How Marketers Can Effectively Secure Buy-in From The C-suite

Episode 170

February 8, 2022

In this episode of The Kula Ring podcast, we’re joined by marketing leadership expert and organizational psychologist Thomas Barta. He’s worked with hundreds of companies over his 20-year career to facilitate and lead organizational transformations. On the podcast, Thomas shares how marketers can build better relationships with the C-suite and achieve buy-in on their ideas. Diving deeper, he shares three core gaps that can limit a marketer’s potential: skills, power, and trust. We round out the episode speaking with Thomas about future marketing trends, focusing on the importance of data technology.

How Marketers Can Effectively Secure Buy-in From The C-suite Transcript:

Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White. 

Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White, and joining me today as always is Carman Pirie. Carman, how are you doing, sir?

Carman Pirie: I’m doing well, and I am super excited for today’s show. 

Jeff White: I know. I think it’s going to be really interesting. We don’t often get to speak with people with the depth of experience, research, and expertise.

Carman Pirie: Look, now you’re just saying that the other guests that we’ve had don’t have experience.

Jeff White: No, that’s not it. No, they’re not researchers. They haven’t been at a meta-level examining the theme. 

Carman Pirie: I know. I just wanted to try to make you squirm a little bit. 

Jeff White: Yeah. It’s not working. I’m a professional. 

Carman Pirie: I’ve done this before. No, look, I agree. I’m gonna try to cover like three hours’ worth of content, I think, in the next half hour, so let’s just jump right into it. 

Jeff White: Yes. It’s going to be maximizing the potential of it, for sure. So, joining us today is change leadership thinker, speaker, author, and founder of the Marketing Leadership masterclass; welcome to The Kula Ring, Thomas Barta. 

Thomas Barta: Thank you for having me. It looks like an interesting show given the introduction you just made, so I look forward to it.

Jeff White: I can’t wait to listen to it, either. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah, Thomas, it’s all downhill from here. It’s great to have you on the show. Rather than ask you to repeat your resume in exhaustive detail, I would just tell our listeners that Thomas has led transformations for over 20 years, 14 different industries, 45 different countries, amongst some of the world’s top organizations, including over two dozen Fortune 500 transformations, and creator of the world’s largest-ever study involving over 68,000 assessments for what makes a successful customer leader. And author of The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader. We have so much to dive into here, Thomas. 

Thomas Barta: Thank you for reading my CV, which is great. Well done. In short, I’m a marketer, turned McKinsey partner, turned organizational psychologist, and I’m trying to help marketers raise their game and get fired less often or for better reasons. 

Carman Pirie: I love that. 

Jeff White: What are some of the better reasons that they might get fired?

Thomas Barta: You know, a good reason is to get in a fight with the CEO because your CEO doesn’t get customers, and then if you lose this fight and get fired, that’s a good reason. If you get fired because you get stuck in some tool stuff that nobody needs or understands, that’s a bad reason. 

Jeff White: Fair enough. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah, let’s unpack this a bit. I know that, because we spoke in advance of the show, really emphasized this notion of helping marketers excel in the C-suite and we kind of want to unpack what helps them succeed and what are the core stumbling blocks? So, I’m happy to approach it from either direction. Do you want to start with where they fail or when does it work? 

Jeff White: How they succeed, yeah. 

Thomas Barta: It’s the same thing, plus I’m talking about myself here because I’ve been a marketer. In fact, when I was a child, I was a marketer –– I wanted to become an advertising producer. That was my dream job. As a marketer, I led marketing for many years, and my last firm was Kimberly-Clark. I had clients in Europe, and I got sick and tired of marketing because I felt people in finance were making the decisions. Why not us? So, that’s why I left and then became a McKinsey partner, and wasn’t it interesting? When you sit in the C-suite as an external, which I was then at McKinsey, you’ll sit there as a partner. Your client is a CMO, and then there’s a CEO, and there’s a CFO, and a C-God knows what, and when you see the discussion, you can already tell if this is going in a good direction or not. 

And it’s very interesting that when you see some marketers have found a recipe to connect with the CEO, with the CFO, in a way that they are peers, and there’s a tough debate, and they’re making better decisions, and some marketers find that very difficult, and those are the ones that typically tend to then lose their jobs faster or just get diminished, and observing this for many years. I led McKinsey’s internal leadership program as a dean, where we teach people this influence was an authority, right? Because as a consultant, you have your paper and your voice. That’s it, right? And people can say, “Go away.” And it felt like if you bring these skills to more marketers, that is where we could have more impact in the C-suite. 

I haven’t answered your question yet, but I’m telling you what the situation is. And we still need more marketers to be able to have that C-suite debate, to claim their seat at the table, be seen as a peer, and we can dive into a moment what did it actually take, but that is what we need to do more of because I’m pretty sure the people who are listening to this today are very good at marketing. I mean, the fact that they’re listening to this, that they’re exploring it, they must be really good marketers. The question is, how many of you are listening to this feeling you have the right standing in the C-suite? That’s what we need to work on to bring great marketing to life. 

Carman Pirie: And how much of that is predicated on the C-suite having a bit of a marketing bent, or interest, or respect for in advance, and how much of it is on the marketer to cultivate? 

Thomas Barta: That is a great question, so you talked about a study earlier, and I did it because I was so curious about trying to figure out what it is, right, that I was observing there in the C-suite. So, we indeed went on a large scale. We had in the end 68,000 data points, and it was massive. What was fascinating in this is that 25% of the success of marketers is what you just talked about. 25% is the company, the firm, the C-suite. 55% are leadership skills. And then there is technical, personality, and others. So, first of all, to answer your question, it is 25%. Practically, if you work in the C-suite and the CEO thinks marketing is the biggest, most stupid thing ever invented, it’s gonna be really hard. It’s gonna be really hard. But that is rare. It does happen, but in most firms, it is actually slightly different that there is maybe some skepticism, some things that people don’t know, and there the marketers need to up the game, and lead the debate, and lead to convincing. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah, and I think that’s instructive to say that yes, 25% of it’s the company, but it’s a bit of a rarity to run into a completely negative environment there. Most often, it’s something that the marketers ought to be able to navigate in terms of helping the C-suite take an existing appreciation for marketing and kind of understand it better, I suppose. 

Jeff White: Do you think it has anything to do with a difference to power that a lot of marketers have? Or once they get to the level that they’re actually in with the C-suite, that isn’t a concern anymore? 

Thomas Barta: I love that question because there’s a two-part answer to this. First off, do marketers differ from others? I found that very, very interesting. To start with, yes, there are a few. In psychology, people sometimes use the term eros and logos, the male, or formerly male and female energy. Well, you’re not saying male-female anymore, but there is that type of energy. And marketers are, compared to others, slightly less in search of power, slightly less in search of facts, slightly less in search of giving me that proof, show me this. Marketers are often very, very good at feeling things, and seeing this, seeing the big connection, seeing how things are hanging together. They understand what’s going on. They even take themselves back and say, “Look, you know, if that’s a better decision, I’m happy to.” That is happening. That is true. So, there is a bit of a difference. 

But here is the thing. The much bigger thing is that marketing is a really weird job and that makes it hard. Let me tell you what this is. First off, because marketers have gaps that other people don’t have, and if you were listening to this and you’re a marketer, and you were sometimes frustrated, maybe you find some of those gaps, the first thing, skills gap, right? You go to a marketing conference, and when you go home, you look into a mirror and say, “Holy, what is all this? These tools, I don’t understand.” And of course, they’re great tools, and they can do great stuff, but it takes confidence away from people, yeah? That’s gap one. 

Gap number two, you do future stuff, right? I mean, marketing is the future. Future revenue, future customers, and future profit ––You can’t prove it. There’s just no way. And if you can, the best thing you can become is a really good fortune teller. And so, everybody in finance who has some old numbers will always look more credible and more reliable because the stuff is all data. 

And thirdly, you’re trying to change what the company does to customer experience and all these things, and you’re in charge, and you feel, and then some other departments do stuff with customers, and you can’t control it. So, you have this job, skills gap, power gap, trust gap. That’s hard to do. So, some of this in the C-suite will have to do with the fact that you just have stuff that’s harder to prove than other things. And then sometimes the C-suite isn’t great, and then sometimes you are maybe you’re too eros. I’d say, for the most part, 70% of the issues I see are not the emotional marketer; it’s not the bad C-suite. We have a job where we have to talk about the future. We don’t have the power. And we have to come to terms with this but then talk to the C-suite in a way that they get it. And that is the art of getting power in the C-suite, which is possible. 

Carman Pirie: Well, now I just want to know how. 

Thomas Barta: Yeah, that’s right. 

Carman Pirie: You teed it up, Thomas. 

Jeff White: Is there a white paper we can read? 

Carman Pirie: I was gonna say, it struck me when you listed the three main gaps, I can’t help but think that there’s a chunk of marketers out there that focus an awful lot on that first one, that skills gap and they maybe don’t think about the other two, the future orientation of marketing and the dynamic that that brings, and obviously that trust gap that exists. Do you notice that in your work, there’s kind of almost an overemphasis on the skills? 

Thomas Barta: Yeah, and it’s not new. I did the same when I was a brand manager. I took a segmentation course, and I could do the numbers. I could really do statistics. And I remember, I presented once to the C-suite, this super complex statistical segmentation model, and they were like, “That’s very impressive.” And then I left the room because I was very happy, and they said, “What the fuck are we doing with this,” right? And it’s always been like this. 

And so, I think you’re right. Skills are important. No marketer needs no skills. I mean, we need to look at the technology, and it’s important. But you’re right. The bigger role is to translate that into something the firm can do. And you asked me what to do. The first thing every marketer has to do almost monthly is to say, “What is the value creation zone?” So, let me explain this. 

There is a PlayStation because it’s their most important product. It’s big. I mean, like the PlayStation is really, really big, right? When this was new, there was a guy named Kutaragi, and he was an engineer. He believed in this gaming idea, so he understood the customer. He knew the customer would want this, but he managed something else. He explained to the Sony management why this was a big deal, why this would make money, and why they should do it. All of the concerns they had about the ethical component of gaming are not that bad. There were long lists of questions. 

He took ten years to convince them. But he created something, what we call a value creation zone, so there is a customer need here, and you’re clear about that, but there is a company need, too. And where those overlap, that’s where a marketer has power. So, if you work for a B2B firm and you really know customers, you really know there is something going on, the question is do you also know the top three priorities of your CEO? And how do those align? And can you explain to the C-suite what the overlap is, and can you make it bigger? So, that value creation zone, almost like shaping, is where everything starts. This is where power starts. This is where the debate starts. 

That’s job number one. 

Jeff White: I love it. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. Anybody that’s worked with me for any amount of time has heard me say the person that frames the debate wins the debate. And really, what you’re talking about is framing that conversation. 

Jeff White: But you really need to understand. I love the point about understanding what the priorities of the CEO are and speaking it back to them in their language. 

Carman Pirie: Being able to frame it. 

Jeff White: And frame that debate. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah. 

Thomas Barta: Just imagine, right? You have a great B2B firm. Their biggest challenge is maybe some competitor is taking some territory away in some areas because of some copycat machines, what have you, right? So, I don’t know what those are. Typical B2B challenges, right? There’s a big competitor coming into this region, maybe who has a better offer, better price. Maybe that’s on the C-suite’s mind, right? And then you, as a marketer, have a great idea how to get customers to be more loyal, right? 

Just imagine you would just walk into the C-suite and talk about customer loyalty in general. La, la, la, la. Right? People say it’s very interesting, let’s do this, and we gotta buy the software. Imagine you frame that debate differently, saying, “Look, we understand Canada and Brazil are in danger. We see that. There is a competitor coming in. It’s terrible. Sorry, it’s terrible, but it’s a real risk here. We have an idea. We have this new thing and what we could do in Brazil is get those customers, we kind of increase their loyalty by 5%. It would mean that X% of them would not go there. That’s the money we’d make.” You have the same idea, your same system, but you frame the debate in a way that everyone in the C-suite will sit up and say, “Okay, prove it.” 

But they’ll listen. Yeah, because you pick them up on where the pain points are. This example may be weird now for someone in B2B. Maybe it’s not those same countries. But that’s how it works. And I tell you what, and I’ve never seen it not working in the C-suite if there was a normal debate. It’s very powerful. 

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Carman Pirie: And of course, that is very powerful, and it, as you say, almost the worst thing that can happen then is they say, “Oh, put your money where your mouth is and let’s see if it actually works.” 

Thomas Barta: Fix it and come back. 

Carman Pirie: Which, naturally, it’s at the end of the day, if your ideas continue to not work, that’s probably not a career-enhancing proposition. But I am curious about the other two components that you mentioned because of course, you are trying to predict the future, and not all of it is under your control, and not all of that customer connection is under your control. 

Thomas Barta: That’s right. 

Carman Pirie: So, how do you counsel marketers to hedge their bets, if you will, in their conversations with the C-suite? Or bring that lens of reality? Potentially. 

Thomas Barta: Look, I mean, think about it. The people in the C-suite, most of them at least, aren’t stupid, right? So, most of them understand that marketing is the future. They understand this, right? They understand this future. You just need to be honest. Jim Farley, you probably know Jim Farley’s now CEO of Ford. He was the CMO before. And he took on the role at Ford when they were basically bankrupt. Remember the time when Ford was roughly bankrupt? Was about to go bankrupt, right? Guess how much they spend on marketing? And everyone is like, “No, we can’t do that.” They cut this, right? 

So, he came in and said, “Okay, look, guys. This is the blue Ford oval. My parents bought cars because they felt pride when they saw them. That’s why they bought a car. Look at the papers. Look at what they’re talking about us now. That’s not pride. This is different. We have to advertise again.” So, then he made the case how this would bring back marketers. Now, guess what happened? Some people believed him, and the majority said, “Yeah, but we don’t believe it.” And you know what he said? “Okay, let’s have an adult debate. Okay, got it. What do you need to see?” And he flipped it and said, “Okay, let’s work this out. You obviously understand that advertising works, but if you don’t believe it, let’s figure out what we need to see here.” 

And very interestingly, people were becoming part of that debate. And sometimes I tell marketers, “Why don’t you work with the CFO to make the case rather than take the case to the CFO who is better at doing marketers than you are in the first place, and they will always poke a hole in it?” Just work together. I mean, they are adult enough to understand that you can’t prove everything but have them try, and the debate just lifts, yeah? In every relationship, there are things you can’t prove, but you just gotta be open about it rather than trying to tell people you can and then you can’t. 

And let’s fight it out. If there’s doubt, okay, let’s keep going. Because I had a CMO who said once, “Okay, how about we count all marketing to zero. Would you agree?” And they said, “Yeah, we can’t do that.” Say, “Which part do you want to keep? So, it’s like, “Okay, let’s have the debate.” So, first off, have the debate. I think it’s important. Don’t shy away. If people doubt it, just face them and say, “Okay, what do you need?” And you know we can’t prove the future, so what would be the best thing that we could do together?” I think that’s where the debate starts. 

Do you need to do numbers as a marketer? Yeah. You gotta have your numbers ready. You gotta know what you spend and what you believe it is, and oftentimes a simple spreadsheet that just says, “Look, we don’t know exactly, but that’s what we spend, here is what we’ve seen happening. We assume X% is based on this but we don’t know.” That’s much better than trying to bring up a 200-page model that nobody understands or saying, “We can’t really prove it. Give us the money anyway.” 

Carman Pirie: I kind of wonder, keeping on this theme of trying to predict the future, what are the emerging challenges that you’re seeing for marketers? Whether it’s maybe life after the pandemic or just the general shift in advance of technology, what are kind of the, if you will, headwinds that you think marketers will be facing in the next five years that they maybe aren’t aware of yet? 

Thomas Barta: So, there is short-term noise and then there are long-term trends. The pandemic, for many reasons, is a short-term noise we hope. We don’t know yet, but if you think about it, what has really changed in consumer behaviour? The obvious things, yes, but the other things, no. But I think the big trend indeed we are seeing is technology, of course, and in every single firm, technology plays a major role, and what we see now in C-suites is who is taking the lead. Because this will eat into all sorts of departments. Just imagine, just take a customer database, right? Who owns this? Is the marketer the one that actually takes the lead and says, “Look, guys, we need to look at our customers in a completely different way. Here is how to do this efficiently. Here is what we can save.” 

If you take that lead, then it involves the call centers at one point. It involves production at the very end because it’s connected. It could also be that IT takes the lead and says, “We need to have a user agreement.” Or production does. Or sales. In many firms, it’s the question of who takes the lead. And the CEO, in many cases, doesn’t quite care what the title is of that person. The CEO cares about who can do it. That is a big game right now that we see in firms and the marketers who take the lead are the ones that have clearly more power, or the ones that get deeply involved are the ones that have more power. The ones that are losing it out are the ones that get lost in a couple of tools that are to do with marketing rather than helping the firm think about this complex problem. Which data is. It’s complex, right? Are you able to advise the CEO on how to think about it? That is a big game, and we see that, and that’s a split we’re also seeing because we’re seeing marketers getting way more power and marketing getting way less power because of that. 

Jeff White: Do you think there’s one of those departments that’s really pushing the hardest to own that customer data? Is it sales that you’re seeing mostly? I mean, traditionally, it’s always been IT because they’re the keeper of the keys of the server that it’s stored on, which makes no sense because they don’t action the data in any way, shape, or form, but is it sales that marketers need to be most concerned about when it comes to owning and leading? 

Thomas Barta: Yeah, and I wouldn’t even call it concern, because honestly if someone takes the lead in a firm, it’s good for the firm, right? I mean, it may be the wrong person, but it’s good to have someone who takes the lead. So, I think sales is a natural owner, of course, because they have customer interactions. They’re very interested in that. Finance often is because they want to see the data. I don’t know. I don’t have good statistics. I see that we need more marketers to get involved in it, and I don’t mean that we need to become IT experts. That’s not the point. The point is zooming out and saying, “What would this firm really need to be successful in the market?” So, what do we need to know from customers and how do we need to translate down straight into production and later on accounting. 

Thinking that through together with a few experts, you can get firms to do workshops with you for half a day. It’s not expensive. Just to get your thinking straight. I think it’s gonna be a big deal. 

Carman Pirie: I find it interesting that you’re finding that the marketers who lean into that and who take that on are the ones that are getting power in the C-suite and are advancing, and the ones who avoid it or are not comfortable, that’s the divide. It’s really instructive. So often, I think people think it comes down to almost, I don’t know, a question of age, or digital nativeness, or something, and I think it’s a real gift, Thomas, to tell people that it’s not about the knowledge of the toolsets itself. It’s about how this works for an organization—much more strategic, less tactical in technology. 

Thomas Barta: You get experts to fix it for you, right? And when I hear about digital natives, I’m always getting nervous because people assume you have to be 25 and grown up on digital, and I think a lot of 25-year-olds –– Don’t get me wrong. I hope maybe we don’t have a lot of 25-years-olds on this call. But there are a lot of 25-year-olds out there who are digital natives but also digitally naïve because they know tools, but that’s not how you run a firm. 

It’s not an age thing at all. You just gotta put your mind to it. I mean, most marketers are really smart people. They’re very intelligent. And if you really spend half a year thinking about technology, you’ll be very good at this. So, we’re not talking about rocket science, but it requires thinking. 

Jeff White: Yeah. It’s not rocket surgery. 

Thomas Barta: It’s not rocket surgery. Exactly. 

Jeff White: What did I steal that from? One of the leading usability experts. Geez. I’m gonna screw it up, so I’m not even gonna try. But you know, and I recognize that my next question is a little odd given that we’re three white men on a podcast talking about this, but do you think that sexism plays a part in this, as well? Do you think that there are certain people being held back because of their gender in this type of relationship? 

Thomas Barta: Interesting. So, the research, I can just tell you research, right? So, not anecdotal evidence, my research. For success, for business success in marketing, the largest ever study, 68,000 data points, 1,230 chief marketing officers from around the globe, the impact of gender, under 1%. No. Is this true for every firm? Is this true for every region? No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying that, so on average, it’s not a big deal. In fact, when it comes to screwing up in marketing, we have total equality, which is great. 

B2B firms tend to be a little bit more male, so I think everybody will have a different perspective, but you can be very successful as a female in a male-dominated environment. Is it fun is another question, but gender isn’t, per se, a blocker. 

Carman Pirie: That’s interesting that it didn’t show up as a significant blocker in the data. I guess kind of anecdotally, you often, particularly maybe because we work more in the B2B industrial space-

Jeff White: That said, I mean-

Carman Pirie: You encounter a lot of female marketers that are in very male-dominant organizations. But they’re succeeding in them, to be fair. It’s not like they’re held back. 

Jeff White: I think of people like a number of the guests we’ve had on this show. Monique Elliott, who’s at Schneider, we’ve got an upcoming episode with her. Very powerful. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. Cynthia from TE. A ton of very, very seasoned, capable marketers. Yeah, I was kind of curious where that was gonna go. Yeah. 

Thomas Barta: No, neither personality, nor gender, nor B2B versus B2C was a driver. So, the big drivers were leadership. As I said, 55. Firm, around 25, which is reasonably big. There were technical skills, 15. Those were the big ones, and then there is other stuff. Think about it; trust gap, power gap, and skills gap. It’s really hard to be born with this, so you’ve got to figure this out. 

And by the way, you asked earlier if there was a write-up. Happy too. There’s a summary. If you want to send it around, please do. It has the research and then some of the big ideas. Briefly, it’s a number of things you need to do, because we’re talking about the value creation zone. There are a couple of more things you need to avoid. Jargon as a marketer is really bad, especially in B2B firms. If you talk about attribution and segmentation, we will really hate you because it’s just not the world, right? It has a lot to do with mobilizing sideways. The people that don’t report to you have to do a lot of storytelling, a lot of feeding the firm forward, so if you are able to use customer voices and data to push it inside the firm, that will create the wave in front of you that you can lean back like the CFO, right? 

The CFO is powerful. They are not selling anything. CFOs are pure cost. I mean, seriously. They’re pure cost. They’re not saying, “Well, why are they powerful?” Because they know how everybody’s doing. If you as a B2B know how the call centers are doing, how sales is doing, how this product is being received, and use it, and rather than saying, “I own the experience,” which you don’t, and just feed it into the firm and saying, “Oh, let’s look at this. People don’t like the product. Interesting. Oh, it’s interesting.” Guess what happens, right? You become that powerful voice. 

So, there are a lot of techniques, and in the write-up, it’s basically we’ve written this up in The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader, and yes, please buy the book. We get a dollar each. Seriously. So, no, that’s not the reason to be on the show, but the summary is a summary of that book, and that’s why the research isn’t all in the key tips. And if you do these things, that is when you start to create power, but the summary, as a marketer, you have to build your power very, very consciously rather than hoping because of really good work people will start to really like and accept you. It’s not how it works. You gotta be very strategic in saying, “I’m gonna do marketing work and here’s how I’m gonna build my power.” And you gotta do both things and that will make you successful. 

Carman Pirie: You’re kind of reminding me of an old quote from Tom Peters, which I think was actually a McKinsey guy way back in the day, as well. But he just said that if you’re not into politics, you’re not into getting things done. That notion of you needs to cultivate power inside the organization. You need to be intentional about that. 

Jeff White: Yeah. Making a plan is something I’ve never really thought about.

Carman Pirie: Yeah. I think it comes from just working inside of large organizations. You need to have that skill set and lean into it. 

Thomas Barta: And politics sounds negative. I look at it as really positive. Even if everybody in the firm is just really well intended, why would they make you powerful? What’s the point? People are trying to do these things, and if they don’t get the fact that your work matters, you can’t blame them, right? So, I see it as a very positive thing to build your power, and you can take it to be playful. We’re teaching marketers what we just talked about, something called Marketing Leadership Masterclass. It’s the only leadership class for marketers online. And we’re teaching people this. And everybody comes in this class with exactly the same challenge, saying, “They don’t believe me. I do all this great work, and they’re not taking it.” 

And then we talk about the fact whether people have actually tried to make the case, and then it’s like, “You know, maybe not that much.” And it’s again and again, so I think we can do small things that make us more powerful as marketers. 

Jeff White: It’s like finance can use trailing indicators to prove anything, but marketers can’t use trailing indicators of the success of their work in the same way. They have to establish the case and then prove that they did it. 

Carman Pirie: Especially when you think about the sales cycle.

Thomas Barta: But marketing can improve how everybody else is performing. Marketing can prove how people like the product. Marketing can prove how people like the supply chain. Marketing can prove how people like call centers. Marketing can very easily get that data, and it’s as powerful as CFO data, but you’ve got to use it in that way. Yeah, as a change tool rather than as a, “Here’s another report, read it,” which they don’t. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. It is an interesting dynamic, that notion of thinking the CFO basically dealing with data that are representative of things that have already happened and so you’re dealing with something that’s very matter of fact, and now we must come up with a solution to deal with X, Y, or Z. Can be very dispassionate and based upon data, and almost completely divorced of opinion, and that sounds almost 180 degrees from where many marketers might approach a debate about their work. But to Thomas’s point, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can approach it the exact same way.

Thomas Barta: And it’s not so complicated, so everything we talked about may sound really big today, but actually the small steps you need to take aren’t that massive. So, thinking about what a CEO is saying, how to connect, talking to some colleagues, trying to convince, using old data like the CFO to prove how other people are performing, so these things are not rocket surgery, as you would call them. And they make a difference. They’ll make a difference. And that’s what we need. We need more marketers in the C-suite. Especially in B2B, which is the biggest marketing industry, right? There are more B2B marketers than B2C marketers. You are the majority. 

Carman Pirie: That is not how I think a lot of B2B marketers feel or approach it. 

Jeff White: No. But they are. 

Carman Pirie: But they are. And I tend to think it’s a more interesting side of marketing, but I’m a bit biased there. Not that I don’t enjoy B2C, of course, and really just love advertising, which is often just the purview of B2C. 

Thomas Barta: That’s right. Yeah. 

Jeff White: What a great way to frame all of that up. Thomas, I really thank you for joining us on the show today. It was fantastic. 

Thomas Barta: It was a pleasure. Thanks for having me. And to all of you, I wish you all luck and well with stepping up. 

Jeff White: Fantastic. 

Carman Pirie: All the best. 

Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Kula Ring, with Carman Pirie and Jeff White. Don’t miss a single manufacturing marketing insight. Subscribe now at That’s

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Thomas Barta

Organizational Psychologist

Thomas is an organizational psychologist and a former partner of McKinsey. His pioneering customer leadership research includes the world’s largest study involving over 68,000 assessments on what makes for a successful change leader. Thomas is the author of the #1 leadership book for marketers: The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader (with Patrick Barwise, McGraw-Hill). Thomas writes for Forbes, Marketing Week, and his own TryThis.Blog. He has consulted and marketed for over 20 years, in 14 industries, in 45 countries. His clients include many of the world’s most prominent companies, including over two dozen from the Fortune 500.

The Kula Ring is a podcast for manufacturing marketers who care about evolving their strategy to gain a competitive edge.

Listen to conversations with North America’s top manufacturing marketing executives and get actionable advice for success in a rapidly transforming industry.

About Kula

Kula Partners is an agency that specializes in maximizing revenue potential for B2B manufacturers.

Our clients sell within complex, technical environments and we help them take a more targeted, account-focused approach to drive revenue growth within niche markets.


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