22 Clues Your CEO Has No Idea What You Do

by Dan Lyons

Date

May 31, 2013 at 2:00 PM

ceo-marketerDo you ever sit in meetings with your CEO and realize this person has no idea what you’re talking about? Do you give presentations to a bunch of blank faces? Do you feel misunderstood? Unloved? Under-appreciated? Have you ever left a meeting and walked out to the parking garage so you could sit in your car and scream? Have you ever fantasized about sneaking up behind your CEO with a blunt instrument in your hand and just ... 

No, wait. Of course you haven’t.

But if you work in marketing, you probably sometimes feel as if you’re speaking a different language than everyone else in your company, including your CEO.

The good news is you’re not alone. We know this because we just did a completely unscientific survey of our friends in marketing and invited them to gripe about their CEOs.

It's Friday; who doesn't need a good kvetch once in a while? Consider this a form of therapy. You’re welcome.

The question we asked was, "What’s an example of something your CEO doesn’t understand about what you do?" Here's what they told us:

How Marketing Works

1) "The way consumers actually respond to messaging and marketing. And the time it takes to create effective campaign components and then have them influence audiences."

2) "You are not our target persona. Just because you and your CEO buddies want to read something doesn't mean our audience does."

3) "How the tools work. But to be honest, my CEO doesn’t need to understand them in detail. He just needs to understand that I understand them, can use them competently, and see the opportunities where others can make use of my experience."

4) "At my last company, my boss had no idea why we needed best practices for our social media channels and treated them as advertising."

5) "Basically anything web-related: SEO, paid advertising, social media."

6) "I’m fortunate enough to have a CEO that does understand marketing and PR and empowers me, but I have seen others that don’t understand the strategy and tactics of marketing as a whole. It’s not just lead generation!"

How Measurement & ROI Works

7) "The obsession with last-click attribution frustrating. He thinks it’s Pandora’s box. He thinks it’s great because you can’t get that from analog media. He loves accountability. My frustration is that last click does not explain the impact of other media channels in getting you to that last click."

8) “Why does digital cost money? Shouldn’t it be free? Why can’t you grow an audience or community fast without spending any money? Doesn’t everyone use the internet?”

9) "He goes on and on about art and design and branding. He’s obsessed with email templates. I’m more interested in the subject line of the email. I focus on ensuring that someone opens the damn thing."

10) Yes, we can buy our way to the top of the search page, but it may only last for days with our budget and cost us 100 times more than creating something of value for our customers, which could lead to long-term sales.

11) "While the CEO is often focused on building a sustainable business model, the CMO must be actively focused on breaking it."

How Reality Works

12) "What I often see with CEOs is unrealistic expectation. They give an initiative 3 to 6 months when it needs a year to succeed."

13) "That there is an aggregate effect to everything we’re doing digitally, and that the beast is always ravenous."

14) "That when you start a marketing campaign or any other marketing project, it’s not self-sustaining. It continues on and requires time, effort, and dollars, even after a bulk of the results come in."

15) "That "boring stuff" like lead gen takes a crapload of time."

16) "Sure, the Gartner Quadrant is important, but so is serving our customers’ needs and vocal complaints online. Service is marketing too."

17) "How quickly their clients’ needs and preferences change. What worked last week isn’t necessarily as “in demand” today."

18) "I understand you worked at Brand X and used to be in Forbes. But we need to deliver a story worth telling as a start-up."

19) "Times change. People change. Marketing has to change. Brand management is useless if you’ve lost all of your customers."

20) "Sometimes people are in positions where they need to be the “bad guy” in order to get the work produced to fulfill the promises to the client. Sometimes low-performing staff members that blend in need to have a fire lit under their ass. Someone needs to be the “bad guy” when the team is not performing up to the level a client is promised. And when those low performers complain, CEOs need to realize that we are running a business and not a fraternity house. People who don’t pull their weight don’t have the right to complain and have their complaints taken seriously."

21) "The CEO doesn’t understand marketing … period."

22) "Reality."

What does your CEO not get about you and what you do? Feel free to vent in the comments anonymously, share on Twitter with the hashtag #cluelessCEO if you're brave.

Image credit: CarbonNYC

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