Brian Carroll

How Dissatisfied CEOs Push Marketers into the Future

I feel very fortunate to work with some of the world’s most progressive marketers.  Whether they’re MECLABS Research Partners or attendees at one of our Summits, these marketers are driven to prove to their leadership that their efforts drive a return on investment.

They focus on measurable outcomes that translate into revenue, not vague notions like “brand awareness” that were the cornerstone of marketing back in the day. This is why they are attracted to us: We don’t believe there are expert marketers, only expert testers.  At MECLABS, we approach marketing more as a science than an art.

So, when I saw this article in MarketingWeek, 70% of CEOs Have Lost Trust in Marketers, it gave me pause. Interviews with 1,200 CEOs across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia revealed they believe marketers have “continuously failed” to prove marketing strategies deliver on business growth.

Are CEOs disappointed, or are they just waking up?

The article concerned me because these findings are completely incongruous with what I witness among the marketers I come in contact with every day. I believe the results are merely a snapshot: A static picture of what is happening right now.

It misses the point of a massive trend developing. CEOs are waking up. They’re seeing opportunity to align key performance indicators (KPIs) with clear marketing objectives. This is probably why doing a better job of acting on data to improve marketing performance is the goal of 66% of the 1,260 marketers surveyed as part of MarketingSherpa’s 2013 Marketing Analytics Benchmark Report. (Check out the report’s free excerpt.)

The Internet has closed down old-school marketing

The old-school approach to marketing, with the fuzziness associated with measuring the brand impact of traditional media like television, is running its course. The Internet has changed the playing field.

However, the Internet is more than a channel – it’s a laboratory to get into the customer’s mind and close the gap between the customer’s reality and ours. We use the Internet to focus on the customer, not the product, and to translate those findings across online and offline marketing so the organization is fully aligned with customers’ desires.

A return to true marketing

When this happens, so does effective marketing. To paraphrase Peter Drucker, the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.

How well you’re able to do this is measured in marketing KPIs like conversions and clickthrough rates, but those need to be translated into what matters most to CEOs:

  • More leads
  • More revenue
  • Shorter time to revenue
  • Improved marketing-to-sales expense

Fortunately, that’s what the marketers we work with are mastering through leveraging the Internet. They’re testing what’s most resonating with customers, and what isn’t, and then revising campaigns accordingly to drive the best results.

I believe these marketers represent the other end of the CEO spectrum: The 20% featured in the article who believe their marketers provide a return on investment, have “solid influence” within their organizations, and are candidates for senior management.

These marketers represent the future of the profession.

Related Resources:

How to Get the CEO to Support Your Next Marketing Plan

Most important B2B Marketing Metrics For CEOs

Is Revenue Contribution the Best Executive Metric for Demand Generation Investments?

Marketing Data: Using predictive analytics to make sense of big data

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Marketing Strategy



  1. February 25th, 2013 at 09:19 | #1

    Boy, I don’t believe that first survey you mentioned. For some marketers, it’s flat-out hard to measure ROI unless you have the financial muscle to do so.

    I do agree, however, that CEO’s are “waking up” to measurable marketing and old marketing is dead. In my last company and my current employer, we measure everything we possibly can. There are so many free tools out there. And once you prove the thousand dollars you spent turned into $10,000 in sales, your CEO should have a smile on their face.

  2. Corey Weiner for TEETH Mar Com
    February 27th, 2013 at 11:34 | #2

    This should come as no surprise.

    CEOs and anyone in a relatively powerful position at a BtoB organization knows this: today’s web-everything marketing maintains FEW Barriers to entry.

    That is to suggest just about any five-year-old can open a Nielsen Buzz account and do a little Google Analytics info-gathering and fancy himself a “marketer.”

    CEOs in this survey know zero empirical evidence exists to tie in legitimate marketing key performance indicators.

    I say this all the time in panel discussions and my articles where editors allow me to: everyone is Napoleon hiding behind a laptop monitor on the internet.

    And a great majority of “marketers” are useless.

    This is why top publications such as Thunderbird Business School’s quarterly magazine and Harvard Business review publish articles on the subject of what I am speaking of here.

    Few CEOs want a marketer to be their best friend; or act like it to sell some form of marketing service.

    Corey Weiner

  3. March 1st, 2013 at 06:31 | #3

    Nice post Brian. Although one sentence caught my attention, “At MECLABS, we approach marketing more as a science than an art.” I’m just wondering, shouldn’t we approach marketing as a science and an art? Don’t you think it should go together. It’s not just all numbers, I think we also need to put heart into it for marketing to be effective. http://bit.ly/ayeen8

  1. June 24th, 2013 at 03:02 | #1