When Firing the CEO is Not an Option


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I have been participating in an interesting dialogue on LinkedIn lately about what happens when, as the new head of marketing, your CEO asks you to assess and “fix” marketing within a notional 30-day period. The range of posts and reactions has been very interesting and, in some cases, worrying. What concerns me the most are the folks – they look mostly like very traditional brand marketers – who argue that the CEO should somehow be “fired” or that you, as head of marketing, should quit in response to a patently “impossible” request that shows how little the CEO understands and appreciates the art of marketing. I characterize that kind of thinking as “head in the sand” and say in response “wake up people!” because, whether they realize it or not, most senior marketers (and marketing itself) are being continuously assessed in terms of their contribution to the bottom line. The difficulty in measuring the return on many marketing investments only exacerbates this problem. So while a notional 30-day deadline is tough, I do feel that making an impact quickly by optimizing your marketing investments is expected of all new heads of marketing, especially because they will also be saddled with the many unrealized expectations the CEO had of their predecessors.

In response my recommendation has therefore been to embrace the challenge. None of us should be surprised when a CEO puts a BHAG out there. So firing them is not an option. The key is to understand why he or she is suggesting marketing needs to be “fixed”, and what they mean by that term. We all know it’s not possible to make big changes in a month, so what I would do is come back to the CEO with a list of prioritized recommendations, and here are some of the things I would analyze …

STRATEGY – is our marketing strategy aligned with our corporate goals? Are we focusing on the right kinds of customers? Is our spending aligned with those goals?

PROCESS – is marketing an efficient and proactive internal business partner?

MEASUREMENT – is marketing objectively measuring the right things and in ways which the rest of the company can understand? Is the contribution of marketing to the corporate bottom line clear?

INSIGHT – is marketing living up to its role of customer steward by providing leadership in understanding customers and designing and executing ways to engage with them appropriately?

DATA & TECHNOLOGY – is marketing making the best use of available data and tools (customer database, campaign management, business intelligence, etc.) to be efficient and effective?

PEOPLE – do marketing folks have the right skill sets and roles to advance the brand in this brave new world of customer-controlled engagement?

Net net, I wouldn’t be able to “fix” marketing in 30 days, but I would certainly aim to make some prioritized recommendations, together with an estimated business impact – I think that’s actionable information the CEO could use.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Niall Budds
Niall Budds is Director of Client Management at Quaero, a CSG Solution. Niall delivers client relationship management and advances the Quaero Solutions Group capabilities and intellectual capital in marketing operations. He applies best practice techniques and technologies to deliver continuous improvement in marketing performance.


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