Marketers: Your profession needs you!
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Marketers, your profession needs you!
I worry about my profession. I worry that we are on a slippery slope to irrelevance. That sounds a bit dramatic, so let me clarify. Marketing has always struggled to be taken seriously by the other parts of the business, ‘it’s all expenditure and no results’, or ‘you don’t understand the numbers’, and everyone’s favourite ‘what are the colouring in department up to?’…oh how we laugh at that one.
Thing is the doubters have a point. And that that point is getting easier to make.
Just to be clear none of this will be happening in the big grown up world of large consumer brands where there are proper budgets, and investment in research, a deep understanding of the full marketing mix and an in built culture that recognises that marketing is an essential function of the business. These guys get it and probably always will.
It’s not them that we should be worrying about. No, it’s the level that most of us mere mortals work at where it gets a bit scary. The small business, or the medium sized organisation, where budgets are measured in thousands not millions and marketers work with over bearing, know it all owner/managers or CEO’s…you know who you are.
Both ends against the middle
I am currently at both ends of the recruitment process (if that sounds odd, I am recruiting for someone to permanently to fill a role where I have been an interim appointment, so I need both a job for myself and a brilliant candidate for the role I am leaving) and this trying to make both ends meet exercise has proved to be a worrying barometer of all that is wrong with our profession.
Let’s start with my job search and gripe number one: the kitchen sink job description. You know the type – you will be a planner and strategist, a competent designer who knows InDesign inside out, a published brand guru, a PR specialist, a digital rock star able to drive SEO and write engaging content for all platforms, an event organiser, market researcher, a Toyota level project and logistics manager and solver of world peace… all for £25k. And you will do this all on your own as there is no mention of using external experts to help you out. Now a marketing role is varied and tests a number of skills but to be a massive jack of all trades and master of none demeans our profession. How can you be an expert in all of these distinct fields, especially that of design, and be taken seriously? That’s right you can’t.
Then to the search for a candidate and gripe number 2. People who think that writing for social media makes them marketers. We are all content creators these days of course, which is great, but what happens when the going gets tough, the competitors step up, the economy stalls, legislation changes or if customers move on, what do you fall back on then? More blogs? More tweets? Gripe number 1 leads to gripe number 2. People who do a bit of everything in one role are suddenly the experts going for the next job up the ladder without the required skills or competence. It’s not their fault. It’s the fault of all of us associated with marketing. The world of digital has democratised skills to the point where they are no longer distinctive and let’s face it maybe not even necessary. Employers love this because they can now employ one person where before they might have needed 2 or 3.
We’ve had enough of experts (apparently)
My recent recruitment experiences have just added to a growing feeling that marketing at this level is not valued, is wildly misunderstood and is slipping away from being a recognisable professional discipline. Unless we make a stand and re-establish what marketing skills are, what design skills are, what PR skills are and how we should use them, or buy them from someone who is an expert in them, then we are the last of dying breed.
What can we do? Well we can stand up, we can make the argument that marketing matters, we can get qualified (which is my particular high horse which I will not climb down from but will horribly injure myself when I fall of it), we can mentor, coach, share, encourage, do our bit to make marketing a profession and not some glorified admin exercise, which is where it seems to be heading. Contrary to the current narrative, we do need experts.
Doesn’t the CIM do that? Yes to a point but I worry about them too (note to the Editor, this could be the subject of its own rant for a future Rise) in that they seem to have a detached view, that is good at selling courses, and encouraging you to buy tickets for conferences, but does very little to raise the profile and understanding of what marketing brings to business success when expertly executed.
And the upshot is this https://www.marketingweek.com/2019/03/18/facebook-cmo-ceo/ once again we have a leading marketer bemoaning the fact that more CMO’s don’t go on to be CEO’s. This has been going on for years and it doesn’t matter who speaks out, nothing changes.
A call to arms from down under
Our rallying call, shamelessly pinched from the marvellous Jim Jeffries, should be, ‘we can all do better’. And by all I mean everyone connected to the industry – employers, recruiters, marketers, the membership associations and industry bodies, universities and colleges, and us as individuals. Because if we don’t do more to raise the standards of individuals, increase the understanding of the profession and stop these ludicrous job ads, then what’s the point? Might as well retrain as an accountant.
And yet perhaps I have to face up to the fact that I am the one out of step. Perhaps qualifications don’t matter anymore? Perhaps expertise should not be favoured over flexibility. Perhaps the internet and the adoption of social media in all aspects of our lives, plus our changing TV viewing habits mean that marketing isn’t that important anymore. We will never be that profession that we so desperately wanted to be. Where’s that AAT course brochure?