Why CEOs don’t trust marketers (and how to fix it)

Wow, that’s a blanket statement. I hate blanket statements. Let me revise it to why SOME CEOs don’t trust SOME marketers. How do I back up such a bodacious statement? Data. Marketers must get comfortable using data and key performance indicators to support their needs and successes with the rest of the numbers-oriented C-suite.

According to a recent study by KornFerry,  on average CMOs remain in that post for just 3.5 years, while CEOs average 6.9 years; CFOs, 4.7 years; and CIOs, 4.6 years. Boiled down, lack of trust and understanding between the leaders, plus constant churn in the CMO position, increases the divide between marketing leaders and their C-suite counterparts. So how can credit unions establish alignment, understanding, and harmony between these key executive roles? 

The same way we do in any relationship: We must listen more, ask the right questions to gain perspective and work the strategy together to build trust throughout the process.

Several years ago, I presented at a CFO conference and at a marketing conference called CEO + CFO = BFF with the former CFO of Caro Financial Credit Union, Herbie Meetze. We shared how both roles can and should work together to achieve the goals of the credit union. Here are four takeaways to help the bean counters and idea people mesh better:

  1. Purpose: The leadership team, including marketing, must align not only on the organization’s higher-level purpose, but also on credit union marketing’s purpose. Is it to build a powerful brand? Establish and develop growth engines? Own the end-to-end member experience? Regardless, agreement on marketing’s role is essential for shared success. As a credit union marketer, you have to ask the questions and understand the goals and align yourself to it. 
  2. Strategy: Clearly defining the credit union’s strategy and priorities is next. Credit unions’ leadership teams must be in lockstep when it comes to where they want to take the credit union, the steps necessary to get there, and the timeline for reaching the desired destination. The onus lies with the CEO to give marketing a seat at this strategic table to fully understand the strategies and goals so he or she can execute on the strategy. Involving marketing at the strategic level will also help to fuel innovation as part of the process.
  3. Expectations: This step in the alignment process is absolutely critical. Leadership must clearly articulate expectations for marketing and how he or she would like marketing to engage with other areas of the credit union. What must marketing do to support sales, product development/launches and other member facing areas? Only when these capabilities are clearly defined can marketers build a successful team to meet expectations.
  4. Resources/Systems: As marketing has become more digitally driven and technologically advanced, appropriately resourcing marketing is critical. Credit union leaders and marketing must align on the resources and systems required for marketing to produce successful outcomes. The right resources are essential to ensure that credit union marketers are positioned to deliver the results. 

As digital marketing becomes the central hub for business offerings, technology applications,  customer experience management, social media engagement, and financial risk management, the CMO role will be elevated to one of the most sought-after and trusted advisers in the C-suite.

Trust among any group of leaders is paramount to overall success, but based on data, marketers need to go the extra mile to build trust with others on the leadership team. Tariq Shaukat, Google Cloud’s president of industry products and solutions, sums it up well: “I think the most important aspect of a successful CMO–CEO relationship is mutual respect and having a common view of the world.” Ask the tough questions, like how will we measure success? Will the appropriate resources be provided to accomplish those goals? 

Your Marketing Co.’s team has partnered with strategically focused credit unions for more than a decade. We have crafted a unique time-tested action plan that brings clarity and breaks down barriers, leading to growth and the realization of your goals. We build trust, ask questions, listen, and execute. Isn’t that exactly what you need to reach your goals in 2021?

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald is president of Your Marketing Co. A marketing firm that started serving credit unions nearly a decade ago, offering a wide range of services including web design, branding, ... Web: yourmarketing.co Details