Marketers face trust, power and skills gaps, say academics

The reasons why marketing is important - but marketers often are not - were set out to the Marketing Society conference today by academics Thomas Barta and Patrick Barwise.

Marketers face trust, power and skills gaps, say academics

The duo, who have researched and co-authored a new book on the subject, observed that every chief executive wants their company to have customer focus so surely the marketing director should be exalted as the voice of the customer. 

The reasons for that are "very deep and are not going to go away", said Barwise, who referred to them as the trust gap, the power gap and the skills gap. 

"To explain the trust gap, think how much of the work you did last week was about the future," he asked the audience. 

"Future sales, future campaigns, future products. 50%? 70%? Marketing is mostly about the future, and what do you think when someone says ‘I can tell you about the future’. You’re sceptical. That’s why when you as a marketer stand next to a colleague from finance or operations, much of what you say will sound less reliable because it is."

The power gap is evident in the reality that companies create great customer experiences due to the effort of more of less all their staff, most of whom do not report to marketing. "If they want they can pretty much ignore you," said Barwise. "In other words, you have to win their support."

The skills gap is "huge and growing", he added. "There was a time when your team could look to you for quite detailed advice on what they were doing. That time has passed. There’s just too much and it’s changing too fast."

Picking up the thread, Barta offered a number of tips on how marketers can overcome these gaps. 

His first suggestion was they focus on the really big needs their company has and where they overlap with consumer needs. 

Secondly, they should "side with the revenue camp" and show the leadership team they are contributing to the top line. 

"Show how your work creates revenue," Barta said. "If you’re in doubt, just work with finance and you’ll come up with a joint number. But make sure you have a number. And talk revenue. Things like attribution, customer experience, programmatic, these are great words, but if the chief executive doesn’t have context they sound like ‘cost’." 

To address the power gap, marketers need to leave their office and meet other people in their company, added Barta. 

"As a marketer you’re in the business of change. You can’t do change by email. Hit the head and the heart."

The book, which is based on hundreds of assessments of CMOs and interviews with the people who work with them, is called The Twelve Powers of a Marketing Leader.

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