October 10, 2008

It’s a new year, and that probably means that you’ve made a bunch of resolutions and now you’re thinking about how you’re going to make all of those resolutions happen. There’s no shortage of resolutions to be made, and I’ve made more than a few of my own (breaking a long tradition of refusing to focus on the new year as a useful time to incite change).

But over the past year, I’ve begun to see something of a disconnect between the resolutions we’ve made in our work as marketers and the challenges we face as marketers.

In my conversations with marketing leaders, mostly in the business-to-business world, I’ve heard lists of resolutions that include: getting better at measuring campaign results, using the latest technology to run campaigns or to reach prospects, doing a better job of generating quality leads for the sales team, building award-winning branding and advertising, quantifying the results of our new-media efforts, and creating a “green” effort for our brand. There are many more, but the ones that fell into these categories were the most popular.

But then I look at the same conversations and I read the marketing press (and lots of other well-respected blogs that are too numerous to link here) and I conclude that marketing leaders, executives in particular are facing some key challenges: short marketing executive tenure (particularly CMOs), marketing needs more of a seat at the leadership/strategy table, the value of marketing is not well-recognized or accepted (with some even calling for the elimination of the marketing executive role completely).

Does better measurement mean that the value of marketing can be demonstrated better. Well, yes and no. I’d argue that it can demonstrate the value of marketing programs and campaigns. But does measuring lead quantity, lead quality, relationship value, conversational metrics, and all the other traditional and new media metrics we put in place show how the CMO contributes to the overall strategy of the organization?

I’ve seen only one measurement in an organization that demonstrates that anyone (or everyone) is making a valuable contribution: revenue. But I am left asking this question: does measuring the revenue result of marketing programs place a value on the CMO’s contribution?

I don’t know the answer to that question. Yet. But I look at another key executive, the CFO as a point of comparison. Why? Like the CMO, the CFO has measurement responsibility, fiduciary responsibility (for financial position as opposed to brand and market position), and no direct responsibility for revenue creation. What can we learn from the fact that the CFO has such a strong strategic role in nearly every company?

And here’s where we get back to that new year’s resolution thing. My one resolution for this year, as it relates to improving my effectiveness as a marketing leader, is to be able to make new year’s resolutions next year that are consistent with the challenges I face and help me move my effectiveness and my contribution to my company forward.

This means I have to understand the key question I’ve raised here: What underlies the apparent disconnect between marketing leadership and the expectations of corporate leadership? It seems that whatever this disconnect is, is the underlying cause of short CMO tenure, perceived lack of a strategic role “at the table” for marketing, and so many of the other issues I’ve seen raised in the past year (or two, or three, or ten).

And as with so much of what we learn, this will be a conversation. I know I’ll be having this conversation with many people in this field, and I’ll issue my usual and truly sincere invitation to you to participate. I still believe the larger the crowd the better the wisdom.

And as with any resolution, if I want to accomplish it this year, I have to be well on my way by the time we’re three-quarters of the way through the year. So I’ve picked a date that’s meaningful to me (no, it’s not my birthday) by which I hope to have moved much closer to some conclusions and answers.

Care to engage in the conversation?

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