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Do marketers have the right table manners?

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Great marketers should have a seat at the leadership table. But if financial services marketers are aspiring to this position, they have to earn the right to be there. Yes, having the right ‘table manners’ is important. But first marketers must be invited to sit down. Once at the table, they need to present themselves as equals. This can be a monumental shift and must be started long before the ‘invitation’.


Why marketing is often undervalued

 In financial institutions, the dynamic between C-level, investment teams, distribution, product and marketing can be difficult. A marketing team’s perceived value can swing wildly. These businesses are driven by sales and it isn’t a coincidence that C-level positions are stacked with former ‘great’ sales people with little belief in the real value of marketing. These executives tend to be more dynamic, looking for the ‘angle’, the ‘mandate’, or the ‘win’. They are the people with a seat at the table. They control the budgets and the direction of the organisation.

In this environment, does the marketing function have a chance to get a seat at the table? We have seen that it can; however, it takes a concerted effort. And often, it requires reorganising the marketing team.

Having worked with and within financial services organisations for 20 years, at both a boutique and global level, we view marketing archetypes in three ways:

1.     Receivers – these people make a project happen. They receive the information from sales, investment teams and other stakeholders and either produce the piece of communication in house or pass it on to an external agency. This group unconsciously reinforces to senior stakeholders that marketing is just a sales support function.

2.     Idealists – these people have ideas, but struggle to understand internal political structures, find it very difficult to put their views across and want the respect of the leadership team but struggle to earn it. Their mission is to try and impress senior stakeholders and they are focused on ‘individualised’ outcomes.

3.     Influencers – these people are collaborative, focus on building a strong understanding of the market, focus on key relationships with C–suite, investment managers, product and distribution teams. They understand the importance of ‘relationships’ with senior stakeholders. They’ve earned the respect of and empathise with investment teams and distribution. They have the personal confidence to allow ‘other’ outside specialists to have access to senior stakeholders. Above all they value objectivity and early collaboration.

You’d probably think that ‘influencers’ are the head of marketing and the more junior team members are ‘receivers’. But, more often than not, marketing teams aren’t structured this way. Understandably, sales driven leaders desire fast delivery on tactical initiatives that help the sales process, resulting in receivers being more valued than influencers.

As ‘digital strategies’ become top priorities for this sector they will force the restructuring of traditional business units. This is the moment for marketing influencers to shine, leading the way using their knowledge of the ‘inside out and outside in’ opportunities and obstacles financial organisations face as they refine and reshape their business strategies.

It’s a great way for influencers to demonstrate value, linking marketing expertise to a winning business. And it works just like table manners, starting from the outside and working your way in. 

Bob WithersComment