How to Convince Your CEO That Skimping on Marketing Talent Is No Bargain


If only you could achieve market leadership—and get a huge discount on marketing talent to boot—as quickly and easily as you can buy online with just a click on Cyber Monday.

But you know there’s no shortcut to finding effective marketing leaders, in time for the market opportunity window, on the cheap. Yet… that doesn’t stop some CEOs from expecting it.

Let’s face it, it’s never been more challenging to achieve market leadership: Product life cycles are shorter, there is greater price transparency, stockholders as well as customers have higher expectations, and both are less loyal; there are also more channels, more countries, more competition, and more distinct segments to manage on the way to market leadership.

The “mores” also make it extremely challenging to lead the marketing function: There are more data to crunch, more silos to tear down, more marketing disciplines to manage, and more marketing technology to evaluate and implement. And, certainly, there is more pressure from the C-suite to prove and improve the value of marketing.

Considering all those challenges, you and every member of your marketing team needs to bring more skills and more experience to the business of marketing than ever before.

So, Why Do CEOs and Boards of Directors Expect You To…

  • Hire part-time marketing leaders?
  • Transform someone with industry experience, but no marketing experience, into a successful marketer—within the market opportunity window?
  • Find the right marketing candidate on Craigslist “on the cheap”?

By now many of you are nodding your head because you’ve seen one or more of the above scenarios play out—with poor results.

Here’s a real-life example. A friend of mine, who has been a successful CMO for 15 years, was recently approached by an executive from a company; its board had decided they needed more marketing, now. There were new competitive threats, and the board had set an aggressive growth plan. In addition to competitive analysis and demand generation, the job’s scope included launching product definition and management disciplines, implementing solution and content marketing (including a new website), and creating sales and marketing assets for all phases of the prospect lifecycle. Such a highly strategic role should be a perfect fit for a seasoned CMO with industry experience, right? Wrong. They had only one resource, a junior corporate communications manager, and no plans to add anyone else, and they proposed that she freelance on the weekend to achieve the goals. When the CMO told him that what he was asking for could not possibly be delivered by one person on a part-time basis, the exec thanked her for her honesty and shared that the board had suggested that he recruit someone from Craigslist to keep costs low…

You have to wonder: Would the CEO or board have suggested that a strategic finance role be done just on weekends, or that the right person be hired via Craigslist? Of course not, there’s too much at stake.

Well, how much is market leadership worth? As the MasterCard commercial would say: Priceless.

Three Essential Components to Convincing the C-Suite that an Untrained Marketer, or a Craigslist Recruit, Is a Bad Deal

Convincing the C-suite to invest in top-quality marketing talent and development requires internal marketing. Apply the same skills that you use when engaging prospects, and keep in mind the Cicero principle: “If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words.” (Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106-43 BC)

  • Think and act like a member of the business team. Use your leadership’s terminology, and whenever possible tie Marketing to what matters to them. Articulate how Marketing is creating value for the company and how each investment will help the company achieve its strategic goals (e.g., increased penetration in a market, increased footprint among existing customers, improved profitability or achievement of their exit strategy).
  • Document and communicate, in detail, the many technical skills and marketing disciplines needed to achieve the desired business outcomes. Be clear about how and why these skills are essential, and also about the “cost” associated with not having these skills.
  • Insist that a portion of the marketing budget be allocated for upgrading and expanding the skills of everyone on your team—starting with you. Then make sure the outcome of that investment is measured and visible. Embark on the transformation to operate marketing as center of excellence.

Marketing as a profession is not as highly valued as it should be, in part because of the misconception that marketing is only art. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.

Marketing as Art and Science

From now on, marketers will need a “special mix of talents and attributes” because businesses increasingly need people who can create “brilliant customer experiences through a fusion of technology, creativity and commercial acumen,” The Econsultancy 2014 Digital Trends Study emphasized. And Econsultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein suggests successful marketers will be those who are “analytical and data-driven, yet understand brands, storytelling and experiential marketing.

In other words, because marketing is a combination of art and science, marketing leaders need to have capabilities in both right- and left-brain disciplines.

As marketers, we know this intuitively. But too many others do not. So, during recruiting, performance reviews, ongoing education, promotion, and budget discussions—and in meetings with your manager, the executive team, and board—fully communicate what it takes to achieve required business outcomes, including the following:

  • Technical skills: Planning, data analysis and modeling, project management, problem solving, technology evaluation, reporting, etc.
  • Strategic and tactical marketing discipline experience: Marketing performance management, marketing strategy, marketing operations, and functional marketing capabilities such as search engine marketing, content marketing, mobile marketing, etc.
  • Understanding of marketing principles: Cornerstone concepts such as the 5 P’s (Price, Place, Product, Promotion, and People), the 5 R’s (Relevance, Receptivity, Recognition, Response, Relationship), the 6 C’s of Engagement (Contact, Connection, Conversation, Consideration, Consumption, Community), and AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action)

The following table shows just some of the skills and experience required within the Marketing function to achieve market leadership:

Add to and customize that list to justify ongoing education investments or to make the case that The Ladders is a more appropriate recruitment source than Craigslist.

In the case of organizations with a larger number of marketers, establish a Marketing Leadership Council (MLC). To learn more about how to establish and harness an MLC as a vehicle to ramp marketing effectiveness and transformation, check out the white paper titled “The Role of Leadership Councils in Creating Marketing Centers of Excellence.”

About Author

Laura Patterson

Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.

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