OPINION: The case for firing marketing managers

Glenn Mabbott
By Glenn Mabbott | 13 December 2012
UNOmarcomms director, Glenn Mabbott.

All those for firing the marketing managers? Any against?

When they leave the office for the holidays, many marketing managers won’t realise their role may be restructured out of existence in the New Year. Over the Christmas break, CEOs around the country will be re-appraising who is an expendable cost to the business, versus who is an income generator.

Who will defend so many marketing managers when the case that has been building against them throughout 2012 is so strong?

Here is my snapshot of some of the evidence CEOs may be considering as they weigh up whether to fire their marketing managers:

Evidence A

Many of the tasks that CEOs thought only marketing managers could do can now be Googled. From 99 Designs to Freelancer.com, any CEO can buy marketing stuff cheap. Whether it’s designing websites or mailers, SEO or adwords, printing or promotions, everything is just a keyword search away. Who cares if you don’t know which half of your advertising works now you can buy it direct at third-world prices?

Evidence B

According to this years’ Roy Morgan annual professions ranking, marketers have failed again to rise much above used-car salesmen. What CEO wants someone with less credibility than a real estate agent on their team? Consider this evidence alongside the growth in Australia of the casual workforce and outsourcing generally. If you must have a marketing manager, why not buy by the hour, save on fixed and overhead costs.

Evidence C

CEOs have never believed marketers anyway. Fournaise's regional survey of CEOs in 2011 found 75% did not value marketing managers' opinions at a board level. In July this year the number had increased to 80%. In November, a follow-up survey found seven in 10 CEOs hold themselves "somewhat responsible" for marketers’ poor perceived business performance because they have given up on holding their marketing managers accountable. CEOs gave up measuring the performance of their marketing managers. If it isn’t measurable, it won’t be long before the accountants decide marketing managers are an expensive indulgence a lean 21st-century business can do without.

Evidence D

Business confidence is at its lowest level for four years. More companies went out of business in Australia in the last quarter than any other. 'She’ll be right' is now more wrong than ever. CEOs will have to change the way their business operates to survive. If they don’t know what marketing managers do, it’s an easy place for them to start cutting. As AdNews reported one recruiter say recently: “Companies want to hire revenue generators, and see marketers as passengers, not drivers.”

Evidence E

How many CEOs actually know what marketing is? Consider one of the four Ps of marketing, price. In the FMCG industry, paying a rebate to Woolworths for a price promotion is still considered a marketing investment, not the sales tool it is.

Evidence F

Consider the other three Ps as they apply to businesses today. When do CEOs involve marketing managers in product development, or distribution innovation, or the building of a business intelligence-driven CRM program? These new silos now fall under strategy and innovation manager, or the supply chain and technology integration manager, or the chief information officer. 

Is there a case for marketing managers?

The evidence doesn’t look good if the CEO doesn’t realise marketing managers can add value by thinking across silos, enabling the parts to work in synergy. 

The Fournaise study found CEOs “think marketers have continuously failed to unquestionably and consistently prove in the boardroom that their marketing strategies, activities and campaigns generated actual business growth”.

To grow today you have to become a successful challenger brand. To be relevant today, marketers have to champion at the board level the power of marketing to create a challenger brand.

If marketers aren’t in the boardroom, either the accountants, the salesmen, even the IT department will contend they need more of the budget to grow the business. Why not take it from the marketing pot – it’s just an artsy fartsy waste of money after all? Isn’t it? 

Glenn Mabbott
Creative Director and Principal

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