How Marketing Should Be Leading

By Joann Marsili, CFMP

Many of us deal with the absolute fact that most executive management teams don’t understand the fire power that exists in their marketing departments.

As Lance Kessler stated in his recent article here on Marketing Leadership, “the expectations for marketing at the CEO and the executive team level are very low and based on outdated views of marketing in banking.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.”

The other truly sad fact, highlighted for me through advising over five years of students at the ABA Bank Marketing School, is that many organizations require such a long laundry list of “things” by the marketing departments that marketing professionals cannot get out of the weeds—even if they try.

The way to position marketing as a leadership position within these organizations may be difficult, but it can be done. Taking advice from the aforementioned article, you should write a plan that everyone agrees with and focus on revenue generations, strategic positioning and tactical planning.

This is long-range strategic positioning for the marketing function, and unless you have a truly receptive executive team, it will not happen overnight.

The most important part of creating marketing leadership is to believe that you should. I think most of us have felt the sting of dismissal of our ideas and our professional expertise more than a few times. But the key is to not allow someone else’s version of reality to be yours. Be the professional, be the consultant, assist but don’t allow others to dismiss your ideas, put forth strategic initiatives and prove that you are the expert in the field. You have been trained, you continue to learn and grow your craft, and you alone can affect the change you want to happen.

Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Review your strategic plan. Where does marketing intersect this plan? Remember a marketing plan cannot and should not be written unless it is based on the strategic objectives of the organization. Our plan is based on building relationships, and every decision we make and every plan we create must track back to relationships, growing value and increasing income potential.
  2. Create your marketing plan with all of the sales teams (hint: call it the Revenue Enhancement Plan—the words YOU use to describe yourself are very important).
  3. Build your budget from ZERO—every year. Make sure the sales functions provide you with the activities they are going to require you to assist with from the beginning of the year. Budget based on your knowledge of the costs (use historical data if you don’t have this built) and build a month by month expenditure of revenue enhancement opportunities. Please don’t budget by media—you should not be held to a dollar number in each media, you should be held to bringing about the recommended strategic goals of the organization. Put dollars aside into each campaign or program, but don’t align them to a media strategy until you are ready to start implementing a project plan.
  4. THEN—don’t forget to budget and account for strategic functions. What will YOU do to drive branding opportunities, how will YOU drive the strategy of the bank. Corporate marketing should have line items of its own that are under control of the head of marketing and are not dependent on the rest of the bank.
  5. Once you get a sign-off on the plan, be in charge of implementing. Keep to a calendar, and be confident that you have already done your due diligence.
  6. If you do not measure your own effectiveness, you are your own worst enemy. Do you put together an ROI of your campaign? Do you show how marketing drives revenue by increasing the ability of the sales teams to sell? Can you point directly to the successes you’ve been able to drive due to your marketing expertise? I can point to almost $1 million in direct response revenue every year for the past 10 years. This can be powerful for you and for your team.
  7. Challenge your team and manage upward what is new and innovative in the marketplace. Send articles with commentary, bring new business plans to the forefront, and ask “What if?” and “Where next?”
  8. Put everything in writing, especially if you report to the CEO. You have a unique opportunity to “manage up” by putting together ideas that will further your strategic goals as an organization. Always make sure to include costs and expected outcomes.
  9. Be in charge on your own and your staff’s professional development. Make sure that they are always thinking ahead and are keeping their skills fresh. Marketing is changing so quickly. Don’t fail to keep up with current ideas, trends and tools. Remember, you will usually not find the “best of the best” in our industry, look to leaders in marketing—retail, software, hospitality.
  10. Finally, don’t give every request the same importance. When you have a written plan, you have the luxury of determining what has already been given a stamp of approval. All requests may be urgent, but they may not be important to the overall strategy of your bank. We do not operate from a first-in, first-out mentality.

My staff is told to prioritize in this way:

  • Does it impact a customer?
  • Does it impact a sales opportunity?
  • Will it reflect negatively on the Bank?
  • Is it important for many?

If it doesn’t meet these criteria, it gets moved into a queue that gets attended to when there is time. We huddle almost every day to realign priorities based on the above criteria.

This is not easy, and I have heard the frustrations in many marketing director’s voices. But chiseling away at the false perceptions of what marketing is and what it can do for an organization will lead to documented wins. Every documented win gives you the opportunity to move one more step in the right direction. If your CEO is on board and knowledgeable about what marketing truly is, you have the person who can bust through walls for you.

You can create an evolution within your organization that will help you bring more value to the bank than most of your executive team can ever imagine.

Joann Marsili, CFMP, is vice president, and marketing and sales director at Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank, Dunmore, Pa.

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