The Long Haul
Marketing is a Commitment Over Time
The CEO laments the fact that her company is lacking a real marketing backbone. In a quest to explore her growing interest in marketing, she networks with a variety of organizations and connects with a thoughtful man at a trade show. They get to talking and she is inspired by both his ideas and his passion. In turn, the man is somewhat taken aback by the level of curiosity this corner officer has in him and even more surprised by her interest in marketing.
After a few weeks of back-and-forth discussion, the CEO convinces the man to join the organization to spearhead their marketing efforts and, in her words, "Take them to another level of customer engagement."
Confident of the support he has from the CEO, the new CMO joins the company and needs about six months to get his bearings and kind of figure out what he doesn't know. He spends a great deal of time seeking an understanding of the business, the current customer landscape, and the inner workings of the company.
After his six-month deep dive, the CMO scripts a plan, hires staff, and begins communicating what the strategy will be internally. The execution of the new plan, which includes brand building, integrated marketing, and data-driven decision making, begins in earnest and will take one to two years to start to take hold and "move the needle."
Around the 18-month mark of the CMO's tenure, the CEO starts to wonder aloud what exactly is happening in the marketing department. The CFO has beaten a path to her door to discuss the expenses that are being piled up in marketing while suggesting that the ROI is negligible. And as a result, the same CEO that was enthusiastic about a new marketing-oriented culture was feeling uneasy.
With the pressure mounting for quantifiable results, the CMO and his team began to focus on pumping out likes, impressions, and other ambiguous metrics to justify their existence. Over a period of the next few months, the CFO cemented the case that the marketing spend was not resulting in hard core sales and the CMO was let go after just 24 months. The company reassigned a junior level person to the marketing role and defined the role as sales support. Subsequently, the company's performance was less than extraordinary and was tied largely to the overall economy.
The tenure of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) is notoriously shorter than that of other executives, with the average CMO lasting only 43 months in their role, according to a recent study by executive search firm, Spencer Stuart. This is significantly shorter than the average CEO tenure of 80 months and CFO tenure of 64 months.
The moral to this story is that the most successful companies have embraced marketing as the cornerstone of their business. They have recognized the importance of a long-term commitment to a customer-centric approach. By investing in marketing, these companies have been able to differentiate themselves from competitors, establish long-term customer loyalty, and drive business growth.
The irony of a marketing person having to quickly turn from a passionate focus on the community to a personal validation strategy is that the best companies in the world have marketing backbones. Just consider the following:
- According to a report by Forbes, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable compared to companies that are not focused on the customer.
- A study by Nielsen found that strong brands outperformed weak brands by a margin of 20:1 in terms of revenue growth.
- According to a report by Adobe, companies with strong omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel strategies.
One of the primary reasons behind the short tenure of CMOs is misaligned expectations between the CMO and other executives, particularly the CEO. CMOs are often hired with the expectation that they will be able to quickly generate a significant increase in revenue and market share. However, building a brand, developing and executing a marketing strategy, and establishing a customer base takes time, and results are not always immediate. When CMOs fail to deliver quick results, they are often shown the door.
The best-performing companies have embraced marketing and a customer-centric approach. Just like the relationships in our personal lives, they understand that focusing on understanding their customers' needs, wants, and desires over the long haul is what will build loyalty and trust.