Want to Innovate? Make Sure You Have a Seat at the Table

For most companies, the top marketer, usually called the chief marketing officer, is part of the senior leadership team and sits on the executive committee or management board. In other words, marketing has a “seat at the table.”

But here’s the challenge. If you let things slip in terms of your team’s skills and effectiveness, you’re going to lose that seat. If marketing is seen as weak or ineffective, over time, other departments will slowly start stealing away your responsibilities. If left unchecked, your department will dwindle, leaving your team little more than a sales support function.

Here are some examples. Imagine you have a talented marketer in your department who handles sales forecasts used by manufacturing to decide how much product to make. She leaves to take another role, and her replacement is just not as good. Eventually, the manufacturing team will step in and take over forecasting. Hey, they’re doing it because they need to get the job done.

This could happen in other areas. Pricing could go to finance. Product development goes to R&D. Distribution slips away to the supply chain group. Marketing promotions goes to Corporate Communications, and so on. You’re left with a bunch of junior marketers who do nothing but create sales aids. Not good.

The biggest challenge is that many people believe that anyone can do marketing. Other groups see the marketing department as a great development opportunity for their staff.

For example, the national sales manager wants to give division sales managers new challenges and experiences. They apply for a job in marketing despite having no marketing skills. Other departments do the same thing. Over time, you end up with a marketing department that, by design, is operating at less than 100% effectiveness. You’re in trouble.

Here’s what you can do about it. First, you have to build a marketing department that is seen as having a strong core – it has solid people, strong processes, it meets its obligations, and it positions itself as leading the charge against the competition. That means you have to focus on getting the right talent and building competency within your team.

You have to create an amazing team of people with leadership skills so other departments see marketing as the hub of all company activity.

You must change people’s perception of marketing-as-a-cost-center to marketing-as-an-investment- center. Money spent on marketing will yield a sound return on investment. That means you have to deliver on your promises.

So evaluate your current situation, your talent pool, and your responsibilities. Create a plan to build a strong marketing core. Then go and get back that seat at the table.