I think most business owners would agree that when real leadership exists within a company, then great things happen. Leadership within companies occurs on numerous levels from executives, departments and at an individual professional development level.

I’m not going to discuss the merits of a good leader other than to say charisma, vision, risk assessment, persistence and problem solving all play a role. Not everyone is a leader, and that’s okay. Many people are great leaders in particular situations and not in others.

When it comes to a business owner, I have learned that the sooner an owner understands their limitations, the sooner the business will grow. Admitting your limitation means checking egos at the door and being secure in oneself to know when someone else can do a better job.

So what is the point? When it comes to marketing, a company requires more than RAM (Random Acts of Marketing) to grow a business. It needs marketing leadership (aka vision, risk, charisma, etc.). Without leadership, owners get frustrated; staff is unproductive, and the value of marketing is questioned at every quarterly meeting.

The way I see it is there are two ways to bring leadership to a marketing department. They are:

1. The owner of the company provides the leadership

When an owner of a company understands how to market their business, then the onus on them is to articulate the vision to help staff execute on the vision and deliver the results. In a small to medium business, it takes more than having a high-level plan. The owner will need to have some sense of how to execute on the vision otherwise the marketing staff becomes unproductive.

As a business owner, if the extent of your marketing vision is to say the color of blue used on the website is too dark then it may be a good time to evaluate your limitations. I’ve spent endless hours in my 18-year career as a marketer trying to get the boss’s vision just right. I make sure the font is just right, and the stock photo has been approved. Forget the fact that we don’t know who our audience is or can’t identify our key differentiator.

As a business owner, if you don’t have marketing experience or a marketing framework that is well understood, you’re much better off hiring someone to worry about the marketing for you. Find a way to let it go and not obsess over many of the details that have little impact on the outcome. Provide leadership in other parts of the company where you can have a significant impact and hire a leader in marketing.

2. The person hired to drive the marketing of a company provides the leadership

In scenario two, the role of the marketer for a small business is different than if the owner is the marketing lead. In this scenario, not only does the marketer need to do what they do best – market, they have a duty to communicate extremely well with the owner.

On many occasions, I have seen marketers say they have their hands tied by the owner and blame the owner for not enabling them to execute. In these scenarios, I observe that it is not the business owner failing the marketer but rather the marketer failing to paint the vision for the owner. The reason the owner questions a marketer’s plan is they don’t understand it.

If you’re a marketer who looks to other’s for vision and leadership, then I hope you have it. If you’re a marketer who is tasked with growing the company through your marketing vision then you must own marketing.

Owning marketing means having a vision, communicating the vision and then executing on the vision. It also means taking risks and accepting failure while learning from it. Those that truly own marketing will ultimately grow a company.

In case I was too vague, here is the moral of the story:

Owners… Nobody knows your business better than you do. If you understand marketing and can deliver the vision to your staff, then make sure you hire good people, and you’ll do well. On the flip side, if all you can do is pick on the font style and have no understanding of marketing frameworks, campaign strategy, and initiative execution then get out of marketing’s way.

Marketing… if you have been hired to worry about marketing on behalf of the owner then make damn sure you’re going to own the company marketing. Do not work in a silo. You must communicate with the owner of the business to build trust and respect.

For those businesses where neither the owner nor the marketing person is taking responsibility for growing the company through marketing, figure it out and do it fast. In most of these cases, my advice is the owner look at his marketing team and if a leader exists then empower them. If there isn’t a marketing leader, then hire one.