How to Get Your CEO's Attention: Many Chief Executive Officers Underestimate, Undervalue and Underutilize Marketing. If You Are Faced with This Situation, Here Are a Few Smart Countermoves That Can Help Raise Your Profile

Article excerpt

CEOs have different definitions of the term "marketing" due to the varying interpretations of the word and the activities associated with it. Most marketing directors suffer from feelings of insecurity and inferiority, which is often traced back to lack of direction concerning the importance of their work.

For the most part, marketers don't have clear job descriptions and are delegated a wide variety of assignments, and are usually expected to jump when the CEO calls. In some cases, marketers don't even talk to the CEO.

Most common marketing duties I've seen are preparing and running ads, doing direct mail drops, preparing marketing materials and being in charge of such activities as the office Christmas party or annual picnic. There may be other passed-along duties as well, coming from other bank personnel who don't like some of the tasks that they were assigned.

This is a shame because most of the marketing directors I've met are bright, eager and ready to do meaningful things. They just can't get the necessary serious attention to do this.

Why does this situation persist?

In my opinion, there are three primary reasons:

1. Banks have made historically high profits in recent years. If the bank is raking in more profits, faster than it can count, suggestions about target marketing, market-share improvement, competitor-weakness insight research and new- product needs research aren't easily heard at the top. "It ain't broke.... don't need to fix it!"

This is a problem because the "good times" won't continue forever and management can only cut so many backroom expenses to bolster profits. Marketers can make opportunities for themselves because of this situation. History has shown that those who take advantage of the complacency of others reap substantial rewards.

2. CEOs have not gotten involved deeply in marketing. I am not singling out bankers when I say that most CEOs don't understand marketing, much less how to recognize the real values of professional marketing. But I have seen many bank CEOs who don't understand or really feel comfortable talking about the value of marketing. The common misconception is that it is "just advertising, and anybody can do that."

3. Bank marketing directors aren't proactive enough about measuring or documenting their positive contributions to the bank's bottom line. This usually results from them not knowing the bank's growth plan. This also stems from not knowing how to measure objectively the impact of marketing.

So what's my point? Bank marketers need to do a better job in educating their CEOs about the importance of marketing and its value in helping the CEOs achieve their goals. And this means going beyond suggesting to the CEO that the bank needs to do more advertising!

What you do to elevate the importance of marketing at your bank? Create proposals that show that marketing efforts can:

* Enable the bank to charge more for services and still have happy customers.

* Take business from even the strongest competitors.

* Identify reasons for potential customer loss before they happen.

* Put your competition on the defense, causing them to spend more and make mistakes.

* Identify new services and products that are snapped up quickly--at any price.

When preparing these proposals, keep in mind this definition of marketing: It is the ongoing process of understanding the needs of your marketplace as they relate to your bank--needs that your constituency doesn't believe are adequately satisfied. Your job as a marketer is to determine which of these needs your bank can satisfy at an acceptable profit.

If you are really good, you will use marketing research to identify these needs even before many customers fully realize that they need them.

Where has bank marketing been ignored or misused?

The situation with SMART card's initial tests in 1999 suggests the marketing department was not consulted nor properly utilized. …