Beyond the colouring book. Why marketers deserve a spot at the Boardroom table

By Jim Ker, CIM Vice Chair for Communications on the CIM Yorkshire board

In what is the most unpredictable time that we have or ever will experience within our lifetimes, many of us are taking this opportunity to reflect, revisit and most importantly, question. Companies, large and small are having to shift the paradigm of traditional business models and adapt to the unexpected. While this can (and likely will) be considered a time of stress, for many business leaders, it will be an opportunity to modernise strategies and look to a brighter (albeit, less predictable) future.

With this new concept of open mindedness floating around, I’d like to draw your attention to an opportunity for a solution that many business leaders can, and should, be taking notice of: why you need a marketing professional within your leadership team.

Let’s dig a little deeper…

For years now, the concept of output orientated business models focusing on efficiency over innovation has stagnated. Customer engagement expectations are at an all-time high and the efficiency of your output is not enough to maintain a competitive advantage. Businesses need to understand and adapt to changing customer needs quickly – communicating their adaptability in response to changing requirements in a transparent and open fashion.

This is easier said than done, I know. However, speaking frankly, most of us will have no choice. Information on anything from recipes to macro-economics is accessible through a quick search and a few clicks. Subsequently, your hard-earned subject knowledge is not enough.

The age of the knowledge economy is dead. Long live the age of creative currency.

Think about the above strapline. Now think about how innovative your company truly is. To keep afloat, companies in all industries need to be placing innovation, customer understanding and creativity at the very heart of their long-term business strategies. If you don’t believe me, google your specialist subject and let me know how many search results you get. We are always going to look at adopting good practice, but we need to refrain from simply standing on the shoulders of giants.

The internet is no longer a commodity. It is the glorious backbone of our modern-day workplace infrastructure and it is interwoven into every aspect of our day to day lives. Subsequently, the way customers communicate is evolving at a rapid pace and businesses need to be in tune with that changing pace of digital innovation or risk falling out of favour with trends. Consider this: by 2021, roughly 93% of UK internet users are expected to do their shopping online. That’s the highest online shopping penetration rate in Europe (source). Considering that the ONS reported that “87% of all UK adults used the internet daily or almost every day in 2019” that’s a lot of potentially missed opportunity if you’re not keeping up.

So, how are marketers the prime candidates to fulfill your newfound business needs?

First and foremost, marketing is not simply about generating sales. It is about understanding customer needs and wants and facilitating these requirements through effective interpretation and communication of customer desires – transforming them into measurable benefits.

Understanding customer need is a fast-moving target. A key skill within marketing is keeping an ear to the ground and staying ahead of the curve (and your competitors) when it comes to matching your supply to your audience demand. This includes input into what you deliver (i.e. products and services) and how you deliver it.

Marketers are also in prime position to support efficiencies and input into processes that benefit your customers as opposed to those processes simply benefiting your workplace practices. Applying a marketing orientation within your business will enable your marketers to not only understand customer need and communicate it, but the influence can make, or break decisions made on your products and services. Remember, marketers see the full picture from prospects through to clients – feeding back along the way to support business longevity and increase customer loyalty.

This can mean radical moves, which is why you need an experienced marketing professional who can deliver, with confidence, a strategy that is built on good data, creative thinking and a solid understanding of your target audience. Skills expected in many senior marketing professionals and  particularly of CIM accredited marketers.

Recently, The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) announced significant changes to its Chartered status, the marketing industry’s most prestigious accreditation.

The changes represent a shift in the skills required of marketers today and will provide businesses with an up to date indicator when it comes to appointing qualified marketing talent.

This will immediately help over 7,000 younger marketers, who will now be eligible for the accreditation, apply for Chartered status and offer that extra level of certification and trust to both current and prospective employees.

The future is as bright as you let it be…

Continuing with the need to keep up with trends, let us look to the future. More and more, younger generations are seeking roles that go beyond the “Taylorisms” of the 20th century business model. Creating a positive and attractive work environment requires a business to rethink its management strategy and internal communication mechanisms.

Marketers are at the forefront of understanding stakeholder influences. This includes both your current and prospective team members. Utilise this resource and look at how a marketing orientated strategy will help you create an adaptive business model that entices customer want, but also supports a desirable working environment that encourages creative thinking and presents your business as an appealing place to work for prospective employees. Fresh thinking that breaks the status quo should be encouraged and explored.

Enticing prospective staff with the concept that their creativity and ideas will be viewed as a positive component of their workplace offering will encourage those that can offer “the next big thing” to seek to work with you, and not simply look to the Apples of the world as the only businesses that want to progress in future markets.

Future proofing your company’s ability to adapt and innovate is an investment, but a worthwhile one. Having somebody on the Board that is daring and determined to deliver this, matters.

Finally, design is important.

Design is important, but this only taps into the real value marketing can deliver.

As mentioned before, marketers are there to understand your customer needs and ensure that these needs are both facilitated and communicated accordingly. One crucial need that many forget is the need for convenience. The modern consumer expect results easily and they expect them quickly. Western society, in particular, is spoilt with the likes of Amazon enabling people to answer a need simply by pressing a button. People know what they want, and how they expect to receive it. If a business cannot deliver, we’ll move on.

Your marketing professionals are the intermediary required to interpret need and deliver this convenience. This includes delivery expectations, updated and responsive communications, user experiences, easy to use web navigation, digital channel integrations and of course, data. It is all there for the taking. A senior marketer simply knows how to make the most of it. Having this senior marketer within the strategic decision-making party of your company will help you move mountains.

That’s why design is important. It might just look nice too…

Rejoice, friends. The answer to all your business problems is here. All delivered to you while you enjoyed that 20th cup of lockdown tea. Clearly, this is not the case, but I hope there are a few nuggets in the above that gets you thinking about how you could look at your company as it is and turn it into the company you would like to see in the future. Marketing professionals are at the forefront of understanding customer need. If you’re serious about innovation and adaptability, you’ll tap into this.

There are a range of online and strategic CIM training courses, including CIM’s new virtual classrooms. To find out more, click here:

From local networking and support in these current times, find out how you can join CIM Yorkshire’s regional community, by visiting:

Jim Ker is the CIM Vice Chair for Communications within the Yorkshire Region and the Campaign and Digital Manager for Kingston Unity. A Mutual Society based in Wakefield. He lives with his wife and two cats in Halifax, West Yorkshire.