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Marketers are from Mars, boards are from Venus

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I recently had the opportunity to read the new book ‘Marketing in the Boardroom’ by Ruth Saunders. I was so impressed by the insights contained within that I would say, if you are in marketing, this is the next book you must read. Full stop.

Why are markleters so bad at communicating with the board?

Marketers spend an inordinate amount of time looking into markets, competitive scenarios, consumers, marketing and communications plans etc. etc. etc.

However, all of that time, effort and cost is irrelevant if the board does not buy into your marketing plan, new product launch or request for more budget.

Ruth Saunders has spent over 25 years working as a client, market researcher, advertising strategist, management consultant and most recently running her own company advising CMO's on how to market to their boards. She has distilled all that experience to write the definitive guide to why it so often goes so terribly wrong. And more importantly how you, as a marketer can get it right.

Ruth poses the question at the outset as to whose responsibility it is that there is such a misalignment of understanding between boards and marketers. You are both on different planets.

While apparently acknowledging a fault on both sides, the book firmly places the responsibility in the hands of the marketer even if she is too polite to hit you over the head about it directly.

And herein lies the crux of the matter: marketers should be skilled in understanding an audience and marketing to them.

As Ruth's analysis goes on to show, too often the way marketers present their proposals to the board is seen as fluffy and lacking in a clear business case. (As an aside any marketer wanting to understand this perception should watch Mark Ritson's presentation on Unilever's announcement about adopting 'Zero Sum Budgeting'.)

So in short what a marketer needs to do is better understand the needs of the Board and demonstrate why your demands on the company's resources are better for the mid and long term success of the company than the CTO or CFO.

"Aha", you may say, "their plans are all about 'knowns': reducing recurring expenditure, decreasing marginal costs and the like. Whereas marketing is about 'intangibles' from which the future benefit cannot be quantified by the likes of mere bean counters."

Well as the book goes on to show there are successful marketers who are able to do so and if you don't think it is possible then perhaps you are in the wrong career. That is not the same as saying it is easy: otherwise everyone could do it.

But one stark fact remains, it has at least got much easier thanks to Marketing in the Boardroom.

Michael Moszynski is founder and chief executive of London Advertising

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