Why Marketing should have a place on the board

Jan 25th '16

A new report by Econsultancy in association with Oracle Marketing Cloud makes a good case for why Marketing should have a place on the board. Released this month, the report, Marketers in the Boardroom, shares both the reasons why Marketing belongs in the boardroom and the steps marketers need to take to get there.


With contributions from CMOs in leading organisations, the report gives first-hand experience of the road to board membership, identifying some valuable pointers around the ways Marketing needs to communicate, report and interact with other areas of the business in order to be taken seriously at the top echelons of business.


Some key points include:


An analysis of the current marketing leadership landscape

Boards are changing, the report believes. Agility, innovation and a forward-thinking ethos are now prized – if not instead of, at least alongside – accountancy skills.  Progressive firms increasingly share a tendency to have Marketing presence on the board.


Partly, this results from the increasingly data-driven nature of marketing. The ability to measure and evidence marketing’s contribution to the bottom line enables Marketers to speak in terms the board understand. Hard facts have always been the board’s currency: the subjective nature of marketing previously made it hard for the Marketing team to be taken seriously.


Today, digital marketing in particular has removed a lot of the subjectivity around marketing success. Leads generated are clearly visible and traceable. This gives the marketing director greater credibility at board level.


Why are marketers needed on the board?

The report notes Marketing’s role in linking the company with the customer. No other department will have the same level of insight into customer behaviours, needs and future requirements.


Organisations are increasingly recognising the customer’s place at the heart of their business – and Marketing’s role as the customer’s champion within the firm. With Marketing on the board, there is effectively an interface at the top level between the customer and the business.


In addition, companies that respond to this by putting customers at the centre of their approach achieve a less ‘silo-ed’ organisation – which in turn leads to more satisfied customers. A virtuous circle.


How can Marketing get a seat on the board?

The report has some useful tips here, particularly around communication. The way marketing teams communicate amongst themselves, or with other creative disciplines like design agencies, web teams or PR consultants, won’t cut it with the board.


Tailoring your language to suit the people you’re talking to is common sense, and nowhere more important than when adapting to a board culture.


And it’s not just language. There needs to be depth to Marketing’s contribution. Using metrics is vital – and they need to be ones that resonate with the board; not all metrics are relevant outside of the marketing environment. This is about what sits beneath the language – are your measures meaningful? Do you have data to back them up? A board more used to financial presentations and updates on IT will need marketing information presented in a way that they are familiar with.


A collaborative approach between Marketing and board

Because boards have traditionally done things in certain ways, change may be uncomfortable. Once a marketer joins, they often assume the mantle of change agent, either because it’s assumed, because no-one else is suitable, or because their very presence on the board is designed to deliver change – and it’s down to them to deliver.


Ensuring a smooth welcome for a new Marketing board member can be a challenge – but the report has suggestions for success, both for the CMO and the existing board members.


The future for Marketing on the board

The report closes by anticipating how the future will pan out for Marketers on and looking to join their corporate boards – including a look at how the move from CMO to CEO might become a more usual one.


At the end, there are useful tips – ‘actionable insights’ that Marketing professionals can take to start their journey towards board membership.


You can download a copy of the full Econsultancy/Oracle Marketing Cloud report here


Increasing presence on corporate boards isn’t the only change Marketing professionals are seeing. The role and expectations of Marketing are evolving, and with this comes new challenges, as well as new opportunities.


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