Marketing for CEOs and the 4 Not-so-Great Expectations!

Marketing for CEOs

It never ceases to surprise us when CEOs confide that they don’t have stellar expectations of what marketing can do for their business. “Sure it can make a difference”, they say, “A smart website and some nice newsletters”. All too rarely do we meet a CEO who tells us they expect their marketing to deliver truly transformational, high impact strategic results.

Many have a preconceived, purely tactical view of marketing. “We got last week’s receptionist to make a few changes to the website”. They don’t understand what strategic marketing is and so are unable to set the strategic tone for how they want their business strategy (for those which have one!) to be supported.

And by high impact strategic results - what do we mean? There are a few questions you should be asking of your business.

  1. Does your whole business understand what makes you different to your competitors?
  2. Does your business have a functional marketing resource that supports your future growth?
  3. Does your business understand which channels to market give you access to your clients?
  4. Does your business know what makes your clients buy from you?
  5. Does your business have a brand strategy and a consistent language when speaking with your stakeholders?
  6. Does your business consistently hit sales targets?
  7. Does your business know what it’s really selling?
  8. Does your business know the difference between a good and a bad client?
  9. Are your client service levels aligned?

Too many CEOs abdicate responsibility for marketing strategy and fail to set high expectations for their marketing plan, or neglect to put in place measurement criteria by which the marketing activity can be measured.

One of the things we really enjoy is helping business leaders connect a marketing strategy to their business strategy. An effective technique is to get them to go through a four-stage process:

  1. Market Strategy – this is the sector landscape and should include intelligence such as status of market business cycle, size of market opportunity, key players, stakeholder insights, etc.
  2. Business Plan - this should be their approach to achieving their business goals and revenues in response to the market situation
  3. Marketing Strategy - is the marketing plan that helps them deliver their business revenues and goals.
  4. Tactical Implementation - is the activity that is executed within the operational businesses to deliver their revenues.


As part of a process we use to help CEOs see that they must set the strategic tone to take their business forward, we ask them to score themselves on their marketing strategy. During this exercise, one CEO said: “I didn’t realise I had to answer all of these questions and make these decisions to enable my marketing function! I think as a management team we didn’t understand that marketing could be strategic. We have always seen it as advertising and brochures”.

If only more CEOs had high expectations of what marketing is – a Market Strategy, which informs a Business Plan, from which a Marketing Strategy is developed, that only then leads to Tactical Implementation – and what it can do for them!

Even though it typically takes a marketing strategy between three and five years to fully mature, there will also be many wins along the way. So CEOs, demand the best from marketing and your businesses will be transformed!

More from Vistage:

David Smith, High Performance Culture

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