Should marketers act like they own the business?

I’ve been in marketing for over a dozen years now in a number of different B2B sectors and businesses. One of the constant challenges throughout my career to date has been the variability in how marketing is perceived by ‘the business’ (the collective noun that marketers often use to describe non-marketing stakeholders and decision makers).

 More often than not, when perceptions are negative, it’s down to the fact that the marketing function has failed to demonstrate and communicate the value created through its efforts. Often, there is no direct alignment to the business strategy and objectives.

This isn’t a new problem, and I can’t say I’ve not been guilty of this at times in my own career, but the scale of the challenge is as high as it has ever been.

A recent CIM/Deloitte survey revealed that a mere 7% of respondents ‘always set KPIs clearly for each initiative’, and only [maybe the same?] 7% ‘always set clear accountabilities for objectives’. 

By my maths, this means that a staggering 93% of Marketers must be hoping for the best when embarking on marketing programmes. If we don’t know what to expect and we don’t know who’s responsible for success or failure, it is no surprise that marketing teams sometimes struggle to articulate the value they create.

Is acting like you own the business the answer?

So, should Marketers think (and act) more like shareholders when developing marketing programmes? I believe so. If you think (and act) as if you owned the company you work for, and imagined it was your money you’re investing in marketing, would you sign off on the investment?

Here are three ways that marketers can demonstrate they are thinking (and acting) like the owners of the business when building and implementing their marketing plans:  

1) Aligning marketing objectives to business strategy will help to tangibly demonstrate the value you are adding to the business. This isn’t easy (only 37% of organisations ‘think their business strategy is clearly translated into marketing objectives’ according to the CIM/Deloitte survey) but it shouldn’t stop us trying.   

2) Define truly SMART objectives that demonstrate the clear line of sight between business strategy and marketing strategy. Set the right metrics and make sure you take accountability for achieving them.

3) Communicate your plans and progress in the context of how it is supporting the achievement of the business strategy.  Keep communication open and two-way. Tell the broader business what you are doing, how it is going, and gather feedback from functions that are critical in the achievement of your objectives (sales, finance, operations etc). Repeat.

I’m keen to hear your views on this. What are the benefits and drawbacks of thinking like a shareholder? What are the challenges of adopting such a mindset?


3 thoughts on “Should marketers act like they own the business?

  1. Iain Cox

    It’s hard to argue with the point being made here. To develop the debate, marketers should also be thinking like business people and recognising there are lots of ways to invest in the future of a business. Whilst marketing is a key one, there are many others. Sometimes it may be that investing in salesforce training, for example, or product development could deliver a better return than the same budget funding extra marketing activity. May seem courageous, or even a bad career move at times, but marketers have to remember they’re also business people and will earn respect for having a broader perspective that can see beyond just their own field.

  2. Jason Martin

    Hello, Steve. You asked me on Twitter for a little feedback on your blog. At first glance, it looks like you have the basics, which many blogs don’t have. Short, pointed posts with something interesting to say in each one. A clean, professional design. Display of tweets and a way to interact with you (subscribe via email). These are all good things. I would only suggest that you look for additional ways for your readers to engage with you. Do you use YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn? You should have links to all of those profiles on your blog. Also, don’t be afraid to link to other blogs you like, that may or may not share your views on B2B marketing. Finally, just a personal note, but I am used to seeing the post tags and comment link at the bottom of the posts, rather than at the top of them as you have them. Maybe your blog theme will allow you to move those to the more standard location at the bottom of your posts.


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