Why Marketing Needs to be in the Room and at the Table

A Marketing leader at a mid-size B2B company casually mentioned to me over coffee that the CEO brought on a management consulting firm to facilitate an upcoming strategy meeting in preparation for the coming fiscal year.  It came to this Marketing leader’s attention that the no one from Marketing was being included in the meeting.  When I asked why, the answer was “the management consulting firm said we don’t need Marketing to be in the room.”

I was speechless from shock and then blurted out, “No way! Marketing definitely needs to be in the room!”  Ok, before you think this reaction is because I’ve been a Marketing and Sales professional a very long time, and have been at the helm of a data-driven strategic Marketing firm since 1999, I want to tell you there are two very important reasons why your Marketing team needs to be represented in the room:

  1. Your business strategy is how your company is going to achieve its desired ends (outcomes). It defines how you are going to compete and achieve growth. To compete and grow you need to know and understand your market, customers, and competitors. You need insights into macro as well as industry and customer trends so that these can be incorporated into your business strategy-building process. This analysis falls within the realm of Marketing. This analysis helps you decide WHO you are going to serve and HOW you are going to serve them. Once you know who and how, you need to develop and communicate a compelling and relevant value proposition to this target set of customers. This also falls within Marketing’s domain.
  2. By its very nature, when you select a strategy, you are making choices about what and where you will invest. As Michael Porter, often thought of as the father of modern strategy has said, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do”.  Since your business strategy defines what you need to do, it also defines your priorities, how you will allocate your resources, and the overall direction of the organization.  Each of the various functions within your organization will play a role in executing the strategy and insuring the right products are developed, marketed, sold, and delivered to the optimum set of customers. How well the strategy is executed directly affects whether your firm creates value for your customers and, ultimately, your company as well as the velocity of such successes.  Every function in your organization must be aligned to the strategy. The best way to hold functions accountable for delivering value is to include them in developing the strategy.

For these reasons, Marketing needs to be present when formulating your strategy. Ideally, Marketing needs a permanent seat at the table for any strategic business decisions.

Hopefully the CEO mentioned earlier wasn’t blindly following the consultant’s advice. Perhaps this CEO did not feel the need to include Marketing in the room because they see their Marketing organization primarily as a service provider to the Sales team, i.e. as tacticians. If that’s the case, this CEO should expect more.

Action Item for CXOs

If Marketing is not currently in the room and at your table, build a Marketing organization that deserves such a placement,  because Marketing should lead your organizations’ growth-related initiatives such as expanding into new markets or channels, improving customer life-time value, and driving innovation. When your Marketing function is absent from the room, you are missing the full picture. More importantly, you risk having a function that is out-of-step, potentially immersed and investing in the wrong tactics.

If you want to get started down the path of including Marketing in the bigger business conversation, contact me to schedule a complimentary 20-minute conversation.