Marketers Need to Earn a Seat at the Table

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Though B2B marketing executives might be excellent at developing strategies for their own departments, for the most part they are still left out of executive-level discussions in their companies, according to a new Forrester Research report.

At many companies, the hierarchy structure does not favor marketing’s position within the organization. In fact, about one-third of marketing leaders report to the CEO, but a slightly higher percentage report to another executive, such as a sales or revenue leader or an executive with more general leadership responsibilities, according to Forrester’s 2021 Global Marketing Survey

Much of the issue is that many C-Suite executives fail to see the full value of marketing, according to the research firm.

Yet 48 percent of marketing leaders surveyed said they will focus on supporting their organizations’ go-to-market strategies over the next two years. Forty-three percent said they would be supporting a new business model for their companies.

Additionally, 40 percent of marketing leaders surveyed said they had no input in their organization’s budgeting process, while twice that many said at least some of their company’s marketing is outsourced.

Krista Thomas, senior vice president and global head of marketing at marketing cloud systems provider InMobi, told Forrester: “Many marketers are whipped about by short-term goals with a new contract [service-level agreement] every quarter. Don’t let that happen to you. Instead, come to the table with a long-term plan that aligns to corporate goals, demonstrates a commitment to continuous incremental improvement in revenue operations, and illuminates marketing’s role in product/service innovation.”

Forrester principal analyst Susan Macke offers the following suggestions for developing a marketing strategy:

  • Provide parameters for the annual marketing plan. Marketing leaders need to make an array of tactical decisions, from channels to staffing to tools. A good marketing strategy informs such decisions, defining the processes and tactics that will drive the marketing actions. The research firm recommended that the annual marketing plan include a summary of the marketing strategy, along with a detailed listing of annual goals, investments, and expected outcomes.
  • Define priorities for marketing leaders. “CMOs who approach strategy development from the bottom up—developing functional strategies first and then knitting those together into an overall marketing strategy—risk a major disconnect with the business strategy and limit their capability to orient decisions about where to increase or decrease investment.”
  • Pinpoint the need for marketing metrics. Goals and objectives might be at the business strategy level, the marketing strategy level, or the functional strategy level.
  • Remember that strategy is different than planning. Most strategic plans the research firm has reviewed are no more than operational plans that include descriptive and aspirational verbiage. That isn’t strategy. Forrester defines strategy as “the making of an aligned and integrated set of choices that collectively position the organization for profitable revenue growth while maximizing stakeholder value.”
  • Marketing strategy shouldn’t be developed in a vacuum. Marketing leaders won’t succeed if they try to build their strategies without sufficient insight into their organization’s strategic business goals and engagement with the senior leadership team.
  • Link strategy to marketing’s business value. “B2B marketers must align and calibrate marketing to the business goals, such as entering new markets, defining new offers, and promoting retention,” Macke says. “Use the marketing strategy to specify the business benefits, clearly identify the processes and constituencies that will be affected, and detail your associated information and functionality needs.”
  • Use strategy formulation to build a shared outlook. A major benefit of using a structured process is that marketing and cross-functional teams will develop a sense of shared purpose as these decisions work their way down to individual marketing functions. Working together rather than individually promotes the goals of marketing as well as the organization, resulting in more efficient and impactful work for everyone involved.
  • Socialize the marketing strategy with stakeholders. CMOs need to work with product and sales leaders to align strategies. Forrester points out that such an approach enables companies to be more adaptive, agile, and resilient in dealing with internal and external changes in the business environment.

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