What Purpose Does Your Marketing Serve?

Eyes glazed over—if you’re a passionate digital marketer, you no doubt have produced that response from a non-digital colleague at one point or another. Digital can dazzle, can’t it? You’re to be forgiven if once or twice you have let your passion for the work carry you beyond your colleague’s point of following or even caring. It’s the digital marketer’s occupational hazard.

But come back down to Earth now and let’s get real. No matter what your stripe, marketers can’t afford disconnects with the people they work with, or report to. Alignment helps assure employment.

The latest research to quantify the gap between lead marketers and C-level executives is “Outside Looking In: The CMO struggles to get in sync with the C-suite," an Economist Intelligence Unit report sponsored by SAS.

One finding from the report: Non-marketing types in the C-suite say that Marketing’s top priority is to drive revenue. Chief marketing officers, on the other hand, rank driving revenue as #3 on their list, giving higher priority to creating new products and services and acquiring customers. Disconnect!


“Outside Looking In” is a global cross-industry study, with the largest percentage of responses (14%) coming from financial services and 27% from North America. You'll see quite a few references to the importance of digital work. I recommend the complete report to you.

But I mention it here not because of the responses to the questions per se. As we wind down 2012 and look ahead to 2013, the questions themselves may have value as a check-in on the purpose of the work that you and your Marketing team does. The turn of the calendar is a good time to check your alignment.

How would you answer these questions, which are among those asked by the Economist Intelligence Unit (with a wee bit of editorializing by me)?

To which area has Marketing contributed most in the past year? And its corollary: What should the Marketing function’s top priority be at your organization?

  • Driving revenue growth

  • Finding new customers

  • Improving your organization’s reputation

  • Creating new products and services

  • Entering new markets

  • Retaining existing customers

  • Other________________

What are the primary internal barriers that impede Marketing from delivering more value to your organization?

(Some of the provided responses strike me as whiny. If we believe that Marketing can be its own agent, to this question I’d add: And, what action are you going to take to overcome these barriers?)

  • Lack of a strategic role for marketing in the organization

  • Hiring and retaining skilled marketing talent

  • Inability to turn data into actionable insights

  • Limited ability to demonstrate ROI/accountability of marketing investments

  • Disagreement about the role of marketing

  • Difficulty in mining “big data” for customer insights

  • Lack of senior management support for marketing investments

  • Misalignment between marketing investments and business objectives

  • Lack of transparency across customer touch points

  • Sharing insights quickly across the organization

  • Other_________________________________

What skills are most important for marketers to have?

(If you're in Marketing leadership and you know that the requirements are evolving, the fair thing to do is to communicate this, don't you think?)

  • Customer insight

  • Communications expertise

  • Creativity

  • Industry expertise

  • Team building

  • Data-driven analytical capability

  • General business acumen

  • Technical expertise

  • Line-of-business knowledge

  • Advertising/agency experience

  • Social media expertise

  • Pattern recognition

  • Visual/design aesthetics

  • Other_________________________

In what areas should Marketing focus investments in order to contribute most to your business now? Related: In what areas should Marketing focus investments in order to contribute most to your business in 3 years?

(In the survey results, note how Brand advertising sinks 18 percentage points in the three-year horizon question. And that social media climbs 14 points.)

  • Customer relationship management (CRM)

  • Brand advertising

  • Collaboration tools

  • Customer analytics

  • Training employees

  • Direct marketing

  • Reputation management

  • Marketing automation tools

  • Social media

  • New hires

  • Mobile application development

  • Web optimization tools

  • Other___________________

NOTE: As 2012 counts down, I’m working on my list of content highlights for the year (for your reference, here's the 2011 list in which I provide a totally subjective review of some of the best Web content I've read in the year). Is there any content that you've seen this year that you think warrants a mention? Please shoot me an email at pallen@rocktheboatmarketing.com.