Act Like You Belong in the Room

It’s not unusual for members of some departments in companies to feel unnoticed by management. But a panelist at the Direct Marketing News 2016 Marketing Hall of Femme Leadership Summit & Awards in New York today held that the opposite is true in marketing’s case. “Marketing gets its unfair share of attention,” said Leilani Brown, VP & CMO of Starr Companies (above, center). “I’ll bet no one in any of your companies ever has an opinion about the servers, but they all have opinions about the marketing.”

In a session called “Prove It!” dealing with the problems that female marketers (and marketers in general) face in proving the value of their marketing efforts, Brown said marketing is still often perceived as arts and crafts. Fellow panelist Linda Vetter, VP marketing of Yes Lifecycle Marketing (above, left), agreed, saying that there’s a lack of understanding of marketing’s true value, even at the top. “If a company’s looking for budget to cut, marketing’s always a target,” she said.

Both women asserted that it’s imperative for chief marketers to sit down with their CEOs and define the measures of success for marketing. Vetter emphasized making sure those measures are specifically related to marketing goals. “Often, bosses will give you just enough rope to hang yourself with. They’ll talk company goals, not marketing goals. So, in my current job I put together true KPIs that would help the sales department,” she said.

Brown added that it’s up to CMOs to go further and advance the perceptions of marketing departments within companies. “Why is it that when you lose a big account it’s marketing’s fault, but when you win a big account it’s, ‘Go Sales!?” Brown asked. “You have to be able to say, ‘This is marketing’s win, too. Are we going to get credit?’”

Stepping up like that isn’t easy, especially for female marketing leaders, Brown said. She recalled once getting a performance review with high marks in everything except self-consciousness–and not viewing that as a deficiency. That wouldn’t be the case today. Brown insisted that women in the minority in a boardroom shouldn’t be afraid to speak their minds. “You should walk in like you know you’re supposed to be in the room. And if you don’t feel that way, fake it.”

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