Guilty, Hopeful, Clueless Marketers and the Need for Change – #SESCHI 2011 Keynote


“This is something that is a bit provocative, but we need to change the conversation in marketing. We talk way too tactically.”

And so began the opening keynote at SES Chicago 2011, delivered by Mikel Chertudi of the SES Advisory Board and Global Media & Demand marketing with Adobe. In his talk, titled Guilty Marketers: Wasted and Wishful Multi-Channel Marketing Spend, Chertudi highlighted a few of the mistakes that run rampant in the marketing industry and asked attendees to take a critical look inside their own operations to seek areas for improvement.

Marketing: An Investment

For example, many of us still refer to our marketing budgets as spend or cost centers or even burn, he said, when we should be using words like investment. We need to change the conversation to help change the incorrect perceptions of others outside of the marketing realm.

The keynote offered several important takeaways to help marketers better allocate and invest their budgets, while getting others in their organization to advocate for the marketing department.

Chertudi quoted John Wanamaker, father of modern advertising, as he identified the CMOs greatest fear: “Half the money I spend on advertising I wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” What we think we’re generating in terms of sales, we’re under/overestimating by at least 30 percent, because the attribution models aren’t correct.

His presentation was peppered with tales from Chertudi’s professional experience in various large organizations, though the strategies discussed apply just as easily to individual marketers or small companies. In one, he explained how building a business case and bringing the heads of finance and sales in to validate his assumptions got others in the organization on board to help justify the marketing budget.

3 Types of Marketers

He points to three broad types of marketers most of us can identify with: those who are either guilty, hopeful, or clueless.

  • Guilty marketers are those who knowingly operating in a suboptimal fashion. This doesn’t necessarily mean that their intent is bad, but perhaps they lack the tools they need or simply don’t understand how their own quirks and behaviors impact their abilities as a marketer.
  • Hopeful marketers, in contrast, hope their efforts are positively impacting the business, but lack the evidence to be sure.
  • Clueless marketers should know better, but no one has yet stated the obvious.

The 7 Alleged Counts of Marketing Guilt

How can you recognize these marketing mishaps in yourself or those you work with? Here are the seven alleged counts of marketing guilt, according to Chertudi:

  1. Lack of clear strategy and objectives. If we don’t have a clear understanding of what our objectives are, nothing else matters. We need to be able to quantify our results and know how they stack up against other tactics.
  2. Sloppy in our efforts to track and measure. If you use a bid management tool that’s not tied in with analytics and you’re not using one as a system of record to override the others, you’re double-counting.
  3. Assuming too much. Conversion rates to close customers – lifetime value of customers using continuity models – if you don’t know the answers, you’re assuming a lot.
  4. Too much art/right brain. How many of us have heard that the higher-ups just don’t like a concept? We can’t get wrapped up or carried away in this side of it. It’s still important to optimize and test regularly.
  5. Too much science, too much left brain. We have to be careful about how we present ourselves to customers and how we represent brands. Just because something works, this doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Your brand is so much more than your logo and all actions must keep this in mind.
  6. Short-term vs Long-term Oriented. Don’t make customers jump through hoops to accomplish short-term goals. We have to ensure that what we do in marketing doesn’t hurt the brand as a whole.
  7. Authenticity. What is it that your brand represents? What is your value proposition?

Top 3 Reasons for Being Clueless

  1. Misunderstanding our businesses. Understand which constraining factors are at the bottom of the funnel and find ways to reallocate that investment to the top.
  2. Organizational and tactic silos. Are we using disparate systems that fail to tie into one system and what is the impact across all of our channels on each others?
  3. Improperly attributing attribution models – If you don’t understand the diff between first click, last click, even, weighted – that’s a big problem.

7 Questions for CMOs

In order to help determine where problems lie and how improvements may be made, Chertudi recommends that CMOs ask at least the following questions:

  1. Which words do we use? Do we call budgets expenses, spend, cost centers, or marketing investments?
  2. Do we validate what we assume to know? Make finance and accounting your best friends by having them validate your assumptions. Don’t rely on marketing alone.
  3. Do we have a clear way to measure and track results? Can we measure all the way through to sales? If you are generating leads and can’t tie them to sales, you need to fix that – get a clear way to measure and track.
  4. Do we attribute to real results and what are the financial outcomes?
  5. Do we attribute attribution correctly? There are organizations out there cracking the code on this, but 98 percent of us likely aren’t doing it right.
  6. Is our marketing department acting like a team? Each part of the department is working towards the common goal of increased sales – understanding how each initiative works and its impact on the others matters.
  7. Are we balancing the left brain with the right brain? There must be a good balance of art and science.

Guilty, Hopeful, or Clueless?

We all know someone who might exhibit one – or more – of the guilty, hopeful, or clueless behaviors from Chertudi’s keynote. He showed a new blog he has started, simply called Guilty Marketer, where you will be able to share and discuss your stories anonymously with others in the industry.

What do you find most challenging, whether at the industry, agency, or individual level? Let us know in the comments if you’ve been a guilty, hopeful, or clueless marketer in the past – or maybe work with one now!

Photo by Lee Odden of TopRank Online Marketing.

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