How Marketers Can Have a Great Voice in the C-Suite

Marketers often think that their voice is not listened to and that there is often a disconnect with C-suite execs according Unilever CMO Keith Weed....
How Marketers Can Have a Great Voice in the C-Suite
Written by Rich Ord
  • Marketers often think that their voice is not listened to and that there is often a disconnect with C-suite execs. Unilever CMO Keith Weed said, “I often joke with my CFO, he counts where the money’s going, I say where the money’s coming from.” How can you as a marketing executive effectively get through to others in your organization? 

    Marketing Week recently asked several prominent marketers how they ensure their voice is heard by the rest of the C-suite:

    Alex Naylor, Marketing Director, Barclaycard

    The key thing is to talk to them about how you can help them achieve their objectives rather than trying to convince them to help you achieve yours. Many people approach marketing with an open mouth but in reality, many people don’t understand it. Business leaders see it as a tax on their business. The role of a marketing leader is to help them understand that marketing is an enabler that helps them achieve their business objectives and their business strategy. Once they see it as something they own then they’ll be prepared to invest in it.

    Zaid Al-Qassab, CMO, BT Group

    The secret to having your voice heard in the C-suite is caring passionately about what all the other people around the table do. If you’re myopically focused on just the marketing then you won’t be taken seriously. You need to understand everything about the finances of the business, about how the sales channels are working, about the HR problems, and the organizational opportunities. You need to understand the whole thing.

    Debrah Dolce, SVP, Group Brand & Marketing Director, TJX Europe

    I think to be effective in the C-suite, clearly, it’s going to be about relationships and a business approach that can showcase the impact that marketing can have on the commercial side of the business as well as the long-term brand building and customer engagement that we’re obviously all responsible for.

    For me, it would very much be about the partnership and the relationships within the C-suite. As the world becomes more connected and more integrated I see that only becoming more and more important. To function as a high-performing exec team it’s going to take everybody to care about the customer. I think that’ll be critical for all marketers moving forwards to share that passion.

    Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Unilever

    There is no stainable growth other than consumer or customer demand-led growth and marketers should be at the core of consumer demand-led growth. If you can do that you can tell the people around the table where the growth is coming from. I often joke with my CFO, he counts where the money’s going, I say where the money’s coming from, and that’s important for business.

    Troy Warfield, President, Topgolf International

    The way marketing leaders can ensure that their voices are heard in the C-suite, number one is they’ve got to be able to talk the language. So really understand what the business is about, understand finance, and then think about you know what is core to making that business grow. If you can combine all those three you’ll have a great voice in the C-suite.

    Tony Miller, VP, Digital Marketing & CRM, EMEA, Disney

    In order to make our marketing leaders’ voice heard to the rest of the C-suite group it’s about really open dialogue, being honest with your peers, and having the ability to have debate and encourage debate and discussion around things that are happening in the industry and specifically within your brand and your sector.

    I think marketers today need to ensure that they have everything backed up through data and insight, whether it’s about kind of proving return on investment of that marketing value through brand engagement or customer satisfaction or sales and return on investment. Having the data and letting that help speak and guide those conversations.

    John Rudaizky, Partner, Global Brand and Marketing Leader, EY

    I would say from point of view, how does your marketing and your brand contribute to the growth agenda? You really have to work hard at making sure that that’s clear. Most businesses are looking at growing through very disruptive times at the moment. The next thing is from a digital transformation point of view, I think marketing has never been more relevant in the boardroom.

    When you think about the total customer experience being changed through digital and technology, marketing has probably got the best ever moment in time to have a seat in that conversation. Thirdly, I’d say trust, every business is going through change and if you think about digital things reputations can be affected overnight. From a brand point of view, marketing and brands can play an active role in helping the boardroom navigate through these disruptive times.

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