What do CEOs hate about marketing departments?

Marketing departments conduct endless discussions about colors, shapes and visual consistency with no relevance to business results.  

Marketing departments are full of right-brained folks with heads full of creative and expensive ideas for big-bang campaigns based on nothing more than their gut feelings.  

Marketing departments conduct long-campaign-after-long-campaign, using no internal or external data with limited or no connection to sales results.  

Marketers expect the CEO or CFO to be as excited about the growing number of „likes” or website visits, as if it was revenue growth.   

Marketing departments set up revenue-driven sub-departments instead of becoming a revenue driven marketing departments that sets up sub-departments of gut-feeling-creative-driven marketing.   

In summary, they don’t like marketing that is not revenue and data driven and does not react to a dynamic business environment in an agile manner. 

How can this be changed? 

  • Change the culture to „fail fast, fail often” #agilemarketing
  • Implement proper processes and automate them #marketingautomation
  • Collect and analyze your own data #datadrivenmarketing

It sounds simple, but of course it’s not.


In general it’s not easy to implement change mainly due to people’s natural resistance to it. Marketers are no exception here. Especially since the mentioned changes are not about simply going outside their comfortable zone, but rather they often mean going beyond their natural talent set – which makes the adaptation even harder.  

What in 2000 accounted for “marketing mastery,” where great taste and strategy played the main role, might now be considered „entry-level marketing” in 2018 marketing terms, where analytical skills, processes, tests, automation and understanding digital are the key skills. Strategy and taste have become more generic factors.  


Marketing has changed more in the last 5 years than in the past 50 combined.

This is why arguments against change such as, „I have more than 15/20 years of experience in marketing and I’m telling you it won’t work”, sound more and more like a horse-buggy coachman protesting the first automobiles.  


The Team 

How do you overcome talent gaps and the fear of change? The solution might be a multidisciplinary, agile and self-organized team with a strong sense of responsibility for business results. In such teams both left and right brained skills are fused by a common goal and a few basic processes to follow.

The Processes  

Processes are there to make sure that the culture of „fail fast, fail often” automation and data-driven marketing will be properly implemented. The processes are to make sure that everything that should be measured and automated is actually measured and automated and that lessons from previous campaigns are internalized before launching new campaigns. 

The Agile Method 

Going agile doesn’t mean that you need to be an „agile purist.” It will be really hard to define and deliver a marketing MVP for example. Treat agile as a set of rules from which you can create your own system. The main benefit should stay the same: being agile and flexible means avoiding chaotic iterations and testing new versions over and over.

As a result, the „I want to produce what I like” approach should be replaced by „I’m testing massively to know what the target group likes.”

This is a huge difference in processes, workflow, talent, behavioral patterns and skill sets.  


Will that expensive and fancy automation tool fix all the problems?  

Until AI becomes smarter than humans every automation tool – regardless of whatever salesmen, promotional YouTube videos or educational blog posts might say – will automate absolutely nothing and create only chaos and disorganization without the proper processes.

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To answer the question:  

No, that fancy and expensive automation tool will not fix all of your problems in some magical way. You need to do it first by yourselves. Only then can the tool help you to automate the new way of doing things and then speed it up even further. 

Can I expect this tool to speed up my work? 

Sometimes when you ask marketers about what they expect from marketing automation, they often act like the people in Henry Ford’s quotation where he quipped, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This is often what marketers want –”faster horses.” In other words, what they expect from automation is to be able to keep doing what they’re doing in the way they’re doing it only in an easier and faster way.  

Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, automation changes what is automated. In other words, marketing automation changes marketing itself by changing its dynamics, capabilities, analysis, etc. It is comparable to the way smartphones have changed our lives.  

To answer the question:

Yes, the tool might help you to speed up how you’ve been doing things, however this is similar to a „faster horse” as opposed to the speed and innovation of a car. There is definitely a better use of automation. 

How might the general process look like? 

Working in marketing is not like digging ditches – in 5 days 5 guys equipped with the proper tools can dig a ditch 100 meters long and 1 meter wide. This is far from the case in marketing. There are too many variables which are constantly changing. Trends and unexpected events make marketing projects highly unpredictable. 

This is why each marketing project is nothing more than a hypothesis. You make some assumptions based on knowledge, experience and data you collect and then you test assumptions.  

It’s very similar to the scientific method. 

Based on a test you make observations, collect data, analyze it and then create another hypothesis to test. The more iterations you do, the more you have to learn. The more you learn, the better your results will be.  

To answer the question:  

Hypothesis -> test of hypothesis -> data collection -> data analysis -> observations -> conclusions -> hypothesis -> test of hypothesis -> data collection -> data analysis -> observations -> conclusions -> hypothesis -> test of hypothesis ->… 


Collect data from all data sources relevant to all customer (B2B/B2C) or candidate (B2E) touch points with the brand and keep it all in one place. Add data from systems used by the marketing department to cooperate on projects.  

Firstly, this will help you understand what can be optimized with regards to marketing and the outside world. Secondly, it will help you understand what can be optimized with regards to marketing and the company. Additionally, a link should be established between these two elements to adequately understand the relationship between particular projects and their results.  

All of this together will help you apply not only data-driven-marketing but also data-driven-management.

It all sounds like end-of-marketing-funnel activities

In case of demand creation and demand generation, it works as good as in lead generation. The only factor which changes, is the balance between importance of particular competencies in the agile team.   

Let’s try to show it using the RACI matrix.

In case of demand-creation, right-brained guys will be more “A” than “C”, while in case of lead generation just the opposite; left-brained guys, will more “A” than “C”.  

What is important is that all the time all skills are mixed to deliver highest possible added value. Additionaly instead of working between “specialized-teams” in “as a service” mode, they work together fused, by a common goal in one agile team. 

 Is the relationship between the CEO and CMO really so bad? 

According to a study by the Fournaise Group: 

80% of CEOs say that they DO NOT have confidence in the work of marketers, while 90% of them DO trust their CFO! 

study by the Fournaise Group
  • 80% of CEOs are not at all interested in e-mail open rates 
  • 80% of CEOs say that marketers do not understand the connection between their work and the company’s finances 
  • 74% of CEOs want marketing to be 100% focused on MROI 

According to a study sponsored byEloqua and ORACLE:   

Only 42% of CEOs and 22% of CFOs see the impact of marketing on the organization 

study sponsored by Eloqua and ORACLE

So even if the results of this research are for some reason a bit exaggerated, the numbers are strong enough to suggest that the problem is real and needs to be addressed.

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The agile, data driven marketing solution described above is just one of the many scenarios there, are to improve the current situation.  

Is the marketing department the only one that needs to be improved?  

Definitely not.  

There are always some people in an organization that try to make marketers lives’ difficult and indirectly undermine the organization’s business efficiency. 

In general, the less mature an organization is, the further the company is from becoming a marketing-led organization and the more bad practices can be found in cooperation with marketing. 

The principle of

the less I know, the more willing I am to share my opinion

is exceptionally relevant in this case and perfectly reflects the well-known Kruger-Dunning effect.

Here are just a few typical harmful assumptions and convictions:

  • I have seen many ads so I know how marketing works. 
  • This idea/design is poor because during my corridor testing I asked a few important guys if they liked it and and they didn’t. 
  • I have taste so therefore I know what is good and bad in marketing.  
  • Business has no time to answer your weird questions about what we sell, just do the marketing – make people buy, tell them to buy.   
  • I know that this was an awareness campaign, but we didn’t see a growth in sales! 

I’m sure you can find more examples.