Marketing has P&L responsibility

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I’m in the middle of teaching a private 2-day workshop right now, and one of the most interesting early takeaways from it was during the calibration discussion, figuring out where people were and what digital marketing challenges they are facing.

The top challenge facing nearly every marketer in the room is lead generation.

That’s fascinating to me and a huge sea change in the marketing world. Once upon a time, marketing was mostly just a cost center that did some advertising, some collateral, and attended martini parties. That was all, really. A career in marketing had a certain amount of both glamour and a reputation for not being especially difficult work.

Fast forward a few years and marketing is such a different animal now. We’re technologists, facing a myriad of different systems, software, and processes. We handle the web, mobile, advertising, social – if it talks to a prospective customer, it’s marketing. Most of all, most important, is that marketing has a P&L responsibility. We’re not just a cost center any longer, but an actual revenue generator through lead generation.

That may not sound like a very big deal, but in the corporate engine, it’s a huge deal. Why? Once a function has P&L responsibility, it has to deliver. It has to meet numbers, hit targets, achieve tangible goals that contribute significantly to the bottom line. That’s why you’ve seen an explosion of executives demanding to know the ROI of marketing’s various channels – and this is a good thing.

Why? In the past, because marketing was seen just as an expense (and a frivolous one at that), when times got tough, it’d be one of the first areas to cut in order to hit profit numbers. Today, because it has a measurable bottom line contribution, it’s easier to defend without a lot of logical contortion. If you know your marketing ROI, you can simply make the case that spending less on marketing will deliver proportionally less revenue to the company. If you know your marketing ROI is 6.51 per1 invested, then you simply need to say, you will lose an additional $6.51 for every dollar you remove from marketing.

Take a moment to celebrate marketing’s much deeper role in any organization, and if you’re a marketer at a company that doesn’t have this worldview, then there’s a good chance the company will not be in business in the not-too-distant future.

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