I’ve long been an advocate of soliciting the help of marketing experts when developing, launching and branding new products, services or businesses. We’ve seen in our practice that the earlier you get the marketing folks involved in the process, the more likely you are to be successful. This is backed by study after study, both anecdotal and empirical, over the last 20 years. How many articles and references have you seen, including obituaries, that say something like “. . . successful business man was a marketing and promotions genius and applied his skills to creating and growing the company . . .” ?
Clearly, the knowledge of the practice and theory of marketing is a valuable, nee critical skill to have in your bag of management tricks. And indeed, it seems the more input from the marketing folks you get, the faster and bigger the success is! Ramp up times are shorter, development and product lifecycles reduce, launches are more dramatic, and alternate applications and uses surface faster and are more often taken advantage of, when the marketers get heavily involved in the upper echelon decision making.
So why has it taken so long, and required so much effort for marketers to seek and achieve a true place at the C-level of management structures in the U.S.? The newly-invented Chief Marketing Officer title was a hard fought battle, typically one that is won on an individual basis, and in only a small percentage of companies, often larger and older firms, where upper management is often tinged with risk spreading behaviors rather than overt leadership. Often this battle is won by only the most vocal, dynamic, personable, innovative and connected of marketers. One might say these are inherent traits in every good marketer, but you’d be surprised at some we’ve worked with who are impossibly poor at blowing their own horn while excelling at promoting the business they serve.
I’m convinced, after working directly with over 100 marketers in the last thirty years, that those who market themselves as well as they do their firms are those destined to go the farthest. In some cases, it’s a matter of the squeaky wheel getting the grease, but that only really works on an internal basis on the way up the ladder in a contained environment. But in this case, they have to not only talk the talk, they have to walk the walk, too. You have to back up the swagger with bottom-line success time after time to truly gain legend status. Just plain visibility alone won’t do it.
Business executives rise to prominence in their own small world through long-term, solid achievement, aided by public recognition of those achievements and a desire to be associated with those achievements. Which makes it even more amazing that marketers have had such a hard time gaining celebrity status in the business world, as marketers have an endless series of “wins” to point to on a given day.
Some of the difficulty is that marketers tend to be collaborative, work in teams, even if the team leader works in a supervisory capacity – there’s just too much for one person to really do without spreading the load, and thus the credit. CEO’s get credit for the good decisions, and spread the blame for the bad ones among their top management team. Marketers tend to take it on the chin for the failures, while others take credit for the successes. That shadow tends to keep them in the background, slaving away as good corporate brand stewards, until there’s a regime change.
The challenge before us as marketers is to loudly and often show the value we contribute to corporate success. We needn’t be shy about putting our names and faces behind the successes we create, because in reality, there is no success in business without something being bought or sold, and we’re the closest to the end of the sales chain and have the best understanding of what customers want and need. That makes our expertise not only critical but invaluable. Don’t be afraid to step up and take credit for the successes, spread the credit as far as you need to, to your team and beyond, but accept the success for what it’s worth without demurring or deferring. On the other side of the coin, never shirk responsibility for the inevitable misses, take them head on, learn from them and apply that education to the next situation. You’ll be applauded and respected for the integrity, so you win anyway.
Stay the course, be visible, be effective, have an impact, and don’t be afraid of public exposure – you’ve earned every last bit of it. Be the corporate leaders we know you are, but do it in a visible way. Everyone’s a winner in the end when you do.