Surprisingly, it seems that marketing directors and chief marketing officers might be questioning their own right to sit in the boardroom!
A recent article in Marketing Week quotes a survey by Deloitte, suggesting that “…just 5% of marketers had confidence in their ability to influence the overall direction of a business and garner support from peers…”.
Fortunately this view doesn’t seem to be shared by their C-suite colleagues, who are rather more supportive; “almost 50% of CEOs think CMOs are highly effective, as do CFOs, CIOs and CTOs.”
I would certainly have to side with the latter: while everyone has to earn their seat at the Top Table, the role marketers play in steering companies and in boardrooms has surely never been more relevant.
Change and Opportunity
In an age where global markets are becoming more dynamic and complex, marketers’ ability to spot change and opportunity, look outside a company towards the changing landscape it inhabits, and interpret all of the above, underlines the importance of their position, perhaps most obviously in the creation and development of strategy.
Boards exist to ensure the interests of both shareholders and stakeholders are met by their respective organisations. They provide “entrepreneurial” leadership to their organisations while ensuring risks are understood and managed within a framework of prudent and effective controls.
They also set out an organisation’s values and ensure that these underpin obligations to shareholders and other stakeholders. Plus, they approve the company’s strategic direction, while ensuring that the necessary resources are in place to meet stated objectives.
The Role of Marketers on Boards
The contributions that marketers can make the overall boardroom mix are many and varied, but perhaps most obviously the marketer brings expertise in:
- Positioning the company to its greatest advantage;
- Contributing to its overall vision and strategy by seeing the bigger picture beyond the company;
- Promoting its goods and services; and
- Generating more revenue
Added to which, marketers are typically able to gather data from a range of sources and interpret it capably, meaning CMOs can help the board make sense of complex information to support decision-making.
The strongest argument, I think, for including a senior marketer on a board is this: if an organisation is seeking to create value for its owners and employees, it can only do this by creating value for external parties (usually customers). This understanding of the importance of creating value is core to any marketing philosophy and is central to what most would recognise as a strong strategic approach for any organisation.
It’s not uncommon, however, to hear that marketers believe themselves to be viewed as ‘vague’ and ‘less grounded’ in practicalities when compared to those with the stronger affinity for the practical and precise.
Personally, I’m not convinced that the latest trend to ditch marketing in favour of job titles such as ‘chief storyteller’ helps this much – unless the company culture supports this description. But what can certainly help is for the CMO to nurture a relationship with the CFO and, given the increasing role of technology in the generation of insights, with the CIO to help bring greater gravitas and indeed discipline to the marketing role.
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