I have been asked to speak at an event for which the main topic of debate will be a current favourite within the marketing community, namely why can senior marketers struggle to exert influence among their fellow leaders internally and with experts in professional services externally.

As a start point there is no doubt that the role of the CMO has never been more complex. In a world of and rather than or, marketers must drive sales and brand, nurture IQ and EQ, be strategic and agile, balance logic and magic, deliver results sooner and later.

The scale and dynamism of these challenges have inspired some successes, of course, but are also associated with some less impressive consequences. The average tenure of a CMO continues to decline (compared to other members of the C-Suite) and reports proliferate about the loss of confidence in and among senior marketers.

Interestingly, in conversations with my more experienced and robust marketing contacts, the rapidly changing and expanding landscape is acknowledged but the need for defensiveness is heartily rejected. Why? The answer is the importance of growth. It is the Holy Grail in most commercial organisations and marketing is singularly placed to generate growth through the powerful combination of data and creativity. Well-founded ideas which are brilliantly executed and disseminated grow brands and businesses.

But there is a problem and I wonder if part of it stems from how marketing best practice is applied to marketing itself. If a discipline which is pivotal to growth can yet find itself under threat then, among other potential remedies, a dose of its own medicine may well be called for.

Let’s consider how senior marketers can make this happen and, for this purpose, focus on four key aspects of effective marketing – understanding, connecting, motivating and delivering.

Naturally, there is a book which can help us here. I have just read The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader by Thomas Barta and Patrick Barwise and can thoroughly recommend it for the pursuit of helping return marketing to its A game.

Firstly, senior marketers must prioritise understanding, specifically of some important, but perhaps overlooked, audiences. They particularly need a firm grip on the CEO’s agenda and what he or she most cares about. In the above book, the authors identify the overlap between customer needs, the traditional magnet for marketers’ attention, and the CEO’s defined company needs as the key area of understanding which can facilitate success for marketing. They call this space the Value Creation Zone or V-Zone.

A grasp of the challenges faced by other functional heads within an organisation is also vital to a marketer’s understanding. This goes beyond stakeholder engagement. Senior marketers must, for example, speak the language of sales, trade marketing and finance in order to be able smoothly to integrate their initiatives into the commercial operation. They must walk in the shoes of the people running the business and know how the latter makes money.

Marketers must also understand how marketing works in their business (increasingly in their category) and why it matters. What is the model or the solid hypothesis for how consumers make choices and adopt brands? What’s the plan to get on top of technology?

Next up is the importance of connecting. The foundation of influence rests squarely on relationships. Senior marketers must build bridges with their peers (and external influencers) in order that regular dialogue and meaningful sharing creates the sense and reality of a joint endeavour. As with any successful relationships, there must be clarity, consistency and trust. People must want to listen.

In 12 Powers, Barta and Barwise also stress the impact of walking around the office, working with capable, thoughtfully blended talent, mobilising colleagues (especially non-marketers) and building a tribe, rather than simply a team, in order to amplify the marketing vibe.

Thirdly, there is the need for marketing to be motivating. Passion is regularly cited as intrinsically good but it must be based on substance. Senior marketers must know the right stuff and how, as individuals, they can make their stories inspiring. Partly this comes from credibility and authenticity, partly from tenaciously hanging on to a simple set of hairy, audacious goals and continuously bringing them to life.

One of the introductory precepts of 12 Powers is that marketing expertise is different from expert marketing leadership. In the marketing of marketing, it’s the quality of leadership which generates the motivation and makes the difference.

Finally, marketing must be seen to be delivering. This is a biggie. If a criticism of marketers is that they lack business savvy and tend to live in their own worlds, then contributing to hitting the wider commercial targets is paramount. It begins within the marketing team via a performance culture (I really like RBS CMO David Wheldon’s term ‘collective responsibility, individual accountability’) and extends to Barta and Barwise’s “deliver returns, no matter what”.  Marketing must cease to be regarded as a spending function and relocate to a place where it proves itself in business terms.

Successful marketing is the growth hormone for business. Senior marketers should therefore hold exalted positions within their organisations. Much has been written on why this is often not the case. Surely, better marketing of marketing, and the rigour this would impose, is an appropriate means to help turn the tables? Marketing would then become more relevant to some high-priority audiences, the non-marketing leaders internally and externally.