In my consulting practice, I focus on helping B2B companies begin or renew their revenue growth through marketing. I find many small companies that have never marketed, some who have done it poorly and others that just aren’t happy with their results. I also find the occasional CEO who tells me, point blank: “Marketing doesn’t work.”
Not that these small-company CEOs have ever actually tried marketing, often they have not. But that doesn’t stop them from holding the belief that it doesn’t work. Entrepreneurial CEOs are seldom at a loss for confidence and I often chuckle at the confidence they display when they explain, sometimes at length, why marketing won’t work in their business.
Sometimes I wonder why then would the CEO even meet with a marketing guy if they don’t believe the solution works. I think they do it sometimes to appease others on the staff. Perhaps, they do it to satisfy their own curiosity. Or maybe they enjoy telling me marketing doesn’t work.
In trying to understand and manage this, I came up with four potential reasons for this somewhat widely held belief.
- They have never actually seen marketing work. The CEO has never seen it work, ergo, it doesn’t work. Often a minor side point is that it’s never been tried, so it has never worked.
- They base all of their observations on “sales” CEO says “ I talk to customers all the time. They don’t want marketing.” What happens in the last mile of a long sales cycle is not marketing, it is closing the sale.
- They can’t bear to spend the money. With no confidence that any marketing spend will provide value, they spend nothing. Some CEOs spend almost nothing on anything, and marketing is way down the priority anyway.
- Somehow, they don’t notice their competitor’s marketing. A failure to look at your own web presence (or to have issues pointed out and not care) and compare it to a couple close competitors is an easy and often valid way to view things from a customer perspective. Why then do so few companies do it?
I’ve recently had the chance to check in with some companies I spoke to last summer. Each of the CEOs told me they didn’t think marketing would work in their business. When I asked around to see how they did now 5-6 months later, I found even more issues. We have a “serious sales issue” said one company. “Money is still really tight” was the feedback at a different company. The sales manager was let go at another. I felt like I had predicted all of it.
I should feel vindicated with the negative feedback from those that did not want my advice. I don’t. I feel sorry for these folks, as I or some other marketing professional could have helped them avoid the very dilemma they face today.
Hopefully, we can win over these doubters and have them see the light, one CEO at a time!
Have your experienced executives who did not believe in marketing? How do we turn them around?
You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/
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Eric, I have run into this time and again. Another classic response I’ve received from a “know it all” CEO is “everything you’ve suggested is in line with my own conclusions after having been in this business for over 10 years”. Well, if I was able to come to the same marketing conclusions after 6 weeks of analysis that you took 10 years, then don’t you think that maybe that would validate your own assumptions and build some trust in me?
I think you’re right when you conclude that there’s something going on when they’re willing to meet with you. There’s a small chunk of insecurity about what they’re doing and they’re hoping some ray of light will shine down when meeting with you. The best thing is to instill doubt in their theory, then attempt to educate them going forward. I recently had a similar client at first reject my offer to help, then 6 months later they called to ask for a meeting. They were still skeptical until they consulted with a friend who sold them on the idea that they needed to do something different to make more money. That sold them.
So maybe a strong testimonial is just what the doctor ordered. Otherwise, put ’em on the email marketing list, and hope your blogs can persuade them to reconsider.