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Marketing leaders must mind the gaps, say experts

23 Sep 2016

New book reveals the 12 powers of a marketing leader 

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Marketing leaders need to work smarter to bridge distinct gaps in trust, power and skill sets within their organisations, according to two experts from London Business School.

In their new book The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader: How to Succeed by Building Customer and Company Value, published today, Patrick Barwise, Emeritus Professor of Marketing and Thomas Barta, an alumnus of London Business School, urge marketing leaders to close the gaps.

“Marketers are faced with three distinct gaps,” says Barwise. “First, there’s a trust gap because marketing is mainly about the future and so brings a degree of doubt. Secondly, there’s a power gap – most of the people who determine the quality of customer experience don’t report to marketing. Finally, there’s a skills gap as marketing technology is changing so fast. You’ll never know as much as you think you should.”

Bridging these gaps, the authors argue, is critical for marketers’ ability to create value for their companies and increase their business impact and career success.

The book is based on the largest ever detailed study of marketing leadership, covering more than 8,600 senior marketers and other leaders.

One finding is that, while 76% of marketers thought they were good at identifying and aligning with core business needs, only 46% of their bosses agreed. “You need to think about the gap between you and the CEO,” Barwise explains. “The marketing team may be gung-ho about acquiring new customers, but the CEO and CFO may prefer you to prioritise retaining, and selling more to, existing customers.”

“Leading marketing isn’t the same as doing marketing,” adds Barta. “The first step to a successful career as a marketing leader is to mobilise your boss, especially by tackling the company’s big issues and delivering returns, no matter what.”  

“Long-term business performance comes from profitably – key word – meeting customers’ needs better than the competition,” explains Barwise. 

“Marketing’s strategic role is to help the company increase the overlap between customer and company needs. That’s the real value creation zone. To do that, marketers need to understand and help shape the company’s priorities as well as, obviously, understanding customers and the market.”

A CMO’s guide to minding the gaps

The leadership skills you need to win in marketing are very specific, say Barta and Barwise. Their new book outlines the 12 essential powers driving marketers’ business impact and career success. These boil down to four areas of focus:

• Mobilise your boss: Make an impact at the highest level and align marketing with the company's priorities
• Mobilise your colleagues: Inspire and motivate your non-marketing colleagues to deliver a great customer experience
• Mobilise your team: Build and align a winning marketing team with the right mix of creative, analytical and leadership skills.
• Mobilise yourself: Focus on emotionally engaging goals that will benefit your customers, your company and yourself, by meeting your own needs and ambitions

The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader: How to Succeed by Building Customer and Company Value by Thomas Barta and Patrick Barwise is published by McGraw Hill, 23 September 2016.