Marketers are typically asked to justify their expenditures, to craft a nearly inviolate budget often as much as two years ahead of time, and to stick to it to control spending. Rarely are they asked if those expenditures are the most cost-efficient solutions, or if allocating more resources to a particular item might improve its resulting gains over above the spend, by scale or efficiency. Corporations with a culture of control focus more on the outflow than the value of the resulting inflow when discussing marketing expenditure. Based on years of experience with both winners and losers in the corporate and non-profit world, I can honestly say that this might be a losing approach to marketing.
Corporate leaders often assume that marketing is ALWAYS doing the most cost-effective thing to achieve results, based on a cost-conscious culture and the nature of marketing as an accountable function. Spend “X”, and you can usually count on “Y” coming back. But what if you doubled “X” and “Y” quadrupled or quintupled? Would they have approved the additional expense at the beginning of the year, prior to the effort? Probably not. In some cases, more time is spent trying to justify expenditure than on creating the method and message of the expense. To me, that’s crazy!
Fortunately, in today’s expanded culture of innovation, a business climate rife with entrepreneur-ism and start-up fever, fast-cycle test-fail-repeat operations are becoming more prominent, and with that comes an easing of the penny-pinching, along with a realization that “if we try ten things and six work, we’re ahead of the game” for marketing departments lead by enlightened senior executives.
Finding such an enlightened marketing leader requires some work, but the effort is almost universally worth it based upon the game-changing results that can be had as a result of their efforts when supported by senior leadership. They are often cloaked in other experiences, other disciplines, and usually don’t fit the linear career paths that the HR Department is trained to look for. Such outliers can really move the needle, and are worth the effort to find. But that’s not the whole story.
A quick analysis of your marketing expenditure will show you where the money is going, and each item should provide some indication as to what it’s returning for that spend, either in dollars, or results of some kind. If it doesn’t, some sort of metric needs to be “baked in” to that activity so that you can make it accountable. Once that’s in place in the budget, sort and rank the items by results, not by cost, and see if the order changes from the cost-based ranking. Comparing those two lists seems simple, but it can be an eye-opener when seeking an edge, by finding inefficiencies and reallocating resources to drive growth and revenue generation. Like the stock market or Las Vegas, you double down on the winners and bag the losers quickly, to mitigate risk and drive growth of return.
The other advantage to this type of approach is that you avoid the “cheap trap” of not thinking large enough, based on a lack of faith in the results. Thinking bigger has a really strong track record of success, doing everything as cheap as possible doesn’t, because many great ideas, initiatives, campaigns and other activities die from capitol starvation before they ever get a chance to come to fruition. If the initial tests are even reasonably favorable, feeding that idea has a 2000% chance of succeeding over the one that breaks even and stays small. Good testing programs and solid research mitigate that risk even further, and will highlight even greater opportunities as results come in and new ideas surface based on their successes. It’s a good day when the winners spawn more winners.
Good ideas, good research, patience and faith combine to drive success in marketing. As a famous marketer for a large consumer products company once was rumored to utter, “every dime I spend on events and marketing comes back to our company dressed up like a quarter.” When you scale up, double-down on winners, and feed the best ideas, that quarter quickly becomes a dollar.