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This report analyzes 2,902 responses to understand where marketers think CEOs have gaps in understanding. We broke down answers by function and company size.
- Marketers believe that Brand Building (49%) and Marketing Operations (31%) are the least understood by CEOs amongst our survey options.
- Sales teams could be a strong advocate for Marketing Operations. Sales people rank Marketing Operations as the top CEO gap with 35% of total. As companies scale, this preference increases.
- Positioning was the 3rd ranked overall with 16% of total. But amongst the small sample of CEO responses, Positioning ranked 2nd with 26% of total.
- See the top comments behind the numbers.
- Use our slides and CSV export to drawn your own conclusion.
My friend Dave is known to say "life is too short to work for a CEO that doesn't get marketing." It's always a lively discussion. 👇
And when Danny Asling polled his audience, 72% of marketers said they would trade $20K of salary to have a CEO that gets marketing.
As a former CEO, this got me curious... What are the biggest gaps?
Where do people on the frontlines feel the most pain from lack of CEO understanding? What part of marketing should CEOs seek to understand if they want to attract and retain the best marketers?
In this edition of Peer Signal, 2,902 business people weighed in.
In designing this survey, we assumed that demand generation is well understood (comment if you disagree). So we asked people to rank 4 areas of marketing above the funnel, outside the funnel, or around the funnel.
Here's how we asked:
Here are the total results, before we did any slicing..
Take Away 1: Marketers believe that Brand Building (49%) and Marketing Operations (31%) are the least understood by CEOs.
Marketers answers lined up with the totals, but they were even more inclined toward Brand Building. The comments below have some strong explanations for this ranking.
Take Away 2: Sales teams could be a strong advocate for Marketing Operations.
Sales people rank Marketing Operations as the top CEO gap with 35% of total.
As companies scales, this preference within sales increases!
Perhaps Marketing Operations leaders could tap their sales teams to help educate CEOs on the value of their function?
Take-Away 3: Positioning was the 3rd ranked with 16% of total. But amongst the small sample of CEO responses, Positioning ranked 2nd with 26% of total.
Let's caveat this first: We had just 90 CEOs respond to this poll. So take this as a directional conclusion. That said, it is interesting how self-ranking amongst CEO skewed more toward Positioning as a key gap.
While a small sample, this conclusion aligns with what April Dunford talks about in the story behind her book. And it reflects a sentiment that you often hear from Product Marketing teams.
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Behind the Numbers
There was a lively discussion on this topic from a wide range of people.
Geoffrey Colon, Head of Brand Studio at Microsoft Advertising, shared his take.
"Many CEOs don't understand brand and yet are in charge of them. The best way to educate is around reputation economics. Once they understand what is at stake they invest heavily on this side."
Danny Asling, SaaS Marketing Leader, offered this point of view:
"Many CEOs... - Think marketing is just advertising. - Measure every channel the same way. - Believe marketing is something that only the marketing team does. - Hide from social media as they "don't have time". - View marketing as a cost centre and make marketing cuts at the first sign of a revenue dip. Any CEO can pick up a book and learn the basics of positioning, content strategy, ABM. But (truly) understanding the bigger picture, understanding that marketing is bigger than the marketing department, understanding that the story is the strategy... Well... those CEOs get it. And those CEOs hired marketing first. And their companies are already thriving."
Joe Staples, 22-year CMO/SVP of Marketing, said the problem is about the CEO's self assessment not matching reality:
"In my experience the problem isn't working for a CEO who doesn't get marketing. The problem is working for a CEO who doesn't get marketing, but thinks he does!"
Mark Evans, Fractional CMO for B2B SaaS companies, made a case for positioning:
"I don't many CEOs understand the importance of positioning as the core of their company's marketing and sales efforts. In fact, I think it is probably not even something they think about."
Ryann Greve, Brand/Marketing Consultant, gave this case for Brand Building:
"I chose brand building. I've worked for companies where branding is understood by the CEO and corporate management and their roles as brand ambassadors are embraced. And I've worked for companies where brand building is seen as overhead, a mere logo and a "fluffy" thing marketing does. Not surprisingly, there is a huge gap in profitability and employee engagement between these two types of companies."
Rimmi Kesari, Marketing Manager at CloudThat Technologies, agreed with Brand Building as the highest rank.
"I think it's definitely 'Brand Building' since there is not direct revenue gen. objective attached with it. Mostly, it is a long-term goal and to explain the benefits of it is like explaining to someone why investing is good for him/her - the problem is that the investor wants to see/focus on the short-term benefits of investing their money."