In Marketing, Busier is Not Always Better

In the quest to substantiate their value, marketing often feel pressure to be busier and do more. When you’re under the gun to show results, activity can mistakenly be equated with productivity:

“Here’s a new program…”

“We just launched a new offer…”

“Look at this new campaign…”

Sometimes activity and results do align, but often the result is a great flurry of busyness, with questionable impact on the bottom line.

Marketing has had this problem for a long time. It is especially prevalent in organizations without a strong marketing head – or a least one who understands the business challenges of the organization. When marketing leadership is delegated to a junior manager or rolled into another function like sales, the organization probably does not see the value of marketing as a strategic discipline.

Part art, part science, marketing can be a mystery to c-suite executives whose background is more fiscally- or operations-oriented. Those accustomed to black and white concepts don’t understand why marketing can’t give them a straight answer on ROI and granular detail on results.

The difficulty in determining which touch-points contribute the most to customer conversion has complicated matters. Executives who don’t get marketing often think of it as a cost center, assuming a small budget cut of 20-30% won’t hurt. “We’ll just scale back our advertising a bit, it’s not working anyway,” they think.

In defense, the marketers step up their activity to make the case that, “We can’t possibly succeed without…[insert favorite program here].” This can lead to a spiraling cycle of increasing activity to justify marketing, with declining impact raising more questions in the executive suite.

Friction and frustration on both sides may lead to distrust or dissatisfaction with a marketing manager who is not well equipped to make the business case for maketing, and escalating suspicion that marketing is a black hole at budget time.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In organizations where marketing does not have a seat at the executive table (typically small or mid-sized companies without a CMO or VP of Marketing) there is a deep need to understand how to measure marketing.

If your organization does have an executive-level marketing leader, it is incumbent on that person (maybe that’s you) to educate top management – especially the CEO and CFO – on the answers to these questions:

  • How does marketing create a positive impact on the bottom line?
  • What contribution does marketing make to the rest of the organization?
  • How is marketing relevant to the company’s long term goals?
  • Where does marketing figure in the strategic vision of the company?

To address these questions and stop the crazy cycle of “busier must be better,” marketing leadership must be able to answer one core question:

How do you know your marketing efforts are producing results?

I answer that question in Measuring Marketing Success.


  1. Many C-level executives are numbers based, which means they look for the bottom line. Marketing needs to show in as concrete terms as possible (when possible) how their efforts are impacting that bottom line. On the flip side, come C-suites need to focus more on the long term and not always look for immediate ROI.

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