Marketing has always meant different things to different people.
For many, marketing is associated with communication to customers and prospects–advertising messages, slogans, and logos. Others tend to focus on the digital or social sides of things. If you have ever taken a marketing class, then you likely learned the “4 Ps” of the marketing mix: product, promotion, pricing, and place. (“Place” generally referred to distribution strategy…but I suppose “4 Ps” sounds better than “3 Ps and a D.”)
All of those assumptions still apply, yet they are no longer the complete story.
These days marketers are also charged with (among other things) driving leads and revenue, creating an excellent customer experience, protecting the organizational brand and reputation, and building the technology needed for future success. According to the tech-research firm Gartner, chief marketing officers (CMOs) are now spending as much or more on technology than are chief information officers (CIOs).
In order to meet new expectations, I’m finding that marketing leaders are necessarily shedding old assumptions and identities. As a former chief marketing officer and now advisor, I have dealt with this metamorphosis firsthand.
Not the Organization DJ. As a young entrepreneur, I ran a couple of very-small-market radio stations. As is the case with many small businesses, the leader does a little of everything. Almost by default my business partner and I were the morning show’s so-called “talent” – before we would then head out to sell advertising time and do a dozen other things each day.
Being a DJ is fun in the moment, but the limited perspective can lead you to the wrong place. The DJ’s content comes out of a studio environment where you cannot see the audience in anything close to real time. Our metrics for engagement were quarterly audience numbers, which were vague and lagging.
These days you have to leave the studio, or headquarters, or any walls that separate you from those the organization serves. As mentioned in a previous column, big-company CEOs are spending only about 3 percent of their time with customers. Even in smaller organizations, marketing plays an irreplaceable role for finding and reflecting the customer’s voice.
Not the Guru on the Mountaintop. In a prior professional life I was a marketing and communication professor. In that captive classroom environment, where the audience is forced to come to you, it is all too easy to sit back. There was a similar dynamic at academic conferences, where presenters took turns as the guru on the mountaintop—the sole (or at least rare) source of truth in some narrow domain.
That is needlessly limiting. Today there is great potential benefit in being a thought leader, yet most of us can’t wait for others to find our mountain and decide to climb. Your expertise and value should be packaged and distributed so that others can recognize it. It helps to find and equip “messengers” (employees, customers, volunteers, members, etc.) to spread the word across the valley.
Not the Candy Dispenser. During the days of the 4 Ps, marketing leaders already had a lot to manage. In my CMO experience the responsibilities included elements of our brand message, product mix, packaging, pricing, and distribution strategy. As mentioned earlier, the responsibilities are even greater for marketing leaders today.
I have seen some CMOs whose sense of importance was tied to their budgets, headcount, or agency relationships—basically, the resources they could dispense. Yet effectiveness is less about assets and resources and more about turning the entire organization into a marketing engine.
I admire those marketing leaders who can build the message, expand and deepen relationships, and drive relevant behavior. There is no better role for today’s marketer than “growth driver.”