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Marketing is a little bit like a Rodney Dangerfield quote. It can’t get no respect.

Everybody in the business wants great marketing and basically nobody wants to do great marketing. This is fueled by an Industrial Age bias in many leaders that marketing still follows a direct, linear path. That there’s a straight line between Product A and Audience B.

Leaders want marketing to be simple. They want it to be 100% effective, all the time, they want it to be cheap, and they want it to make them look good — overnight. Oh, and they want little to no part in it.

That’s not asking for much, right?

Sure, many of these ideas have been further reinforced by the marketing industry, which has become awash with snake oil salespeople and false promises, pie-in-the-sky ROI projections and flavor-of-the-month marketing tactics.

But still. What other part of business is held to these criteria?

Do leaders expect sales to be 100% effective all the time?

Do they anticipate their accounting will be cheap?

Think their internal software will make them look good overnight?

Do they think improvements in automation will produce immediate ROI?


Yet, if we had a dollar for every time marketing has been taken to the whipping post and flogged simply for being imperfect, we’d be rich.

And it’s time for other parts of the business to take more responsibility for marketing, just like they would with a tech decision, an accounting system or a sales team.

The most successful marketing requires the engagement of the entire organization, especially the leadership team.

Strong marketing depends on clarity around mission, message, category, differentiators, customer experience. Those should not and cannot be uncovered or determined by the director of marketing alone. It is up to leaders to be accountable for providing a strong set of marketing ingredients to create a masterful dish that will ultimately grow the brand and business.

Have you as a leader worked with your team to give them this foundation?

Have you collaborated and empowered your director of marketing to think strategically about marketing? Once that is done, are you ready to go hands-off as your director of marketing implements, runs experiments and refines the marketing approach?

We recognize that marketing has a heightened level of expectation – especially if your company is in growth mode. In order to meet the revenue goals set forth as part of the growth strategy, marketing needs to perform at a high level. However, this often leads to an attitude from leaders that if marketing doesn’t produce to their level of expectation, then something is wrong with the marketing. This doesn’t take into account a lack of clarity around the aforementioned mission, message, category, differentiators, customer experience – all of which have a direct impact on the efficacy of marketing.

This pressure for marketing to perform also can lead to steroidal-like practices: using manipulative messages or tactics just to drive the numbers. Unfortunately, way too many marketers succumb to this pressure in the face of panicked “we need leads!” or “we need deals!”

If you are a Director of Marketing, you need to master three things to push back against the inherent biases that many leaders have about marketing:

  • Demand and earn a seat at the strategy table. Don’t let other leaders relegate you to the kiddie table. You are a leader. You get strategy. You have ideas. They deserve to be heard.
  • Become a thought-leader. Most internal marketers get immersed in the workload of their role. But investing in your own brand as a marketing thought-leader will pay dividends as you position yourself internally as an expert, not an order-taker. Advocate for your own learning opportunities as well. Ask to attend conferences, take courses, join a mastermind.
  • Report back. There is a tendency among directors of marketing to hoard information. This is understandably spurred by the consistently dubious attitude toward marketing’s worthiness and perception as a “cost center.” Fight that tendency. Share your resounding successes (with metrics attached) and your lackluster experiences (and bring that data, too) with your leadership team. Let them know what you learned and how you will move forward from here.

Marketing cannot begin to sing until everyone in the organization understands their part and how the harmony of it comes together. This must be a group effort.

That’s the only way it will get any respect.

Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster are cofounders of the intrinsic branding practice known as Root + River. Together with their defiantly different clients, they uncover then articulate the foundational elements of the brand. Then, they provide brand strategy and brand coaching as the brand is rolled out internally and externally. Obsessive about language and differentiation, Emily + Justin are also authors and speakers. Follow @rootandriver @fosterthinking and @emilyatlarge.

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