I recently came across two quotes focused on these commercial realisms for today’s marketers. Although from different articles, it’s no coincedence that these two quotes are from very prominent marketers who have served (or in Glenn’s case, currently serving) as president of the marketing society.
“Commercial experience is essential if you want to reach the top” – Amanda Mackenzie, CMO Aviva
In a recent Marketing Magazine article, Mackenzie suggests that “there is more to life than marketing”. She encourages marketing graduates to experience life away from marketing on the commercial side of business early in their career. Strange advice you might think but it makes sense. Her point is that in order to enable them to lead an organisation marketers need to understand commerciality and what better way than lead those areas of a business.
“The heart of all business failures are actually marketing failures” – Martin Glenn, incoming CEO at The FA.
Glenn, in a Campaign Magazine article, suggests that marketing’s role is to translate what is going on outside the organisation into a “set of meaningful plans to take advantage of it and voice continuous adaption”. If we don’t do this then we fail and thus the business fails. “Successful companies have an external orientation so they look at what’s going on outside and force themselves to ask uncomfortable questions about what external trends they need in their business.” he continues.
The article also quotes David Wheldon, head of Brand Reputation at Barclays Group. He encourages marketers to be ruthless in asking questions and claims that the main mistake in business is “to not ask enough about what you want me to do”. Two phrases I’ve heard a lot recently:
- The client / agency relationship is changing
- It’s about results
Our main aim as a supplier is to to help our clients get results, correct? Every brief has a commercial objective attached to it. We need to increase sales by X, we need to generate Y awareness and Z ROI are commonly heard and that is fine as it is the business objective but have you ever paused to think about what the person/people on the other side of the table are trying to achieve personally. What is driving them? Where do they want to go? What do we need to do to get them to where they want to go? What do they need us to understand? Surely these questions will define commercial success and build a truly meaningful relationship.
As Glenn and Wheldon say, we need to ask all the right questions to get to the answer no matter how uncomfortable, We need to understand their world as much as they do, in fact understand it better. If, as Glenn says, marketing’s role is to translate what is going on outside then we as an agency need to act as a translator and if, as Mackenzie says, you need commercial experience to get to the top then we’d love to have you spend some time with us to see what agency life is all about.