Attention all CEO’s and Board Directors…
As a CEO and Board Director, you are responsible for the two greatest catastrophes in modern business.
- The reputation and the perceived failing of marketing as a serious business discipline
- The complete and universal misunderstanding of the difference between marketing and the subset component of marketing, communications.
While you might not admit it, you all know why this statement is true. If you were to accept your real responsibility, that you are the Chief Marketing Officer of your business. Or, indeed, the Chief Marketing Director of your company, then there is no one else to blame when your business isn’t performing as well as it should be. It’s you who are accountable!
Have I got your back up? Good! Read on with an open and honest mind and I guarantee, you will be a better CEO and Board Director for it.
The Two important Marketing Metrics:
If you’re a good CEO or a responsible and active Director, you already know the answer to this.
I often pose this question to CEO’s and Boards and they’ll say, ‘yes they’re important, but I think Shareholder Wealth should be number 1’.
If you’re sitting there nodding your head, ‘yeah, yeah, it’s all about shareholder wealth…’. Then think about this. Have you ever been on a board or the CEO of a company during a stock market crash? What real influence did you have as your stock value was falling? As a keen observer of a number of market fluctuations, while the markets were in freefall, you were powerless.
Every business that holds its own through stock market volatility. That can ride out any storm, has a business that operates with sound plans to constantly maximise revenue and profit. The rest takes care of itself.
So, if you as the CEO and Board are achieving optimal revenue and profits, you can be confident in stating to your shareholders and to the market, that your marketing is effective. If you can’t say that, then your marketing has failed, and that is your responsibility.
Let’s Get Right Back to the Basics:
Nearly all businesses start from a person or a group of people coming up with an idea. Henceforth, they are in product development mode. When I studied business, that was a marketing function.
Almost immediately they go into research mode. Usually, the first step is informal research. They test the idea on their friends, family and colleagues. Last I looked, also a marketing function.
From here, they consider production, pricing and distribution. Having a sense of this, they’ll go back to their network to get a sense of what they’re willing to pay. Can they make a profit? Yet again, all marketing functions. They then move into setting up a business. Maybe attempting to raise capital, which will only be successful if the marketing assumptions are good. Now, they should bring in support. Perhaps accounting and legal, etc.
Last and by no means least…
They move into communications. At this point, they want as many customers as possible buying their product in order to maximise returns.
Granted this is oversimplified and of course it’s rarely as linear as depicted, but the point remains, it is all marketing.
In marketing a business, last but not least we implement a communications plan. There is a really important reason your communications come last. It can not work no matter how good if all your other marketing elements are not in place and fully optimized.
So often I hear CEO’s and Board Directors say to their Chief Marketing Officer, ‘where’s the ROI on our Marketing’? What they really mean is I’m under pressure, you have a high component of my available funds, why aren’t you getting the results I expect?
Here’s the warts and all, honest answer to this often asked CEO question.
a) You the CEO are the Chief Marketing Officer, you should be involved in the communications plan. The CEO should be aware of the quality of the agency used. He or she should have a sense of the mediums being used and why. As it is such a large investment of available funds, it is your responsibility to know what’s going on. I’m not suggesting you know how many clicks a banner ad received. I am suggesting you are engaged in your communications. You do not have a be a communications expert, but you should be asking questions. You should know why your team are recommending certain courses of action. And you should be doing this before a campaign, not after.
b) Is it really the communications that are the problem? Is the rest of your house in order? I have turned away clients because the best advertising campaign in the world couldn’t actually fix their problem. They needed to invest in other elements of their marketing, be it the product itself or the brand or many numerous things that could be the cause of the problem.
Let me talk briefly about this ivory tower acronym that implies somehow, you are in a different league to your team. I maintain the CEO is the CMO. Cool, that gets rid of one ‘C’. Here’s how I remind willing CEO’s and Board’s to set up their leadership team:
- Never use the term the C-suite
- Acknowledge the CEO is the CMO
- Create a CCO (Chief Communication’s Officer)
- Remind CFO’s, CIO, COO’s, CSO’s and what other creative C’s exist in your company that the CCO can’t do their job if the rest of us aren’t doing ours.
Allow your CCO to manage all your communications. Public Relations, advertising, social media are all connected. If your CCO doesn’t have a skill level to successfully manage each, you haven’t got the right CCO.
Lastly, almost everything a business does has to be communicated, so keep your CCO across all functions of your business. You’ll be amazed how what seems so small could have a major impact. A good CCO will pick this up before you find yourself in a PR crisis.
My fellow CEO’s, Directors, CCO’s and all committed business leaders. Communications do not maketh the brand, your people do. For your people to build a brand, they must receive consistent quality leadership. The leadership vision and goals for the company must be clear and regularly communicated. Everyone in your business must understand how what they are doing contributes to the company’s success. Your values and your vision for the company come from you. They are portrayed to your customers through the behaviours of your people and the truth and consistency in how you convey your products and services.
Only then will a customer form a relationship with your visual brand. When it comes to brand I like to quote Bob Hoffman, ‘The Ad Contrarian’
“Brand preference exists, but brand love is a juvenile fantasy.”
“People have a lot of things to care deeply about, smart marketers get that people don’t care about your brand of frozen chicken strips.”
Stick this to your office wall and remind yourself of it every day!
Be a better CEO and/or Board Director by acknowledging your role in marketing and engaging properly in your business communications.
About The Author:
Joan MacDougal is the CEO of Macrison. She is the founder and owner of this innovative and original marketing company. Prior to Macrison Joan held senior roles at both American Express and Telstra. With 30 years of front-line marketing, advertising and communications experience Joan brings honesty and perspective to her views on better marketing, communciations and advertising. Visit Joan’s website www.joanmacdougal.com to get to know Joan a little better. For more information on our Services click here Macrison Services