Being a marketer isn’t enough – you must be a businessperson

Marketers need to be businesspeople first and marketers second, says Michael Marcellin.

michael marcellinAs CMO, I’ve spent a number of years earning my team a seat at the strategic table. In that time, executives have had to grapple with a new digital world order – one where the customer, not the business, has the final say. This change of focus has put marketers in a unique, and strategically significant, position within organisations; and the opportunity is there for the taking.

In simple terms, our role demands that everything we do, and every campaign we run, is anchored to the customer – how they buy, why they buy and what they buy. The monumental shift to a customer-centric reality that’s taking shape across organisations means that a marketer’s contribution is highly valuable. In fact, being in lock-step with the customer means marketers can now influence decisions that drive real business growth within their companies.

There is one barrier we must first overcome however. Over the years, marketers have found comfort in communicating in their own language. We’ve been hardwired to talk in costs per click, impressions, marketing qualified leads, and click-through rates. Punctuated by metrics, this language is better known to the rest of the business as ‘marketing speak.’ The trouble is that as marketing becomes more integrated with other parts of the organisation  – including sales – our metrics start making a lot less sense.

We not only need to start thinking about the company’s business objectives, and how marketing can contribute to the bigger picture, but also how we communicate this contribution so it can be understood by non-marketers across the company.

This has been my biggest challenge in recent times; making sure that we’re translating our work into the kind of metrics that a CEO or CFO cares about. We have had to make sure that business growth and customer loyalty are our primary metrics.

Now, I’m not suggesting that every marketing initiative must link back to the bottom line. For instance, it can be difficult to quantify the impact marketing has on developing high-touch relationships or evaluating the dollar value of brand awareness among top clients. Drawing a clear threading between digital investment and finance-related outcomes such as pipeline or revenue, is also almost always impossible.

However, when it comes to communicating value to the CFO for instance, financial performance metrics must drive your communication. Consider comparing how your brand is doing relative to its competitors, and asking how comfortable your business is with prospective customers seeing more information about competitors’ offerings than its own.

Connecting on the CFO’s terms by way of comparative analysis methods is what makes a business-oriented marketer. And of course when you have initiatives that do tie directly to revenue, such as e-commerce or marketing-generated pipeline, then the conversation is even easier.

To ask marketers to think beyond pure marketing requires a huge shift in mindset because many haven’t been asked to do so. However, with businesses increasingly placing a premium on customer loyalty, we have the enviable and unprecedented opportunity to influence business decisions in a way never before possible.

There will always be a place for marketing operational metrics to ensure we’re seeing good return on our investments. But determining the metrics that matter to the business will make conversations with the CEO and CFO much more fruitful, highlighting the value marketing brings in driving growth for the business.

 

Michael Marcellin is CMO at Juniper Networks.

 

 

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