CEOs are coming round to marketers' way of thinking
A view from Claire Beale

CEOs are coming round to marketers' way of thinking

In the few weeks that I've been sitting in this editor's chair, the most insistent (and frustrating) topic of conversation with marketers has been the disconnect between marketing and the boardroom.

You don't need me to remind you how recent studies have painted the CEO/CMO relationship. We've been told repeatedly how most chief execs believe marketers have little business credibility because they cannot prove the effectiveness of what they do.

And of the few client CEOs I've met in recent weeks, it has been fairly easy to tell those who see marketing as an investment from those for whom it's a necessary function (although they're not always able to articulate why) but an irritating cost.

I can already understand how some marketers are themselves to blame for this: they lack ambition, commitment, business knowledge, vision, charisma, balls. Unless you have all these qualities in spades, you're unlikely to do a good job of raising the status and importance of your contribution (let alone actually make a contribution in the first place).

Anyway, ROI - or lack of proof of it - lies at the heart of the issue. Too often when effectiveness is embraced in the new marketing lexicon it's now conveniently defined in terms of 'likes', engagement or retweets, not revenue growth, margins, shareholder value or all the other metrics of the boardroom.

The very good news from The Marketing Society's new study into what CEOs really think (page 12) is that a focus on customers is considered one of the most important qualities of a great CEO. And bringing the customer into the boardroom is a top priority; understanding the needs and preferences of consumers and delivering on the brand promise are critical.

So far, so utterly obvious that I could have written it myself. But the really surprising thing is that for many CEOs, this realisation about the importance of the customer is only now dawning. And some haven't even got there yet.

Therein, though, lies the opportunity for marketers to redefine their leadership role, based on insight into the customer and how that understanding can drive revenues and profits, contribute to the success of their CEO, and underline their own boardroom potential.

Ultimately, CEOs get the marketers they deserve - and vice versa.

Claire Beale

Follow @MarketingUK