Who Really Controls Your Marketing?

For the past month, I’ve been really trying to hammer home the many ways that marketers feel powerless by examining the current state of marketing. Today, I’m pulling all of that together to paint a picture of the various elements that are holding the modern marketer back.

This brings me to the question: Who controls your marketing? Do you? Or is it your C-Suite? Maybe you feel like Google is really the one in control. Or maybe you just have no idea.

The sad truth is, many marketers don’t feel like they’re in control. Whether that be control of their budgets, their teams, their efforts, or their results. Oftentimes, it’s an amalgamation of these factors resulting in inefficiency and the constant feeling of ‘one step forward two steps back’.

What controls your marketing (other than you)

Who is really in power: the role of channel operators

You can barely go a week without an update from Google, Facebook, Twitter, or one of the other digital channel operators that many brands use to amplify their marketing efforts.

To emphasize the importance of owning your own marketing efforts, Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute has always said: “Don’t Build Your Content House on Rented Land“. By offering brands the opportunity to grow their audiences, pulling the rug out from under them at any opportunity, and then asking them to pay for what they were previously provided for free, channel operators, such as Facebook, Google, etc., have a lot of incentive to regularly change the way they do business.

In that sense, relying on other platforms for your success and audience is the ultimate way that marketers lose the control. Unfortunately, the stakes are simply too high to not put effort and resources into these channel operators.

Social media channels

The sheer amount of social media channels is enough to make any marketer want to give up and go home. Sure, you can probably name the top few, but have you heard of all of these?

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, WhatsApp, Meetup, VK, Flickr, Tagged, Ask.fm, MeetMe, Classmates, Yelp, Blab, Pheed, Reddit, Thumb, Medium, Chirp, Yammer, Ning, Xing, Plaxo — the list goes on, and on, and on.

Not only are you required to stay up to date on which of these platforms is ruling at the moment, you have to understand how to communicate with audiences on these platforms, and, worst of all, you have to keep tabs on the constantly changing rules of engagement. Everything thing from the small changes, such as Facebook’s new like button options, to more substantial changes, such as Facebook’s long-awaited in-platform publishing feature.  If you’re not on top of this, one day you’ll wake up and no longer have access to your audience.

Search engines

The situation with search engines is very similar to that of social media channels, only it’s even worse because there are only a few truly popular ones. To mirror what I did above, here’s a list of some common search engines:

Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask, AOL, Wow, Webcrawler, MyWebSearch, Infospace, Info, DuckDuckGo, Contenko, Dogpile, Alhea, etc.

Notice how the first three are the only search engines that get any attention while all of the other ones are either much less prevalently used or just completely unknown. Again, like social media, the rules of engagement are constantly changing. Finding the best way to salvage the marketing destruction done by Google’s many covert algorithm changes is a habit that pretty much every marketer has gotten used to. And unlike social media, where marketers can be sure not to depend on too much for their audience, search engines are the most common method for audiences to actively seek out a brand.

Who is really in power: the role of team structure

Team operations are one of the most vital components for success. Marketing is such a collaborative endeavor that good teamwork and solid team structure are necessary if you have any hope of effectiveness. It requires an in-house team, approval from higher-ups, substantial resources, and sometimes outside help from an agency. Unfortunately, this also means that if you have one hindrance in the system, it can take down all of your marketing efforts.


Agencies often play the role of trusted marketing advisor and tactical executor. When done correctly, this relationship can be responsible for growing your business and your audience–and impressing your CEO. When done poorly, it can really hold your marketing efforts back. Either way, though, when you’re working with an agency you’re relinquishing a degree of control over your marketing strategy and execution. While this does not always have to be negative, it seems to create some frustration for marketers given that ‘Improving Trust Between Marketers and Agencies’ was the fourth most substantial issue in Ad Age’s 2016 reader survey at 41%. While trusting an agency to take over aspects of your marketing efforts is an essential part of the relationship, you can still manage to hold the reins by clarifying expectations and practicing consistent communication.


If you think your C-suite can be hard to please, or maybe just downright unsupportive, you are unfortunately correct. The Fournaise Marketing Group’s research paints a very grim picture for the relationship between CMOs and marketers and the rest of the C-suite. Take a peek at some of the most revealing stats:

  • 80% of CEOs do not trust marketers
  • 73% of CEOs believe “marketers lack business credibility and the ability to generate sufficient growth.”
  • 80% of CEOs believe “marketers are too disconnected from short, medium, and long-term financial realities of companies.”
  • 78% of CEOs think marketers “too often lose sight of what their real job is: to generate more customer demand for their products/services in a business-quantifiable and business-measurable way.”
  • 75% of CEOs think marketers “misunderstand (and misuse) the ‘real business’ definition of words ‘Results’, ‘ROI’, and ‘Performance’ and, therefore, do not adequately speak the language of their top management.”

Given that the C-suite tends holds the purse strings and is convinced by little other than ROI—something marketers notoriously struggle with, as I talk about below—you can bet that this ties back to a lack of resources.


A budget that is too small—or non-existent—can be extremely restrictive to your marketing efforts. Additionally, a budget that isn’t well spent—i.e., focuses on top-heavy awareness tactics such as Direct TV, print, and programmatic advertising instead of being applied throughout the buyers’ journey—will be equally as harmful.

As stated above, though, it is difficult to acquire more budget if you can’t prove ROI. In Hubspot’s 2015 State of Inbound report, it was found that respondents whose teams demonstrated positive marketing ROI in 2015 were more than twice as likely to receive a higher budget. Without the proper resources to engage in effective marketing and thus prove ROI, you can kiss a bigger budget goodbye–and the cycle continues.

Who is really in power: the role of consumers

Gone are the days that your audience is forced to sit through your commercial on their favorite TV show, look at your ad in their favorite magazine, or even watch your ads on YouTube. New options for ignoring advertisements combined with the globalization of markets means that options abound for consumers–and they have no reason to buy from you.


Yes, we live in an age where your consumers now control your marketing. They are hard to reach due to multi-screen accessibility, can (and will) skip your ads, and have a million options to purchase from other than you.  Consumers want personalized experiences and, at this point, they won’t settle for much less. Beyond that, they simply don’t trust you. For example, 84% of millennials reported that they do not like or trust traditional advertising, according to The McCarthy Group.

Given that third most pressing issue found in Ad Age’s 2016 Reader’s Survey was concerned with reaching audiences–finding new ways to reach consumers as they block or skip ads at 52%–it’s safe to say that consumers, at this point, are the ones in power.

What is the solution to regaining control?

There are certainly some methods you can bring into your marketing efforts to quell the madness. By creating your own exceptional content and publishing on your own platform, you can build an audience that comes straight to you, no channel operators necessary. When it comes to teamwork dynamic, focus on ROI and practice clear communication with your agency. Finally, if you put your audience first and tell stories they care about, you won’t have to worry about them skipping your ads.


Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog Trust Issues in the Marketing Industry: A Roadmap to Rebuilding Relationships to find out how to develop trust with your agency, your C-suite, and your audience.

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