It’s that time of year again when marketing heads juggle the management of this year’s activities with the planning for next year. We pull apart our metrics, resolve to move the needle. Every year we perform this existential exercise like a ritual dance; a ritual dance that can make you crazy.
Budgets are tough. The money goes so fast. There are so many requests and too few staff, hours or cash. Marketers typically have one holy goal –bring in net new leads. However, any marketer worth their salary will tell you we must also educate leads throughout the lifecycle including retention marketing (this is highly overlooked and is so, so important), expand the brand, plan for a new product launch, prepare for a new market expansion, measure customer experience, keep the website sexy, sponsor shows and on and on and on.
It’s no doubt that the demands on your budget are great. But no matter your spend, these tips will help ensure your budget is on the mark to meet all of your goals while driving new, quality leads.
Evaluation of the Current State – plainly said, look at what’s working and what’s not. Put all those metrics to work for you. What 1-3 marketing activities or content pieces are really clinching the deal for your buyer? Ask a trusted sales member. If you have not been in the field with the sales team or previously been in sales selling your product or services, you don’t know what’s working. You cannot take this avenue of feedback for granted. Once you have your list of working/not, continue to do the things that are working and either scrap or redesign the things that aren’t.
Reevaluate the Sales Timeline – There are many, many factors that can change the average time to sale. Changes in the economy, the maturity of your market, experience of your sales team in that market and the strength of competitors can all affect your timeline. Sit with your sales counterpart and reevaluate the current timeline together. Then, and this is where it gets really important, evaluate at what phase your buyers or decision makers are stalling out. Then, figure out what it takes to fix/shorten that phase. Finally, budget for those items. You’ll be surprised how much this can affect the bottom-line while also encouraging you to create content that can be used elsewhere.
Ask Your Team – I used to ask my team “if money were no object for your area of expertise (within our team), what would you want to do”. They took a few days to dream and research and then presented it to the entire marketing team. I didn’t do this to frustrate them because like every company, we had budget limitations. I did it to open their minds and get some creativity flowing. So many times when marketing budgets either stay flat or grow very little year over year, your team gets comfortable and begins to perform in a “fenced” environment. Some of our best innovations for relatively little spend came from this exercise. And you know what, when we got investment, we had a go-to wish list of bigger ticket items to work from and put into action.
Ditch Collateral – I know some of you, especially east coast marketers, just said “what”. I’m going to go on the record and say that for most industries hard copy collateral is dead. Work with me - take a look at your collateral; the paper collateral nearly every company has stashed in a closet, ready to be used at a tradeshow or recruiting event. Now look at your budget. Add together the labor for design and writing, printing and shipping of that collateral. Now, add the labor and design for another round to add a new offering, more printing, additional shipping, etc. Now go to a show. Is anyone taking the collateral? If you were to follow them, many, if not most of them would either never take it or throw it out. That results in thousands of dollars in the trash. Reinvest that money is some great collateral apps or put the important information of your website and drive people there. You’ll be so happy you did.
Evaluate Tradeshow Spend – Tradeshows are expensive. They become a huge budget suck and a distraction for the team. Tradeshow activity should boil down to 2-3 steps. 1) Pick your top 5 shows. 2) Negotiate for a speaking slot at those shows for one of your customers or execs. Optional 3) Invite in attendance to dinner with your other customers and execs. This is truly meaningful time together. Booths are hugely expensive and provide very little meaningful interaction. Attendees will have a far greater take-away from learning something from a great customer story or exec who knows their stuff than they will from post-a-notes with your logo on them.
Try Something New – I dare you to try something new. It could be ditching several tradeshows in favor of a presence at a big show like SXSW if that works for your brand. Ask customers to do success story webinars, try new messaging to a particular buyer segment but do something different. At the pace markets evolve, doing the same-old same- old won’t work.
Evaluate Big Ticket Items - everyone has those 3-5 areas that are a huge portion of their budget. Typically they are PR Agencies, Tradeshows, SEO/ad words, etc. and analysts contracts to name a few. This is the time to clearly understand how many leads, if any, are coming from these activities. Are you pleased with their output, do they clearly message your brand, are they creative in their approach? If not, mix it up. No one says you have to keep doing it this way, especially if there are insufficient leads to support the spend. Scale back on spend, take some work in-house, find a new vendor but stop the cycle.
Ask for More, Prepare for Less – submit a budget that is a bit more money than you absolutely need. So many marketers, especially women, are afraid to ask for what it would really take to have a bang-up marketing presence. Someone will trim your budget if need be, but don’t let it be you pre-emptively. Don't shortchange yourself. Your CFO just might surprise you.
And finally, remember you can’t do everything. Prioritize and focus on your organization’s key goals and create a budget that forces your team to be challenged and surprised. Good luck!