CEOs Don’t Trust Marketers

Marketing isn't trusted by CEOs


This likely comes as no surprise, but CEOs don’t trust marketers.  According to a survey of over 1,200 CEOs in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, CEOs admin they do not really trust their marketing teams.  While the study was done a while ago (2012), the results remain relevant today.  Not only do the CEOs not trust their marketers, they also are not very impressed by the marketing work being done.  In comparison, 90% of the same CEOs state that they trust and value the opinion and work of their CFOs and CIOs (source – Fournaise Group).

If the statistics have remained the same for the past five years (and I think they have), then marketers in general and CMOs in particular have a huge hill to climb.  What has led to this disconnect?  What has created this lack of trust in CEOs?  While the answer is complex and multi-faceted, I’d like to suggest two trust killers – disconnect from the bottom line and lack of engagement ownership.

Trust Killer #1: Disconnect from the bottom line

Most marketers struggle to see a clear connection between their activities and the short- and long-term financial realities of companies.  Neil St. Clair wrote for Forbes, that the CMO is “a glorified role without any purposeful impact on the bottom-line.  Indeed there is no acronym so dangerous in the English language as C-M-O.”

This disconnect begs the question – just what is the core purpose of marketing?  Marketing is supposed to raise awareness to increase business.  But, as evidenced by the lack of trust that CEOs place in their marketing teams, only part of this core purpose is actually happening.  Most marketing is working to raise awareness.  However, many times it fails to increase business – more sales, more leads, etc.

To be successful, marketing teams need to develop strategies that do more than just raise awareness.  They need to develop strategies that raise awareness in order to increase business.

Trust Killer #2: Lack of engagement ownership

The marketing department has the most detailed data about the customer, the buying behavior of the customer.  They’re also in an ideal position to access third party data about target customers.  Simply put, no one has a deeper understanding of how the customer thinks than the marketing department.  Steve Lucas, CEO of Marketo, said that “the CMO should transition to the new role of Chief Engagement Officer … I think the CMO needs to give way to the Chief Engagement Office in order to expand the company’s ability to focus on opportunities to engage internally with all the teams that touch the customer: sales, service, support, customer success, etc.” (Forbes).

Marketing is in a unique position to truly own customer engagement across all aspects of a company.  This includes finding new leads (marketing), closing these leads (sales), and keeping the newly closed leads (customer service & support).  Rather than seeing marketing as a silo of brand and message and creative, viewing marketing as the owner of all aspects of customer engagement opens an entirely new world for the CMO to help grow the company.

I believe that if marketers begin to develop in both these areas, that the trust of CEOs would return.