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Are marketers getting bad advice from the Premier League?

Posted by Pete Hendrick - March 17, 2016

You know those connection updates in LinkedIn’s news feed –  “Congratulate whatshisface on the new job” – my soft cuddly centre secretly likes them because they bring a welcome touch of personalisation and sentiment to our occasionally harsh B2B universe.

Although when you start getting half a dozen each day, it can start to feel like we’re working in a pretty transient transfer market, with lots of moves. A bit like the Premiership, but with fewer zeros on the average salary.

CMO life expectancy drops to 44 months

I read a Wall Street Journal article about new research from Spencer Stuart that suggests a short-term trend could be creeping into strategic marketing positions, with Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) at consumer brands averaging 44 months in their roles, down from 48 months in 2014.

cmo average tenure figures for consumer brands

Whilst tenures are currently longer on the B2B side, we’re seeing B2B starting to emulate B2C much more these days (creativity, channel proliferation etc.) and I’ve no doubt that the average B2B marketer’s tenure will also drop in the coming years.

Greg Welch, a consultant in the study, said: “The intensity, the pressure and the demands on CMOs is admittedly unlike I’ve ever seen in my career.”

Leads at the expense of brand?

Football clubs are often criticised for firing their managers before they’ve had a chance to really make a meaningful impact on the club’s present performance or future potential.

And while Premier League managers and B2B CMOs are very different roles, they do have one thing in common: they both need to have one eye on current performance (match wins in football, lead gen in marketing) and long term improvements (the next generation of talent in football, brand advocacy in marketing).

Less time spent in CMO roles (for example two years) can work well with short-term lead generation activity, but it’s important to make sure that that’s not at the expense of building a long-term relationship with potential buyers.

Don’t get me wrong, having a sense of urgency and generating sales leads in the short-term is important for any business (and on a personal level it makes performance bonuses more likely), but a view that’s too short termist can become a little one dimensional from an activation perspective, dominated by activities like product offers, one-off events, advertising and PPC which typically have limited impact on long-term brand advocacy.

In football it’s the equivalent of filling your starting XI with lots of veteran players on six-figure weekly salaries. They’re no doubt tried and tested and effective in their positions, but will only be there for the next season or two, will be expensive to maintain, and won’t form the spine of your team for the next decade.

Research from CEB underlines the importance of long-term thinking, stating that B2B buyers are 13 times more likely to purchase from a company they feel a strong connection with, and five times more likely to pay a premium when they do.

In the same way football teams need to nurture promising young players until they’re captain material, many prospects need to gradually learn about your brand before becoming high-value customers.

By all means plan to meet your short-term targets for the next 12-18 months, but try not to get too wrapped up in the monthly numbers.

Good luck with the rest of your season.




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