Is Your Marketing Organization a Cost Center, or a Profit Center?

As a marketing leader, are you feeling pressure to drive higher top line revenues, yet lack the authority and influence to make it happen?

Lisa Nirell

As a marketing leader, are you feeling pressure to drive higher top line revenues, yet lack the authority and influence to make it happen?

When I turned seven, I certainly felt that way– like I had lost my footing. My parents moved from a small town in Connecticut to Morris Plains, New Jersey, a sprawling suburban jungle. It was a major social transition for me at the playground. I went from “local kickball hero” to “zero.” I was suddenly second string.

I have met many CMOs who feel the same way in the C-suite—and it’s worse when you are new to your position.

When you are treated like a cost center, it’s all about the budget. Someone tells you how much you can spend. On the other hand, if you are a ‘profit center,’ you boldly project how much top line growth you will contribute.

Watch for these clues that your organization is deemed a cost center:

1. Your field marketers act like sales support staff, not trend-setters. A field marketer needs to serve more like a sales partner, crafting go to market plans, assessing competitors, and refining market messages —not responding to urgent, end of the quarter demands from a sales person.

2. Marketing is ignored during executive team meetings. When discussing revenues, customers, and results, all eyes turn to sales.

3. Your purpose is misunderstood or unclear. What percentage of your company really can consistently explain the purpose of marketing? As my friend Marshall Goldsmith says, “What got you here won’t get you there.”

4. Your current KPIs limit your true potential. Marketers often focus too much on awareness building and number of followers, versus lead generation and lead conversion statistics. The advent of social media is partially to blame. You’re not Lady Gaga, so don’t fall into this trap!

5. You report different results at each executive session. Just discussing what’s hot and different in those meetings will sabotage your C-suite “street cred.” Imagine if your CFO created a new and different dashboard at each board meeting. Nobody could track progress from one quarter to the next. Marketing needs to create a Reporting Cadence.

Given the advances in marketing operations, web analytics, and customer experience tracking, CMOs have few excuses to accept second-string status. It’s time to step forward and kick the ball out of the park.

What are your experiences? Share them on my YouTube page.

copyright 2013, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved

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