Transform Your Marketing Department from a Cost Center to a Profit Center

March 13, 2018


Return-on-Investment is Critical


Marketing departments that transform their focus to profit-generating philosophies can dramatically increase their company’s return on marketing investment (ROMI) and employee satisfaction. According to findings identified by The Fournaise Marketing Group, 80 percent of CEOs do not trust marketers and are not impressed by their work. Why? “. . 78% of these CEOs think Marketers too often lose sight of what their real job is: to generate more customer demand for their products/services in a business-quantifiable and business-measurable way.”1


Current state of cost-centered teams


Cost-centered teams are focused on areas that are not specifically tied to customer demand, quantifiable measurement of key performance indicators (KPIs), and revenue generation.


The cost-centered team:


  • Is not focused on KPIs. It doesn’t measure what affects the bottom line, the very thing the C-Suite cares most about. This is step one in every organization, no matter how big or small. Alignment at all levels of the organization is foundational. If you don't succeed in setting the right KPIs based on the organization’s goals, everything below this paragraph won’t matter.


  • Is focused on non-ROMI activities. This includes video views, likes, and website traffic, rather than conversions and purchases driven by marketing strategy and execution. There is a plethora of data available today via analytics platforms. How much data is available, though, is not the point. It’s the proper assessment of the data and discovery of what is working and driving the KPIs for the organization.


  • Is driven by the latest fad. We need social, we need a viral video, we need marketing automation tool "X.” The number of channels and tools available today can be overwhelming. It’s easy to get sidetracked and believe that these channels and tools can get you the results you are looking for. Some may but most won’t without an experienced team to execute a well-developed strategy that aligns and supports the C-Suite revenue goals.


  • Has a low skill level. This has become more common over the past decade. Everyone is a marketer today; however, very few can bring it all together. Marketing today has multiple facets and disciplines including social marketers, content marketers, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) marketers, marketing analysts, marketing automation specialists, ad placement and optimization marketers, and many more disciplines. Most companies today cannot hire and staff a full marketing department and will use agencies to support them in areas of weakness. Read more in this former blog post, “How to Hire the Right Marketing Firm.”



Current state of profit-centered teams


Profit-centered teams are focused on areas that are specifically tied to customer demand, quantifiable measurement of KPIs, and revenue generation.


The profit-centered team:

  • Is clear about KPIs associated with ROMI. In fact, these are marketing teams that have spent a considerable amount of time understanding exactly how the C-Suite is measuring success for the company (not just success for the marketing team). This is an iterative process that constantly evolves over time as the business goals and KPIs follow and track changes in markets, competition, and new opportunities.


  • Is tightly connected to stakeholders and internal customers. In many cases, marketing will drive forecasting and consequently the revenue strategy. This coupling to all departments allows front-end input to the overall revenue strategy (versus being given a revenue goal by others). The marketing team also will work throughout the organization, tying it all together from product to launch to customer service and retention.


  • That communicates regularly is the one that has a critical feedback loop in continual motion. Communication is the bedrock of success at all levels of the organization. This includes communicating via intranets, newsletters, company all-hands meetings, and weekly update meetings from the C-Suite down and from the tactical team up. Communicate in a way that makes sense for each audience and use the KIS-KIF method described below.


  • Has self-development plans in place. I cannot stress this enough. Like a banana, if you’re green, you’re growing, but if you’re ripe, you’re rotten. The industry, companies, competition, and markets are constantly changing. There is no such thing as an “expert” today. If someone states they are “an expert,” find another person who is open to saying, “I don’t know everything but I’m willing to work hard to understand everything that is thrown at me and do it all with a team focused on winning.”


  • Keeps it Simple and Keeps it Focused (KIS-KIF). Marketing analytics can tell a story, but too much information may deter the organization from getting behind the marketing team. “Feed” the team sparingly but effectively. This is related to identifying the KPIs described above for each business unit (what they care about and nothing more). Once KPIs are established, report regularly (weekly and/or monthly) and keep it to 3-5 main KPIs. Keep the main thing the main thing. Stay focused on what each area of the organization is expecting the marketing team to provide. Again, this starts with discovery and establishing KPIs at the outset and consistently revisiting these regularly to “test” the value that the team is bringing to all levels of the organization.


How to transform the thinking of the team from cost center to profit center


What you focus on will get the attention, and this starts and ends with the KPIs. If the marketing team is not driving this critical and foundational exercise, then you cannot attain alignment, and disparity will prevail. The C-Suite must drive this critical activity if the marketing team is not experienced enough to ensure alignment throughout the organization.


What gets rewarded gets repeated. When the marketing team hits or beats the targeted and agreed-upon goals and KPIs, reward them through a pre-established rewards plan. And from time to time, have special rewards for those going above and beyond what is expected.


Identify all key stakeholders and get them involved in the marketing strategy planning, process, execution, and reporting. This allows you to get acceptance of the strategy and plans that the team will be driving over a 6 to 12 month period. Without the “buy-in,” there may be disparity in how marketing team members are supporting the revenue goals of the organization.


Set meaningful KPIs to generate ROI. We stress this again and again with our clients. Lacking this critical and foundational step would be equivalent to driving your car with all of the gauges and instrument panel covered. You would have no idea how full your gas tank was, how fast you were going, or whether the check engine light was on. Yes, you would know where you are going, but without some of this critical information, you might not make it to your destination.


Engage with and communicate to all levels of the organization. Knowing your destination is key; however, milestones and updates allow you to know whether you are on target to reach your destination. Weekly and monthly reporting allows others to see the progress and can potentially encourage you to change course based on something they are seeing but you may not see. More data is not better. Again, stick to the agreed-upon metrics and KPIs and use the KIS-KIF philosophy.


Be flexible and test theories and hypotheses. As stated above, everyone is a marketer today from the Highest Paid Persons Opinion (HIPPO) to the customer service agent, the sales team, and everyone in between. How do you resolve all of their ideas and opinions? Create hypotheses and test. You can test in practically every channel and get data almost instantaneously. This can resolve the question about whether the “great idea” that worked at the CEO’s previous company will work here or not. Testing will allow the truth to be told by the customer, not just through someone’s opinion. Customers always tell the truth through their behaviors, actions, and clicks.


Testing framework: brainstorm | top 3 ideas | develop tests | create the test | execute the test | measure the test | repeat


Putting it all together


Give your team an honest assessment and identify the weaknesses in thinking and philosophy around a profit-centered mindset. Create a plan to change the team’s thinking and focus. Continuously execute on the plan with set timeframes and milestones for the team’s development and transformation. Communicate to the team and organization using the KIS-KIF philosophy. Using this framework, you will be well on your way to marketing success and supporting the overall business goals to achieve a high ROMI.



1 The Fournaise Marketing Group: “80% of CEOs Do Not Really Trust Marketers (Except If They Are ‘ROI Marketers®’.)” Available at: Accessed 9-25-17.

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Transform Your Marketing Department from a Cost Center to a Profit Center

March 13, 2018

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