Marketers, Managers and the Parable of the Monkey Tree

Marketing Directors VPs and CMOsSometimes it seems like marketers in the trenches, marketing leaders and our agency partners are all talking different languages. We’re not on the same page…

We should all be working toward the same goal of growing our businesses by meeting customer needs. But something gets in the way…

The problem, it seems, is that we see completely different challenges in the roles we play and are quick to point fingers to the other.

We’re certainly not on the same page, and recent research shows this disconnect. I’ll review the research and propose the parable of the monkey tree to explain the results.

When I read through the Forester Navigating Tech Marketing survey with GMG Insights and the results they reported I was initially surprised at how far apart Marketing Directors, CMOs/VPs and agencies really are. A few highlights:

  • CMOs / VPs are most concerned with the “what” of marketing: ROI, alignment between sales and marketing and generating more quality leads (a common complaint from sales leaders)
  • Marketing Directors are more concerned with the “how” of marketing: marketing mix, process and technology concerns, consistency, messaging and how budgets are being used.
  • Agencies feel that they do not have the tools or the time to support their clients: they cite gaps in the data from the media landscape,  tools to analyze media performance, experience in B2B Markets and the time required to be effective.
That was the open-ended portion of the study and it evolved just about how we might think. Marketing leaders are concerned with the issues of managing their marketing resources, Marketing Directors are concerned with execution concerns and agencies are struggling to keep up with the demands of their clients.
But a further review of the top concerns from a list of marketing challenges shows a deeper, more concerning divide:
  • The top concerns of CMOs / VPs cover the approach to the market: reaching the audience across the vast array of media outlets, the effectiveness of media plans, media testing and buyer research.
  • The top concerns of Marketing Directors cover more strategic issues like the lack of fact-based business plans to drive investment, how well messaging is resonating, gaining regional alignment and content marketing.
When asked about which tools were most important in B2B Technology Marketing, GMG summarized the disconnect this way:
  • Agencies want the data to plan accurately and justify planning decisions.
  • Directors want to get the messaging and content right to drive leads.
  • CMOs want accountability for budget decisions.

And while the gaps between CMOs / VPs who are looking for budget accountability, Marketing Directors who are more concerned with execution and Agencies who are looking to catch a break, are understandable, the biggest concern for me was the conclusion that many decisions in technology marketing are made without fact-based, quantitative buyer or concrete business results.

Or as this quote from the survey indicated, much of technology marketing is “upside down. 10% of the campaigns are driving 90% of the leads.”

The Parable Of The Monkey Tree

A business leader I really admire once told a large group of colleagues this parable, that may explain some the disconnect:

An organization is like a tree full of monkeys,…all on different limbs,… at different levels,…some climbing up.

The monkeys on the top look down and see a tree full of smiling faces.

The monkeys on the bottom look up and see nothing but [the monkeys backsides].

So I’ll propose what this research and the parable might be telling us:

If you’re a marketing leader, enjoy the perspective you have been given and take a few moments to lend a hand to some of your team. Pull them up with your perspective, your time and your attention to the struggles they face every day.

If you’re climbing up the tree, accept accountability for the responsibility you’re given and help those above you to see the important issues you face every day.

And to all the marketing monkeys out there, let’s stop making technology marketing decisions on past history, gut feel and anything other than logic, research and facts.

What do you think? Does this survey resonate for you? How do you explain the disconnect.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

8 thoughts on “Marketers, Managers and the Parable of the Monkey Tree

  1. Michael on behalf of 2 Million IT buyers who spend $316 Billion on tech products we agree. super post, really enjoyed this one.

  2. Hi Michael,

    Good perspectives here. The disconnect, in my opinion, has something to do with another question in the equation. That is “why”. None of the three parties get to why buyers behave as they do and why their plans are the right ones. Answering why is what pulls teams together.

    Tony Zambito

  3. Tony,

    Well that is the point, right? Too many decisions are made without any facts or research.

    I mean I was selling the “why behind the buy” research for Nielsen to Consumer companies years ago and it is a concept as old as dirt.

    This is one area where B2B has got to catch up and thanks to folks like you, I am confident we can get there soon!


  4. For years, marketing people and PR folks wore separate hats—had different skill sets, different agendas—even though they share a common purpose. It’s like the FBI and the CIA not talking to each other and sharing information about terrorism—dumb.

    Even the birth of digital communications didn’t turn on any light bulbs at first, even made it worse by adding another silo, but the power and exponential growth of social media shows us why it is vital to string it all together.

    Branding is the art of becoming known, liked and trusted; marketing is getting someone who has a need to know, like and trust you; PR is shaping and maintaining your image in the eyes of the public. Social Media enables, empowers, and provides the platforms where you can leverage it all… build awareness, amplify your message and build relationships. It’s all about building an emotional connection with people… and it not only blends GREAT… it makes blending to together essential!

    This goes for for working together internally and with all the agencies who need to actually start thinking about what is best for the brand, not just what will enable them to book the business.

    Great post Michael!

    1. Thanks Ted, I think your comment boils down to putting customers / clients first. I believe strongly that when marketers, agencies and publishers put the audience first, good things in the form of business results, happen for all of us!

      Best, Michael

  5. Love the Monkey Tree analogy.

    The weird thing with B2B marketing is that the older, more senior people tend to still think in terms of old-school marketing (the kind of marketing they built their careers in).

    It’s often the monkeys on the lower branches that really get the new dynamics of content marketing and revenue generation.

    The main challenge for a lot of our clients is to convince their bosses – the monkey butts above them – to think in new ways.

    1. Thanks Doug,

      I am not a big parable guy as I would prefer to be more to the point. But I love this one. I think it makes the exact point you are emphasizing here. 😉

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