The 6 Key Roles of Highly Successful Marketing Organizations

February 24th, 2010

I am late with this blog post, but I wanted to take some time to think about and define essential elements and functions world class marketing organizations exhibit. I may be biased because of the previous positions I have had at HP. But I believe the most successful marketing organizations and leaders create and blend roles that drive the business growth and deliver upon their functional objectives and deliverables. While I assume I will deliver many future posts on the topic of the role of marketing and CMO, let me say the following which may obvious to many.

The more the marketing role is structured around deliverables and tactics, the less value the rest of the company (and the people who manage the budgets) will ascribe to the marketing function. In contrast, the greater the ability of marketing to influence the business – whether that be strategy, value creation, new product development, growth initiatives, etc. the more value and importance a company will derive out of their marketing organizations. In my consulting practice and network, I have met many companies “enlightened” about the value of marketing. They say they want to build a “strategic marketing” organization and invest money, hire talented people, etc. The goal, of course, is admirable. But then ask the tough questions. You find out that marketing doesn’t report to the CEO/President like HR, Finance, Operations, etc. It reports two or three levels down in the organization. Think that is a strategic investment in marketing? Ask another question and they will tell you they don’t know much about marketing – they read that is important (or some consultant or the board told them it was important) and they want to invest, but watch it at a distance. “Prove to me that marketing has strategic value and we will elevate it in the organization”, they pontificate.

The marketing professionals that take on these roles, in many cases, are doomed to failure because their organization is not really ready to engage or support the marketing function at an appropriate level. Finally, some sales-focused organizations and CEO/owner managers are not ready to be “enlightened” by a more capable and powerful marketing organization or leader. They say, “Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power”.

What I can say, after observing great and not so great marketing organizations, is I believe there are 6 key roles that most successful marketing organizations (and the people in them) play.  Executing on them greatly improves the chances that world class marketing will be delivered.

  • Be the Strategic Visionary for the Business – Shape the future direction of the company and help the company and the board see what the future and success looks like. Be an externally facing PR/Industry Analyst spokesperson about this vision and strategy with the CEO and the other executives.
  • Grow Revenues and Share While Effectively Managing Profitability – Be the champion of growth in the company.  Build strategic plans, portfolios, and initiatives that drive growth short term and long term revenue and market share while delivering on the bottom line profit of the company – net profit, operating profit, EBIDA, etc.
  • Identify and Create New Business Opportunities – Help the company identify adjacent, new business opportunities that can be grown organically or through acquisition. Assist the company in its make, buy or build decision-making. Finally, lead the organization in the identification of potential partners or acquisition targets
  • Bring the Voice of Customer and Insights to CEO and C-Level Staff – Do it in a way they can be internalized and used to create value and competitive advantage for the company. Listen to what customers are saying. Create different ways to interact and capture that feedback (i.e. social media).  Be able to aggregate the data and provide meaningful insights that are actionable.
  • Create and Manage the Right Marketing Structures – Ability to successfully brand, create, introduce, manage, and sell a company’s products and services at the appropriate cost and with the right ROI. Not everything in marketing is fun and glamorous. We need to create structures that measure the investment return (ROI) of the money we spend and create structures and processes to get what we need out of the organization to deliver the functional goals. We also need be great in the functional practice of creative and innovative marketing and understand and master relevant, new marketing techniques and practices.
  • Proper Marketing Role is a Blend of Activities and Roles Over the Strategic Planning Horizon - Spend too much time in strategic planning, and the company may view marketing as being in an ivory tower. Spend too much time in tactical execution mode and you might not be seen as value-added function, but one that wildly spends money on frivolous activities. It is the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma. While not easy, good marketing organizations are able to balance the two well. One other thing I would mention is that as a marketing functional leader, spending too much time in strategy or execution risks labeling you as too strategic (can’t execute) or not strategic enough. Balance and harmony on this continuum is key.

The important point, in summary, is that marketing is the only function, in the office of the CEO, which can broadly lead an organization down the path of growth and strategic insight. Because of the scope of what marketing people do, this leadership doesn’t come from other functions such as HR, Finance, or Operations.

There is a lot of literature and articles out there about the evolving role of marketing and CMO. Here are a few that I found interesting.

CMO Tenure – Slowing the Revolving Door

The Evolving Role of the CMO

Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing

Happy reading and please let me know if you have other ideas, comments, or thoughts about key marketing roles.

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6 Responses to “The 6 Key Roles of Highly Successful Marketing Organizations”

  1. Tom Hume says:

    Great blog Vince! Any CEO and Sr VP of HR should use your insights expressed in this blog when looking to hire the best CMO candidate.

  2. Jim Lyons says:

    Great thoughts Vince — I plan to use this in my Univ of Phoenix marketing classes!

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by vlferraro: New blog entry on the 6 Key Roles of Highly Successful Marketing Organizations…

  4. Simon says:

    Great thoughts Vince — I plan to use this in my Univ of Phoenix marketing classes!

  5. Thanks for the positive feedback Simon!

  6. [...] other critical roles the marketing function must play. I listed those key areas in the blog entry 6 Key Roles of Highly Successful Marketing Organizations. I won’t repeat them [...]

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