Why Do Marketing Departments Fail?

by Debra Andrews | November 12, 2014

As an experienced business professional, you have likely worked for multiple organizations.  Do you remember your opinion of the marketing department?  Were marketing professionals an integral part of the firm in the same way as operations, finance and human resources?  Did marketing team members hold seats at executive tables?  

Unfortunately, the marketing department in many companies is often thought of as pure overhead and is a bit of an afterthought when it comes to being included in serious business decisions.  I’ve seen it firsthand during my career and it’s unfortunate and frustrating!! A world class marketing department has the potential to transform companies and drive strategic goals.  

But more often than not, marketing departments live up to the low expectations that are placed on them and fail to deliver results. The big question is, why?  From discussions with senior executives, fellow marketing professionals and my own observations, here are some of the top reasons marketing departments fail:

Misunderstanding Marketing

It’s impossible to build and utilize a world class marketing department when the executive team doesn’t understand what marketing is and what it can and should do.  I’ve often heard Managing Partners and Presidents refer to marketing as “branding,” or “PR.”  “Those people” manage the website, collateral and promotional materials.  But, these are simply activities.  Marketing, like finance, operations and human resources, is a core business function.  While the actual definition of marketing seems to vary, it is clearly essential and strategic to an organization.

Marketing is the management process that identifies, anticipates and satisfies customer requirements profitably.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)

Marketing is essentially about marshalling the resources of an organization so that they meet the changing needs of the customer on whom the organization depends.


Marketing is not only much broader than selling, it is not a specialized activity at all It encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of the final result, that is, from the customer’s point of view. Concern and responsibility for marketing must therefore permeate all areas of the enterprise.


Lack of C-Level Support

According to a 2012 Forbes article entitled, “Why are Firms Failing to Transform Marketing,” author Kimberly A. Whitler shares that Chief Marketing Officers often don’t receive the needed level of support from the CEO for change.  She goes on to share that even with CEO support, other top executives may undermine the efforts of the CMO because of the potential impact on their level of power within the organization.  Sadly, the average tenure of a CMO is only two years.

No Strategic Marketing Leadership

No Strategic Marketing Leadership:  Many firms, either due to budgetary reasons or lack of knowledge, rely on marketing professionals with too little experience and/or no strategic marketing expertise.  This results in a flurry of marketing activity with little-to-no measurable results.  The marketing department lacking strategic leadership has no roadmap or plan that is tied to higher level strategic goals.  You can read more about this common problem in my blog, “Why Your Firm Needs Strategic Marketing Guidance.”

The Marketing Hiring Challenge

Marketing is made-up of specialties, including strategy, interactive, public relations, content, social media, design, SEO and more.  This wide range of skill sets, all considered marketing related, makes the hiring decision particularly challenging. Marketing is also a discipline that doesn’t require a license or certification.  How can an employer really tell the knowledge is there especially when many marketers can talk a good game?  

It’s hard enough for experienced marketing professionals to build an effective team.  Trust me – I speak from experience! Senior leaders without hard core marketing knowledge will struggle to recruit and hire the perfect fit for their organizations. I shared my thoughts on this subject on the popular blog, Business Grow, in a post titled, “The Essential Guide to Hiring a Marketing Specialist….When You’re Not a Marketing Person.

Marketing is Put in a Corner

While operations, IT, human resources, sales and accounting are often given a seat at the executive table and considered vital to business success, marketing is treated like Cinderella and swept in a corner to churn out “stuff.”  In reality, the exact opposite should be happening. Marketing needs to integrate with all other business functions to maximize its potential.  Marketing should be completely aligned with sales, a concept that is now cleverly named “smarketing.”  

Firms can create leverage in the marketing function and boost ROI through the effective use of technology such as marketing automation software.  IT needs to be involved in these significant purchase decisions for seamless implementation, integration and maintenance.  

So, as you’ve read, there are certainly many obstacles to creating a world class marketing department.  The great news is there are remedies!  I’ve spent a decade building a high functioning outsourced marketing team.  I’ve also consulted with many companies – large and small – on creating marketing departments that have the power to transform and deliver measurable results, including generating leads, improving client engagement and contributing to product and service innovation.  Many of my future blog posts will be about how to rock your marketing department and win the battle for market share. Check out our free eBook which will guide you through which type of marketing provider can accelerate your growth and help you stand out from the crowded middle market.

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