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Opening Up the C-Suite to Marketers

Pictured: Les Binet and Tom Trainor

A new educational initiative aimed at equipping marketers with the tools and knowledge to propel them up the career ladder and into the boardroom has been launched by the Marketing Institute of Ireland (MII) in consultation with the wider marketing industry. Tom Trainor, chief executive of the MII explains to John McGee how it will work in practice.

You can count on two hands the number of Irish marketers who have risen through the ranks to become CEO/MD of an Irish public or private company. For a profession that does so much to build brands, grow sales and ultimately deliver to the bottom line, the reality is that marketers have not had the same opportunities to develop their careers as their colleagues in, say, the finance or operations departments, have enjoyed.

To help marketers reach their true potential and prise open the door to the C-Suite, the Marketing Institute of Ireland (MII) has set up a new professional educational programme aimed at equipping them with the tools, knowledge and skill sets that will, hopefully, open up the door to the boardroom and make CMOs and marketing directors legitimate candidates for the top jobs within companies.

The framework was launched at a Marketing Institute CMO Masterclass with Les Binet. Research conducted by Binet and his colleague Peter Field down through the years have consistently highlighted how a long-term strategic commitment to building brand value leads to better and more sustainable business outcomes.

The creation of the framework also follows a consultation process with the profession, which revealed that the careers of marketers are being held back by a lack of a professional framework guiding their development, says Tom Trainor, chief executive of the MII.

“We spoke with over 50 senior marketers and practitioners from across the profession, from leading Irish brands such as Kerry Group and permanent tsb, as well as global brands including Deloitte and LinkedIn. This built on extensive academic input from TU Dublin and UCD Smurfit Business School. They told us that there is a need for more highly skilled strategic brand marketers, people who can lead teams to maximize the commercial success of their organisations. The Marketer Pathways Competency Framework has been specifically developed to support individuals and businesses in addressing this challenge and in fully realising their true potential,” he says.

“Just like other professions, we believe there is an opportunity for marketers to contribute at the most senior level within their companies. Yet the profession has been held back by perceptions of a lack of competency in key areas, for example in relation to commercial savviness and financial literacy. Indeed, we think companies should capitalise on marketers in-depth understanding of their markets, customers, products and positioning, perspectives that are critical for strategic decision-making. We believe that such perspectives are essential at the most senior levels of the organisation, if strategic decision-making is to be most effective.

“To make this a reality, the marketing profession must generate a continuous pipeline of highly qualified executives with the requisite competencies to claim the most senior executive positions and create the business impact that fully realizes the true potential of the business. This means that senior marketing executives must become leading candidates for Chief Executive Officer positions. This is a long-term project, that requires commitment and focus on the part of ambitious individuals and companies, and it must engage marketers at all levels of seniority from new entrants through to established leaders.

Trainor points out that this is Ireland’s first comprehensive competency framework for the marketing profession, and the Institute is particularly pleased with the extent of the profession’s support for, and participation in, the initiative.

How will it work in practice?

“Essentially, the Marketer Pathways framework provides a toolkit for marketing professionals of all levels – from Graduate to CMO and beyond – to support their own development, or that of their team. The framework provides a structured approach to professional development which will be critical in identifying competency gaps, supporting ongoing professional development and in the recruitment of talent.

“This structured approach encourages individuals to review and understand what skills are required at each career stage, to identify where they – or their team members – are on their career journey, assess what they need to do next and to develop a training and development plan,” he says.

“The competency gap analysis assesses skills and behaviours across the entire range that are key to success. Each competency is described at five levels of expertise from basic to exceptional, which should broadly align with marketing career stages. Using this structure, marketers can assess the competency level they should be demonstrating, developing and aspiring towards, at every stage of their career in order to successfully fulfil their existing role, or to reach the next level,” he adds.

The Framework

He says that the framework has been broken into three different areas: Marketing, Business and People Competencies.

“This three-pronged approach reflects the fact that marketing is first and foremost a business discipline, and that all strategic business success requires the engagement of people throughout and outside the organisation.

“Whilst the framework provides an extensive range of competencies, the list however is not exhaustive and can be tweaked according to the specifics of particular scenarios. The competencies range from change orientation, commercial awareness, governance and compliance and innovation amongst the business-related competencies.

“People competencies include ethics and integrity, leadership, relationship management and resilience whilst marketing competencies include strategy, digital marketing, research, analytics and marketing strategy,” he says.

“Of particular interest to marketers seeking to choose the most appropriate training courses as part of their overall personal development is that the Marketing Institute will be tagging all of our learning and development programmes so that they may be immediately linked to development of competencies referenced in the framework,” he adds.

Unlike some other professions where CPD is compulsory, Trainor says the educational framework it has devised will ultimately be left up to the individual marketer to decide.

“We believe that professional development works best when it is owned and driven by the individual employee, with the support of their line manager. We envisage that the most committed and ambitious marketers will grab this opportunity to create a formalised personal development strategy,” he says.

Given that most marketers are already overworked and find it difficult to keep up with emerging trends, attending the many industry-focused conferences and seminars, Trainor says that engagement levels with marketers has surpassed expectations.

“We have already seen several hundred marketers take up our invitation to download and inspect the framework. Busy marketing professionals need to have supports and shortcuts that help them navigate through their fast-moving environments in a way that actually moves them forward personally in terms of skills and capabilities. This framework will be valuable for those marketers who have leadership ambition in that it will give them a clear path to progress, and the tools they need to get there.


“The framework is intended to be a firm foundation that will help everyone using it to demonstrate the relevance, the capabilities and the potential of a professional marketer as a trusted business executive. We believe that structured usage of this framework can be a game changer in terms of skills development for the marketing profession in Ireland, as it enables every marketer to identify and pursue personal development goals and accelerate their career progression,” he concludes.

Download the framework HERE

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ July 2019)© to order back issues please call 016611660

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