for Chief – or that this group historically occupied the corner (aka best) offices.
Why do they matter? Because they run the organisation. They make the big decisions about strategic direction, budgets and investments – the types of decision that impact the Marketing team alongside the rest of the business.
Convince them of your marketing strategy and you will have the budget and resource you need to implement your plans. Fail to do so and you will face an uphill struggle to have marketing plans accepted and championed, and to secure the investment you need to grow the business.
How to improve your standing in the eyes of the C-Suite
An article in Forbes last year explored research into the way CMOs and Marketing as a whole are viewed by the rest of the board.
‘Trust’ was the word used most often – underscoring the need for Marketing to be honest, transparent and ethical – both in terms of its external face and its internal approach.
The article also had a number of lessons for Marketers from board-level directors.
Lesson 1: Be honest when it comes to data
In an increasingly digital marketing landscape, detailed data is readily available. Perhaps more importantly, it is increasingly expected when presenting the ROI of marketing campaigns. ‘Fluffy’ or vanity-focused metrics won’t cut it.
The Forbes article notes that Marketers have long realised that honesty is the best policy externally. Internally, too, being upfront with your data will stand you in good stead.
Realism is imperative. One chief strategy officer quoted in the research claimed that ‘CMOs lose trust and credibility when trying to convince everyone their campaigns are great’.
The CMO on the board needs to ‘see their role as bringing the rest of the C-suite along the intellectual journey of working with the marketing data’.
You and your team are the people who understand and can interpret the figures you’re presenting. Do this effectively and you will play a key role in explaining the impact of marketing.
Lesson 2: Your C-Suite peers feel your pain
Or as the article puts it, ‘The rest of the C-suite knows what you’re up against’. One Chief Officer quoted in the research says that ‘The CMO has the most difficult job in the building because everyone has an opinion and wants to share it’.
CMOs can often be more externally-focused than their board counterparts – ‘they’re focused on doing a better job articulating the brand vision and staying on top of the changing consumer landscape’, while others on the board are more focused on internal reporting and internal clients.
This need for CMOs to focus on both the internal and external is appreciated more by their peers than they might think. As the article says: ‘What CMOs need to keep in mind, however, is that no one expects them to have all the answers although it can feel that way at times’.
Lesson 3: There’s no right answer on integrating Marketing into the C-Suite
Respondents to the research were asked whether Marketing had ‘enough power in their organization to deliver what was expected of it’.
Views were mixed – both from the board and the CMOs themselves. While there was agreement that Marketing deserves a place in the C-Suite, there is no ‘one size fits all’ vision about how they should be integrated. And because organisations are at different points in their marketing journeys, views here will always diverge.
However, the CMO is ‘the organization’s main link to the external, consumer-centric world—and as such, the CMO is in the best position to provide a common language and perspective that strengthens the bonds within the C-suite’. The role of Marketing in helping others on the board to work together can’t be under-estimated.
Take the opportunity to get your senior leaders on your side
Marketing can take advantage of its relatively recent elevation to board status by understanding the C-Suite’s views of the function.
Having a place at the top table gives you influence – the potential to get buy-in for projects such as investments in marketing automation or digital transformation.
In an era of talent shortages, it also enables you to secure the right pay for your team – vital if you want to attract and retain the right people. See how your current pay compares across the industry here.
The Marketing function is increasingly likely to have a seat on the board – and a sympathetic audience among your fellow chief officers. Make the most of it to ensure you get the tools, people and investment you need to deliver.
With the board most often focused on potential risks to the organisation, one way to win them round to the Marketing way of thinking is by stressing the link between brand and compliance. Compliance is a key component of a strong brand strategy, and vice versa. Read more in our whitepaper, The importance of compliance to brand strategy. You can download a free copy from our resource library.
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