Influence, or more pointedly the lack of it, is consistently offered as the biggest concern among senior marketers I speak to.
The CMO being reduced to the role of tactician with strategy conceived and delivered elsewhere is the most diplomatic complaint. Marketers being at the mercy of others in the organisation who believe they can do the job better than marketers, is one of the most brutal.
The reasons behind the grumbling are many and varied. The pressure to sideline long-term activity in the face of financial instability and economic uncertainty leaving marketers marginalised is one. The lack of confidence in marketing’s virtues among marketers themselves is another factor.
It’s certainly one that needs addressing. And urgently. You will have noticed lots of content published by Marketing Week recently aimed at addressing this most fundamental of issues. They, and others still to be published, address not one but two immediate concerns: how marketers can grow their influence and deliver greater impact.
Here are my takeaways:
Take inspiration from others
Our inaugural Top 100, published online and in our magazine this month, is a collection of the most effective marketers across 10 sector groupings. It was chosen from a long list by a stellar judging panel, who were asked to consider business success, innovation and influence when choosing their top 10s.
It is intended as a starting point to determine the anatomy of marketing leadership. What it shows is there an extraordinary depth and breadth of talented marketers in the UK.
Love what you do
Reinvention is in the air. Perhaps unsurprising for a function responsible for rebranding and resonance, there is a trend for swapping out the CMO or marketing director role for something broader and arguably more dynamic.
Chief customer officer, chief growth officer and others are becoming increasingly common. This is a reflection of marketing’s wider remit and a means to underline that a marketer’s role is about more than comms, argue some. But could it also be pointless window dressing demonstrative of why marketing should be shut out of the c-suite? That is what our columnist Mark Ritson has suggested.
My thoughts? The job of marketing is great as it is and is as relevant as it ever was. Realise this, and good things will follow.
Try something new
If complex hierarchical structures and cumbersome cultures are proving restrictive, it may be time to swap the sprawling multinational beset by legacy thinking for somewhere new and nimbler where you can exert more influence.
There is a romanticism surrounding startups and disruptors that often irks. There is, however, an undeniable allure for those marketers frustrated with their corporate lot. We recently heard from marketers about the possibilities and pitfalls if you are thinking about taking the plunge.
Learn how to do stuff
“It’s hard enough to be a marketer, without adding the rigours of leadership and storytelling on top,” writes Helen Edwards.
This is not a call for submission, or an admission that influence and leadership is beyond marketers. It’s a call to lead through demonstrating how to achieve utopia, not just a description of the end game.
“Real marketers never confuse vision for strategy. Real leaders are unafraid of detail and data. And real storytellers do not merely tease with the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ – but illuminate, surprise and excite with the ‘how’,” she adds.
Focus on growth, creativity and stakeholder engagement
Herein lies the silver bullet. Analysing the attributes of the Top 100 and reflecting on how marketers can claw back lost influence, some of our judges offered their cut-out-and-keep guide to future success. The need to align company and customer, demonstrate creative problem solving and getting buy-in from colleagues through effective communication might seem like a 101 guide to greater influence but it’s worth stating the obvious one more time.
Being a marketer is a wonderful thing. You have the opportunity to build businesses, drive growth, and help conceive, position, deliver and communicate products and services that make a difference in people’s lives. Influence, and impact, should be a given. Marketers should be at the centre of all business success stories. That they are being written out is baffling. There is so much to celebrate. So much achievement to admire.
Take heed and inspiration from our features. I can’t guarantee career success, but I hope at the very least they help you realise the influence you already have.