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Make Marketing Matter: How to Boost Your Strategic Position

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Credit: Deloitte Digital

As a marketing leader, you understand how critical your function is to the success of your business, yet it's common to feel like you're swimming upstream to get your task leadership fully invested. You're not alone! Many of today's marketers express this sentiment and are actively looking to increase their strategic importance.

A demonstration of this rests at the highest level of strategic guidance—company boards—where only 2.6% of board members have managerial-level marketing experience, according to a recent study. Yet that same study shows that the boards that incorporate more marketers outperform others in shareholder value. Considering the pressure today's CMOs and marketers are under to drive higher revenue with shrinking budgets, why the disconnect?

Most boards today are strongly finance/risk management-driven, so legacy perspectives can sometimes position marketing as a nice-to-have, rather than a critical driver of business. In addition, both inside and outside the board room, many business leaders often grapple with misconceptions and even mistrust of marketing, furthering the challenge of gaining proper support.

With the deck not always stacked in your favor, how can you break through these barriers and set your department up for greater success? Let's consider three ways you can increase the strategic importance of marketing in your organization.

1. Develop leadership.
It's critical to align your colleagues and the C-suite around marketing. It's common for marketers to silo themselves within their organization, creating campaigns, testing new creative and focusing on how to measure ROI. Instead, spend time talking to the CEO about your ideas, plans and results—get some skin in the game. Make sure your C-suite colleagues understand the role of marketing in driving the business and are aligned with your vision and strategy from the start. One of the reasons budgets get cut is sometimes due to backroom chatter. With a budget to split across all areas of the business, coalitions can form behind the scenes in an effort to snag a bigger piece of the budgetary pie, particularly if a CMO is newer in the organization or doesn't put in the effort to get alignment with their peers. If you spend time building your relationships internally and getting task leadership on board, you'll likely be more successful and impactful.

2. Get out of your comfort zone.
Marketers come at their jobs from different angles. One tends to be more focused on the creative side—conceptualizing campaigns and working with agencies on the next big idea. The other tends to be more technically focused, thinking about attribution, programmatic buying, the customer journey and analytics. Both of these perspectives are equally important, but they may not always exist in the same person. As a leader, you should have a rich mix of right- and left-brain talent in your organization. As you're building out your team and processes, recognize that you need thinkers, feelers and doers, working well as a team together. Consider your own habits, perspectives and personal comfort zone, and push yourself to become more educated and balanced—not only can this benefit you as a leader, but your organization can shine and reap the rewards as well.

3. Bring the customer into the boardroom.
Maybe not literally. But ask your board regularly: What drives the growth of our business? This isn't a trick question—it's about your customers. It's your customer's behavior, whether they decide to pull out their wallet and choose your product versus someone else's. The growth of your company is about getting those customers to buy more, pay more, stay longer and speak positively about your brand. And nobody knows the customer—or the questions to ask in order to understand them—better than a marketer. Marketing brings the voice of the customer to the boardroom, and it takes that side of the business to ask those questions, provide the answers and put that customer-focused lens on a more typically finance-focused discussion. When you show your board the criticality of bringing the customer into the room, the more important marketing becomes and the more your business can thrive.

When you've got your leadership on board, a broad marketing skill set and a well-balanced pool of talent within your team, and can keep the customer front and center in the boardroom, you're more likely to gain a more influential seat at the table, effect more change and ultimately drive stronger business results.

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