Have Marketers Fully Embraced the Growth Challenge?

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The role of marketing was a major topic of conversation last year, and there is a widespread belief that marketing’s scope of responsibility has expanded. In the August 2018 edition ofThe CMO Survey, eight out of ten (79.6%) of the survey respondents said that the role of marketing in their organization had broadened over the past five years.



Marketing’s responsibility for orchestrating customer experiences has been widely discussed for several years. More recently, industry commentators and practicing marketers have become focused on the role of marketing in driving business growth.

In a recent survey of over 200 CMOs and senior VPs of marketing by the CMO Council and Deloitte, 27% of respondents said that the CMO is primarily responsible for the growth strategies and revenue generation for their organization. The CEO came in second at 22%.

Marketing leaders also believe that other senior business leaders expect them to play a leading role in growth. When participants in the CMO Council/Deloitte survey were asked what level of expectation there is among senior executives and board members for marketing to be a growth driver, 35% of respondents put the expectation level at high, and 33% said senior company leaders think growth is the primary mandate of marketing.

Some will argue, of course, that this is nothing new. After all, it’s fair to say that growth has always been the “prime directive” of marketing. What’s new is that marketing and other business leaders now believe that marketing needs to expand the tools it uses to drive revenue growth.



So as we begin a new year, it’s appropriate to ask two basic questions about the expanded role of marketing. First, to what extent have marketing leaders embraced the growth challenge and adjusted their activities to play a larger role in growth? And second, what should be the role of marketing in driving growth, and what do marketing leaders need to do to fulfill that role?

Where Do We Stand Today?

The recent research indicates that leading business growth is more of an aspirational goal than a current reality for most marketers. Overall, the studies show that most marketing leaders are still relying on conventional marketing communications tools to drive growth, and they remain much less involved in other business activities that have a significant impact on growth.

For example, in the latest edition of The CMO Survey, senior marketing leaders from B2B and B2C companies were asked to identify the activities or functions that marketing is primarily responsible for in their company. The top four activities identified by survey respondents were:



  • Brand (91.4% of respondents)
  • Digital marketing (82.7%)
  • Social media (82.7%)
  • Advertising (79.6%)
Other activities identified by more than 50% of survey respondents included promotion (71.6%), positioning (71.6%), public relations (69.1%), and marketing analytics (68.5%)
In contrast, only 40.1% of respondents indicated that marketing is primarily responsible for revenue growth, and even fewer respondents indicated that marketing has primary responsibility for market entry strategy (38.9%), new products (34.0%), and market selection (26.8%).
The CMO Council/Deloitte survey referenced earlier paints a similar picture. That research found that many marketing leaders have identified some steps they need to take in order to drive growth, which include developing strategies and plans to improve revenue and gain market share. The research also found, however, that most marketers are falling back into their “brand comfort zone.” The survey report states:
When asked what the role of marketing is specific to growth, only 6 percent of respondents say they are driving routes to revenue across all facets of the business globally, only 4 percent are providing sales intelligence and key account insight support, and only 13 percent are working to retain and grow customer relationships through improved customer experiences. Instead, many marketers are defining and shaping the brand (44 percent) and executing campaigns to attract customers and predispose prospects (42 percent). . . Overall, despite the clear intention to drive revenue, brand and campaign win out in action. . .”
These survey findings suggest that most marketing leaders have not moved significantly beyond “conventional” marketing tools and tactics in their efforts to drive business growth. So what is the “right” role of marketing in business growth, and what steps should marketing leaders take first to fulfill that role? I’ll address this question in my next post.
Top image courtesy of ccpixs.com (Creative Commons License).

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