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Jan 21, 2008
Blog Post

SherpaBlog: Another Marketing Leader Bites the Dust

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, Content Director

I just received an email from a good friend in Massachusetts. A girlfriend of hers, a 20+ year marketing professional was “let go” from her position as head of a technology firm’s marketing ... right before Christmas.

Crazy but true, the CEO in question tried to paint the layoff as a compliment. “You’ve done such a fine job putting a team in place here and training them. We really don’t need you anymore.” he apparently said.

Now, when was the last time you heard of a CFO being laid off like that? “Bob, you’ve done such a fine job training bookkeeping and hiring that accounting firm. We’ve decided to do without you this year.”

Or how about the CIO? “Jerry, those technicians of yours are fantastic geeks. Our tech has never been in better shape. Thanks and have a nice life.”

Yet, somehow on a planet where it’s nearly inconceivable to lay off your most critical leaders when a company needs them most, during a crisis, it’s all too easy to lay off the head of marketing.

Back during the downturn of 2001-02, marketing got socked in the stomach. We were money wasters; we weren’t accountable enough; we were “suits”; we were bad. In fact, when in reaction to the then-common marketplace feelings, an ad agency in Massachusetts did a joke song CD titled, ‘Let’s All Blame the Marketing Director!’ It was so true to life that it was hard for some of us to laugh.

We’ve come a very long way since those dark days. The profession as a whole has nearly reinvented itself -- especially in terms of accountability and measurement. Now, we all measure everything (and now CEOs complain our reports are too detailed; if it’s not one thing, it’s another.)

But, I think we still have one profound challenge to address as a profession. We have raised our reputations as tacticians, but we are not seen as mission-critical strategic leaders.

Strategic leaders keep their jobs during recessions. Tacticians can be downsized. You can always get a cheaper tactician or make one tactician do the work of two. Heck, you can even outsource tacticians to other, cheaper countries.

How can marketing as a profession seize the day and get upper management to (a) give us a seat at the table, and (b) see us as the strategic leaders that we are?

I don’t have the answers -- but I hope you do. Write me. Share your insights and ideas. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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Comments about this Blog Entry

Jan 21, 2008 - Bill Flentje of Buy Colorado says:
Maybe we have shot ourselves in the foot with the statistics. Many of the ones that I have seen make no sense at all with perhaps the exception of the author. The authors of the statistics assume that everyone understands their terms. NOT. So if I can't understand, it must be useless. Give me numbers and explain in plain street English what they mean. This way you will have communicated and demonstrated in understandable terms your value.

Jan 21, 2008 - Kevin Brown of Netspend says:
Most of the problem is due to Marketers themselves and their distinctive camps that vary from company to company. i.e. What is the difference between and more importantly value in advertising, product marketing, brand marketing, direct marketing and PR? Do you need all of those functions? How do they fit together? Are there alternatives? Confusion within leadership then leads to questioning value. Marketers should market their functional areas and visions better internally so they make sense to all parts of the business. i.e. Why do we have this marketing structure vs. the other options. Educate the rest of the business and they become advocates and participants of their strategies. The end goal would be that the entir ebusiness undertands that Marketing is a key driver of the business and not a nice to have organization that is responsbile for buying the pens with the company logo.

Jan 21, 2008 - AnnaMarie of says:
Always be sure to stress the Marketing Contribution to the leadership team (which is usually made up of finance and planning staff). The more seriously they take this metric, the more likely they will see value in the marketing department.

Jan 22, 2008 - Rich Meyer of Medtronic Diabetes says:
I really feel for the person in this story. Being laid off is horrible especially before Christmas. The issue continues to remain that most executives do not look at marketing as a strategic business partner but rather an "expense". Marketers spend more time justifying the dollars and proving ROI that they have little time to focus on true breakthrough programs. Now that the economy is headed in a substantial downturn I am sure that we will all see marketing programs cut as marketing is usually the first to go and last to know.

Jan 24, 2008 - Tom Pick of KC Associates says:
Marketing leaders need to learn how to demonstrate their core strategic value to the corporation. Viewed properly as an end-to-end process of value creation, from design to promotion, marketing is THE core of the enterprise. Starting with product (or service) management, marketing determines customer needs, surveys the competitive landscape, and specifies products/services that align with the organization's core competencies. Then it articulates that differentiation to the market. That is the strategic value of marketing--activities like measuring and reporting search marketing results are a small task within a much larger framework. That's the story we need to tell, convincingly.

Jan 25, 2008 - Bob Washburn of CustomerCentric Sellinb says:
Here are two recommendations for marketing leaders: first, to become relevant and valued, convert your inside sales team to lead nurturers...continually provide helpful info to prospects who are not "sales ready", until they do want to talk to a field salesperson, and second, work with sales management to create sales tools that reps will actually use during the phases of the selling process, e.g. "sales-ready messages".

Feb 02, 2008 - Chris Olson of Microsoft says:
To be viewed as strategic you have to be strategic. I see way too many marketers focus on the tactics without understanding the big picture. Make sure your you can always tie your results to the corporate goals and not just the campaigns goals. Position yourself as working with your stakeholders rather than for them.

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