In an excellent article in Catalyst, the Chartered Institute of Marketing magazine, Chris Daly (CEO of the CIM) suggests boards and marketers communicate in different languages. He considers whether this may limit marketers’ contribution to the business.
Now, surely at ‘C’ level, the basic business lexica cannot be that different? In a fast-moving, technology-driven environment, the complexity of business today means jargon and buzz-words proliferate. These become common, shared terms, used with easy freedom. However, though the apparent meaning may be clear, deeper understanding may perhaps only be the property of specific contributors.
This is understandable, but marketers must ensure their voices are heard. Their potential to add value and insight to the business is vital.
It’s true that the majority of CEOs of enterprise level companies seem to come from financial or operational backgrounds. They share a level of discourse with CFOs, and communication is clear and efficient in these cohorts. Marketers also have ‘codes’ shared with their peers. Though much of the terminology appears obvious, the true understanding may be shaky. Mass media and lazy journalism, has brought many marketing expressions into everyday speech. Often their usage is erroneous and poorly understood.
A shared language?
One common language which will increasingly come to dominate the board room is data. Data is an area where marketers should already be on familiar ground and where the board must engage. It affects (or will soon affect) every aspect of business from finance to sales, purchasing to production.
Can marketers run businesses effectively?
My marketing education and development began with Philip Kotler’s marketing definition – which I paraphrase as “identifying and satisfying customers’ needs and wants – profitably”.
I’ve always considered this an underlying principle of business, and one which involves every division of an operation. As such, it would seem to make sense that marketers are ideally equipped for the running of companies at the highest level.
Let me declare an interest at this point. I’m a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and a Regional Ambassador for the IoD, so I stand, unsteadily neutral, with a foot in each camp. However, I find myself asking the question – am I bi-lingual? Having read Chris Daly’s article I realise I need to work on my board room discourse.
There is a great deal of discussion on the subject of diversity in boards. This is not only right from a human and inclusive viewpoint, but vital for new, different and innovative ideas to emerge. For this to happen, all voices need to be heard – and all languages shared.