Picture: 123RF/Gustavo Frazao
Picture: 123RF/Gustavo Frazao

If ever proof were needed that corporate marketers are under increasing pressure to deliver results and are in many cases failing, a new global survey by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council provides exactly that.

An overwhelming 86% of senior marketers believe lack of leadership depth and capability has resulted in missed revenue, growth and customer acquisition opportunities.

And while the study is worldwide, a leading local marketing leader tells the FM: "None of this surprises me. In SA, ours is a discipline where there are growing demands to help deliver higher growth numbers with diminished budgets and simply not enough senior and experienced people to do the work."

Of more concern is the problem of capacity and leadership becoming firmly entrenched.

A third of those polled say the problem "consistently" impairs performance of their team. The survey was conducted in the first quarter of 2021 and polled over 150 senior marketers across several key geographic markets. Just more than 40% say it is becoming more challenging to find experienced, proficient and knowledgeable functional leaders and direct reports, and a further 40% acknowledge it is "moderately difficult".

Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, says more than half of survey respondents say the process takes three to six months, and a further 15% indicate this can take longer. "There’s no doubt the office of the CMO could be quickly and effectively fortified with fractional or interim marketing leaders hired on demand," he adds.

That problem is more than amplified in SA. A senior brand manager tells the FM: "Six months is generous in this market. It can take a year to find the right person, and then another six months before they are up to speed and proficient with the brand."

The survey finds 93% of chief marketers have had a "very positive, quite good or favourable" experience using interim marketing leaders. Not one reported a "poor" relationship and only 5% stated it was inconsistent.

While respondents say sourcing permanent employee talent is complex and time-consuming, only about a third of chief marketers have retained experienced contractors or part-time staff at the level of director and above. Despite leadership gaps and holes, a surprising 41% of chief marketers report they have not used contractors, while 25% say they are assessing this option or plan to do so in 2021.

The survey highlights the benefits of using interim marketing leaders, including a fast ramp-up and time-to-performance, being proven performers and doers, a range of competences and capabilities, having domain expertise or knowledge and adding value thinking and leadership depth.

While plugging the senior gap with interim leaders helps solve a short-term problem, the CMO study defines five areas where CMOs see gaps, holes and deficiencies in their marketing leadership structures.

These are successful customer journey, acquisition and conversion; creating segmentation and personalised messaging at scale; actioning customer data insight; developing workable demand generation; and campaign execution and measurement.

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