I sometimes wonder if marketing has become too sophisticated, too process and ROI focused. The reality is that you can introduce as many processes and metrics as you want, but unless you create sales and marketing strategies and communication that resonate with potential buyers and provoke them to act - and deliver buyer enablement, rather than sales enablement, through the channels that those buyers are most receptive to, no amount of investment in process and operation will deliver meaningful ROI.

And the more sanitised and emotionless marketing becomes, the less effective it will be. Perversely, there is a risk that by focusing on ROI and efficiencies, marketers (and their sales partners) will reduce ROI and create inefficiencies.

I’m old enough to remember the best marketers of all – the organisational leaders, the ones that had no training because marketing training really didn’t exist then (The Global Marketing Director for (Rank) Xerox between 1976-1985 had trained as an aircraft engine designer after leaving school at age 14).

They did have an innate empathy with offers, strategic thinking and audiences, combined with a visceral desire to make money, combined with a keen sense of self-preservation and the ability to be larger than life. They completely understood that the customer is the business and that customer is the route to business success. They didn’t think in ‘customer-centric’ process driven ways, they thought like the customer. They were fearless winners, built meaningful relationships with their teams and agencies (who both loved and hated them!), expected to be challenged and then challenge back x10, and most importantly, they knew how to have a laugh.

Working with them was sometimes frightening, sometimes the best fun you could have at work, but always highly charged, ideas focused and results obsessed.

I make no apologies for sounding nostalgic because the only way for marketing to regain its value in the minds of business leaders, in an age where complexity has removed the ability to function effectively and win, will be for these larger than life, rule breaking, sales/buyer focused leaders to make a comeback. They’d be truly viable candidates for the title of CMO too, a title that didn’t really exist until recently - but a job description that is as old as marketing - and now that it does exist, there are less and less marketers capable of successfully delivering against it.

So, are you a marketer that goes through the motions or are you a marketing leader that delivers across your organisation in both areas of successful business development – innovation and marketing? Peter Drucker (who knew a thing or two about business and the marketing imperative) stated this years ago. It was relevant then but it’s an absolutely essential maxim in todays (and tomorrows) business and marketing landscape. It’s the difference between ‘future’ and ‘no future’ – as are you. Your choice.


By Stephen Cook, Head of Brand Strategy and Planning at MTD

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