The worst situation you face as a marketer

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The worst situation you face as a marketer isn’t a crippling blow to your Facebook page’s reach. It isn’t your email list getting blacklisted. It isn’t even your website being compromised. Save for self-inflicted wounds, the worst situation you face as a marketer is this:

Accountability without ownership.

Simply put, you are held accountable for things you can’t change. You don’t own any part of what you’re being assessed and measured by. This situation is far more frequent and insidious than you might first think. Consider this (overly) simple chart:


Marketing’s primary job is to get leads out of an audience and hand those leads to a sales team or process. If you as a marketer are being assessed on your ability to generate new audiences, then you are being held accountable for something that isn’t the domain of marketing; new audiences are media and public relations‘ domain. A far more familiar refrain to some marketers will be sales folks saying something like:


Alec Baldwin’s commentary in that segment of Glengarry Glen Ross is actually fairly accurate. If every lead that came through the door was completely qualified and itching to buy, why would you ever even need sales staff?

When you are faced with a situation where you have accountability without ownership, you have 3 stark choices to make:

1. Change the accountability metrics to things you do have ownership over. Qualified sales opportunities are not your job; can you be measured on qualified leads by a generally-agreed upon framework such as BANT? Can you measure the portion of the funnel that is in your scope to change and at least highlight that the portions you have authority over, so to demonstrate that you’re doing what you’re capable of?

2. Take ownership of what you’re accountable for. If you have the knowledge and resources, take ownership over the things you’re being measured by so that what you do and what you are responsible for are aligned. While this can be a lot more to bite off, it’s one of the ways to reassert control over what you’re held accountable for.

3. Abandon ship. In the end, if you are perpetually being held accountable for things you can’t change and improve, you will inevitably end up soaking more and more of the blame for other people’s failings instead of doing your best work. Make every preparation to move onto someplace that will better align what you are responsible for and what you’re allowed to change.

Your time is short in this world to do great work. Avoid, as much as you can, spending any of it having to cover for the messes that other people leave for you so that you can rise to the challenge of being the best at what you do.

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One response to “The worst situation you face as a marketer”

  1. Frank Brill Avatar
    Frank Brill

    Sorry, Chris.That isn’t Alec Baldwin, it’s Jack Lemmon. But you’re point’s well taken. Thanks, as always, for your instructive commentary.

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