Marketing’s 2017 #EpicFail

Tony Compton, Managing Director

Pardon me. I was daydreaming.

I just sat down to put pen to paper and the phone rang.

My Caller ID said it was a Chief Marketing Officer.

I thought I should answer.

Here’s how the call went:

Me: S’up?

CMO: Tony. I just heard you’re gonna write an article about marketing’s epic fail in 2017.`

Me: Yeah. <with chuckle>

CMO: I heard you’re gonna tell everybody that the epic failure is marketing’s utter neglect of addressing public speaking, presentation and personal communication skills throughout the company.

Me: Yep.

CMO: How is that marketing’s fault?

Me: How is it not?

CMO: Haven’t you heard? Marketing is all about data. And technology. I’ve got to chase down every last bit of customer data across every channel of customer interaction and make it work.

Me: I read that somewhere. A few dozen times I think.

CMO: My digital marketing managers are working constantly on connecting with customers on their mobile devices. On the web. Everywhere.

Me: I’m sure they are.

CMO: So, WTF? How do I have this communication problem?

Me: Where’s your next trade show?

CMO: Vegas. Next month.

Me: How many shows and events did you do this year?

CMO: 10.

Me: What’s your trade show budget?

CMO: Over $2M.

Me: How many company staff were in your booth for your last show?

CMO: 20.

Me: Doing what?

CMO: Giving demos, presenting on our booth stage and on the educational platform.

Me: Did you get them ready to speak at the show?

CMO: No, but we offer a two-day presentation training course once a quarter at our HQ. All are welcome, if they get permission and can get there.

Me: So how many out of the 20 at your last show attended the last training course?

CMO: 2.

Me: What about the other 18?

CMO: Don’t know. They’re from sales, product development and service. Not my problem.

Me: Yet it was your show budget, your metrics, your marketing departmental performance.

CMO: You could say that.

Me: So when you have any public-facing event, who’s responsible?

CMO: I am. Marketing.

Me: Webinars?

CMO: Marketing.

Me: Sales Enablement?

CMO: Marketing. But you can’t put that one solely on me.

Me: I’m not. But if you’re truly enabling sales, how is that possible if you don’t know the sales people can speak to your content?

CMO: Dunno.

Me: What about road shows?

CMO: Marketing.

Me: Speaking to media and the analysts?

CMO: Marketing.

Me: Your annual customer conference?

CMO: Marketing.

Me: Getting your customers, executives and partners ready for that conference?

CMO: Marketing. But they don’t want to practice their speaking. They feel they don’t have to.

Me: So I saw that live video stream from your last show. Right in front of your booth.

CMO: What about it?

Me: The marketer you put on camera using that smartphone. Ever do that before?

CMO: No.

Me: It showed.

Me: What about those ebooks you produced?

CMO: What about ‘em?

Me: Did you listen to them?

CMO: Yeah, why?

Me: It’s incredible what you can do with a tin can in a concrete room and a back office.

CMO: They’re good enough.

Me: If you say so. Just LMK if anybody ever responds to those.

CMO: Look, we offer a once-a-quarter presentation training course. What’s wrong with that?

Me: Nothing, if it’s any good. But then what happens?

CMO: With what?

Me: With the effort to help your team with those presentation skills.

CMO: It’s totally up to them what to do. I’m not responsible.

Me: I think you are.

CMO: How?

Me: Where do the people at your company go anytime something’s up with trade shows, events, webinars, road shows, the media, analyst and investor presentations, multimedia, podcast and streaming production, demos, speeches, interviews, customer and partner events, sales enablement, product launches, commercials and mobile video?

CMO: Marketing. But you’re being repetitive.

Me: Similar to the way your staff repeatedly uses the word AMAZING to describe anything and everything your company does? Or repeatedly lifts the ends of their sentences when they talk during a presentation? Sure, I’m grouping it all together but there are subtle differences in all of those examples. You should know that.

CMO: Um, well, I, you know, uhhh… you know, that’s out of my control. Right? We hire professionals who should know how to speak in public before they get here. Right?

Me: Wrong. Michael Jordan was the best in the business. Yet he was the first one to practice and the last one to leave. Yet you offer no such support, practice or initiative to those who want to stay sharp. Even those who already are great public speakers.

Yet you say your full-time job as a CMO is data. And content? But no assurance that the content can really be used by anybody. I still don’t know how you can call that sales enablement. Dumping content on somebody isn’t enablement. Where do your employees go for help with their presentation skills? And I don’t mean making prettier slides…

CMO: Again, we have that presentation training course.

Me: Yes, a one-time generic course that does the basics. If it’s any good. It does nothing to get your team prepped on a regular basis. And once that course is over, the learning largely stops.

CMO: That’s the way it is.

Me: What about your January sales kickoff?

CMO: What about it?

Me: Who’s leading that?

CMO: Sales. Marketing has its usual 30-minute spot on the third day of the kickoff.

Me: Exactly.


Marketing’s #epicfail has its origin decades ago.

People have been complaining about rotten, boring presentations for as long as I can remember. Eye chart slides, feature/function and product-centric material.

Speaking in public is people’s Number One fear. 2017 was no different.

In recent years we’ve accumulated more and more business and customer channels of interaction. More sales and marketing channels. Instead of just standing on stage in the 1960s, or in front of a client meeting in the 1970s, we’re now faced with a camera in every pocket, surprise live video, bad content reproduced and repurposed into multimedia formats, all orchestrated by the “good enough” communication culture.

It shows.

To top it off, in 2017 we had the avalanche of mobile video, streaming media, live video apps, interviewers who aren’t, cringe worthy media productions, and wanna-be video producers combined with the supervision of amateur digital marketers who have become even further removed from any human interaction. All chipping away at the branding, reputation and credibility of their companies.

Article after article informs us all that video marketing is now king. The information flood contains infographics on how to use video. The tech trade show session tells everything we need to know about a successful webinar. Except who is on the phone, on camera, on the microphone, on stage and responsible for engaging the audience.

Guess who’s responsible, CMO?

Let’s remember those absent executives who don’t know, don’t want to know, and won’t return until January 8, 2018. Put it all together and you have:

Marketing’s 2017 #EpicFail.

I’d better start writing that article.

For more on Challenging the Status Quo of #Marketing and #Presentation Groupthink, follow me on Twitter: @tonycompton, @GettingPresence

For immediate #presentation & #publicspeaking tips, visit the GettingPresence website.