How Not to Waste Your Marketing Budget

Marketers often generate “vanity” metrics that impress other marketers, but don’t clearly link to measurable business outcomes that the chief executive (CEO) and chief financial officer (CFO) care about.

It’s not enough to just deliver great numbers; you need to deliver the type of numbers that speak to the boss in the right way. No matter how good you are, your career survival as a senior marketer comes down to being able to tell the kind of story that the CEO and CFO will appreciate. If you can’t do that, you have in effect wasted the marketing budget they have given you.

Here are some typical reasons why marketing budgets are wasted:

Firing blind. At the outset, many companies lack accurate and up-to-date data, are blind to customers, and therefore can’t effectively plan, measure, or optimize. A large marketing campaign spend may fail to drive sales a commensurate amount, yet the marketing department can’t measure what went wrong.

Reinventing the wheel. Too often, a great deal of effort is wasted on inventing and reinventing campaigns – a process that could be streamlined and largely automated, based on a proven delivery model.

“All or nothing” thinking. Spending a large amount of money on something that isn’t easily measurable, rather than taking a stepped approach, testing, and optimizing as you go.

Delivering off-strategy. If you don’t have a sound digital strategy, all of your activity is, by definition, off-strategy (and you won’t establish a proven delivery model without getting the above things right).

Aside from avoiding the above pitfalls, what can marketers do to reduce wastage and deliver the kind of results that will impress the boss?

1. Understand the Shift to Digitally Led Marketing and Measurability

Digital and social offer greater measurability than traditional media. For this reason, many companies are spending proportionally more on digital marketing and social media marketing.

As digital becomes an increasingly large part of the marketing budget, marketing planning will need to become increasingly digitally led, and marketers that can understand and adapt to this wave of change will be able to ride it to success.

But while digital marketers generate a plethora of vanity metrics – very useful at the tactical level – they’re liable to send the CEO into a data coma, if they cannot translate digital vanity metrics into the language of business results.

Some marketers may feel a level of hesitation at committing to be measurable. There’s a large investment of time and money involved, and whatever system you use has consequences. But being measurable is key to reducing waste in marketing (and the key for marketers to secure their career).

2. Rethink Your Marketing Role

How does your role need to interface with other business functions like IT? As a greater portion of marketing spend shifts to digital, how you interface with the organization becomes even more critical.

Your starting point doesn’t have to be a big strategy or change management project. The first step starts with you: redefining how you think of your role and putting in place some simple new behaviors for how you interface with key stakeholders in other parts of the business.

3. Collaborate on a Digital Roadmap With Other Business Functions

To deliver game-changing results, senior marketers need to get better at cross-silo collaboration with other business functions. For example, delivering greater marketing effectiveness and better customer experience depends on having the right IT systems in place, so it makes sense to plan that investment in close collaboration with IT.

A comprehensive digital roadmap is a large undertaking, so identifying smaller projects on which to collaborate is a good place to start. If you can identify some like-minded people in other areas of the business, discover their concerns, and do your homework, you can together identify some early win projects that can benefit marketing as well as other areas of the business.

What steps have you taken to:

  • Align a clear set of marketing objectives with business outcomes that translate directly into what the CEO and CFO care about?
  • Use consumer insights to deliver relevant content and experiences (right channel, content, and messaging) to each segment you’re targeting?
  • Before committing large-scale budgets, build a minimum viable proposition to test and optimize with actual customers and prospects?

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