Effective Marketing Leadership

By Lance Kessler, CFMP

What does your CEO and the rest of the executive team expect from marketing? Expectations are everything! Marketing will never get a seat at the executive table if the executive team doesn’t understand why marketing needs to be there.

The Pygmalion Effect, named after the Greek myth of Pygmalion, is a phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to an increase in performance.[1] The Pygmalion Effect and trust are the two key factors that are critical for effective marketing leadership to occur in your bank.

Unfortunately, in many banks the expectations for marketing at the CEO and the executive team level are very low and based on outdated views of marketing in banking. In many organizations, marketing is viewed as providing only tactical support when called upon for advertising, promotion, public relations, etc. It is thought of as the department where employees work on tasks that are often not connected to what the executive team believes is really important.

Marketing has to take responsibility for this lack of understanding and low expectations from the executive team. Marketing needs to educate the executives on marketing’s role in contributing to the success of the bank. Marketing has to show the type of leadership that is connected to what executive management cares about.

A very important step toward effective marketing leadership is for the marketing leader to define the role of marketing in writing and get buy in on that role from the CEO and the executive team. It is important to gain consensus and clarity on the focus of your marketing efforts and why they should matter to executive management.

When defining the role of marketing in your organization, the following elements should be addressed in that written description:

1.Tactical support. These are the short-term actions (e.g. daily, weekly, etc.) necessary to execute the bank’s strategy to achieve growth and success. This is the part of the marketer’s role with which the executive team is most familiar and most comfortable. This will involve promotional support, merchandising support, market research support, etc. Marketers need the knowledge, skills, and tools for tactical execution related to the functional areas of marketing. However, regarding tactical support, many times the attitude among the other leaders of the bank is, “We will call you when we need you.”

2. Strategic leadership. Strategic leaders proactively influence the strategy and direction of the bank in order to achieve growth and success. This is the part of marketing’s role that executive management often overlooks. Marketers should be challenging the executive team’s thinking in terms of where the organization should be going strategically.

This is especially true in today’s rapidly changing competitive environment where digital solutions, more data-driven targeted marketing efforts, etc., need to be a critical part of the bank’s strategic direction. Marketers should be leading cross-functional participatory task forces that are addressing issues related to the customer experience and everything that impacts it.

This requires marketers to have the knowledge, skills, and tools for both strategy formulation and execution in a fiercely competitive, rapidly changing world. As banks are recognizing the need to become customer centric, marketers should also be expected to have the change leadership skills required to move the culture to customer-centric thinking.

3. Revenue generation.  Tactical support and strategic leadership are important for achieving meaningful change in your organization at a time when moving to customer centricity and delivering a superior customer experience at every touchpoint are extremely challenging. But most importantly, the marketer must connect everything he/she does to revenue generation. Sustainable growth and success cannot be attained without your bank generating higher and higher levels of revenue each year.

It is marketing’s role to show how everything marketing does is connected to revenue generation. Executive management cares about revenue generation!

Increasing executive management’s expectations of marketing and its contribution to the success of the organization also requires trust. Executive management needs to trust that the marketing leader and the marketing team can deliver on these new and higher expectations.

Success breeds success. As marketing moves forward, it needs to show the revenue enhancement that has been accomplished through its marketing’s efforts. Marketing needs to quantifiably measure and communicate the revenue impact of each of its initiatives. These efforts need to be successful and communicated to the executive team. That will get executive management’s attention, nurture their trust, and, ultimately, increase their expectations of marketing’s role in contributing to the bank’s success. It may even get marketing a seat at the table.

Lance Kessler, CFMP, worked in banking for 25 years before starting his own bank marketing consulting firm, Lance Kessler & Associates, Mechanicsburg, Pa. He is on the faculty of the ABA Bank Marketing School and the Stonier Graduate School of Banking. Email: [email protected].

[1] Mitchell, Terence R.; Daniels, Denise (2003). “Motivation.” Walter C. Borman, Daniel R. Ilgen, Richard J. Klimoski. Handbook of Psychology (Volume 12). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 229.

Marketing Leadership is a recurring theme at the ABA Bank Marketing SchoolRegistrations are now being accepted.