Matt Hensler is an executive consultant with an extensive background in branding, marketing, and customer experience. In this article, he offers marketing leaders three strategies for optimizing their programs to support business resilience in tough financial times.
“If the board gave you an extra $1 million today, how would you spend it?”
This is a go-to thought exercise that Norwest Chief Marketing Officer and Operating Executive Lisa Ames uses to evaluate how well marketing leaders understand their marketing programs. Any marketer should be able to answer this question off the top of their head if they’re close to their data and attuned to their key drivers.
For many marketing leaders today, that hypothetical scenario has morphed into a very real challenge as boards instead ask: “What would you do if you suddenly had to reduce spend by 25% or more?”
In a short time, SaaS-modeled businesses of all sizes and growth stages have faced a massive market shift. Imperatives have changed from ‘grow-at-all-costs’ to a new focus on ‘capital efficiency’ that can create durability in the business and avoid retraction in valuations. A more potent ‘Re-‘ word—recession—is also top-of-mind as companies look to decrease burn rates and extend the runway of their current reserves.
History has shown that most companies’ knee-jerk reaction is to decimate marketing spend when facing economic uncertainty. One recent survey had 68% of SaaS investor respondents recommending cuts to marketing as a priority. But, just as you can’t spend your way to growth, you also can’t cut your way to resilience and long-term success.
Just as you can’t spend your way to growth, you also can’t cut your way to resilience and long-term success.
So what can marketing leaders do NOW to adjust their marketing efforts to support and drive the future of their business in a balanced way? Put the following three marketing budget optimization strategies into practice:
Very few companies can continue investing at 2021 levels. Even if you are in that minority, there’s always room for improvement in bottom-line results. Marketers need to embrace the fact that spending reductions are a reality. Now is the time to protect your growth-critical budgets and assess where you can trim out activities that aren’t yielding results.
Every marketer should have a handle on metrics and be able to quickly assess their strategies and programs to identify the winners and the losers. If you don’t, clear your calendar for a couple of days until you do. Make that honest assessment, even if it means cutting out passion projects. If you don’t make the decision to cut, someone else will make it for you. And you don’t want to leave that decision to someone who doesn’t know your data and program priorities as well as you do.
By proactively reducing spend on activities that are not driving results, it will also demonstrate your understanding of the current market situation and reinforce your commitment and role in supporting the viability of the company.
Content and inbound marketing can be game-changers in terms of business scalability. However, depending on the competitiveness of your market and how long you’ve been building your program, you may still be far off from the inflection point that has a reliable stream of qualified leads moving from marketing into your sales pipeline.
Because of the long-tail nature of inbound, marketers will get pressure to cut investment in content, which can be time and resource intensive to develop. Even worse, if you’ve been surviving off traffic and low quality leads from paid efforts while you build your inbound program, pressure to cut both paid programs and content will practically eliminate your top-of-funnel activity. When that happens, it has a cascading effect through your funnel, fly-wheel or any growth model you’ve been working to get in place.
Marketing is often a practice of creating momentum. We like to think that our prospects and customers clamor for our content. The reality is that each touchpoint we execute only engages a fraction of our market. That is why reach and frequency are so critical to marketing and sales success. We can’t expect that our prospects see every email or social post. And your previous investment in these areas represent highly cost-effective ways to sustain your marketing efforts.
Here are some top ways to resuscitate your existing content:
- Email Marketing: Re-deploy emails to those who didn’t open it the first time, or net-new contacts that have been added to your list since the first send.
- Social Media: Social media is another efficient place to reuse previous efforts. High performing social posts can be reused to engage a different set of followers scrolling through their feeds.
- Blog Posts: One overlooked strategy is to update old blog posts, which can elevate your SEO profile for search and give content new life that attracts new eyeballs when shared across channels. Other cost-effective ways to repurpose content is to chunk premium content out into blog posts, create blog post versions of case studies or repurpose webinars into Q&A content.
GTM has been the acronym du jour for revenue teams for the last couple of years. Appropriately, the right emphasis is being placed on go-to-market as a cross-functional endeavor for business. It’s about coordination of activities across the revenue roadmap from marketing to sales and post-sales customer success teams. When considering current pressures to cut spending, it is critical to understand the impacts across the revenue continuum.
As marketers consider where they can make the most impact with a reduced budget, they need to consider ways to fortify the other critical components of their GTM. One example includes supporting sales with enablement tools or equipping them with nurture content to keep prospects engaged.
Another important strategy is customer marketing. Growth through expansion and wallet share of current customers has a lower cost and barrier to entry. Demonstrating how you are retooling marketing spend to support and amplify success of the company’s other departments will help that marketing budget be seen as more essential, and, in the end, it will be more effective.
Marketing Budget Optimization Can Improve Your Efforts
Don’t view the current economic pressure as a reduction in effort. Instead, view it as an opportunity to optimize your efforts. Every healthy business searches for continuous improvement. That point is really at the heart of the current ask. At some point, every business will have an expectation for sustainable and profitable growth. Balancing marketing investment with the needs of the business—while letting marketing shine in the critical brand- and sales-building role it plays in that equation—should always be a focus.
Don’t view the current economic pressure as a reduction in effort. Instead, view it as an opportunity to optimize your efforts.
Complacency is the enemy of growth. Now is your chance to make the strategic moves that solidify how and where marketing will contribute to enduring growth for your business.
About the author: Matt Hensler is an executive consultant and principal at inswing, a management consulting firm specializing in ‘unparking’ high potential projects that have been stalled or put off due to bandwidth and resource constraints. Matt’s extensive background in branding, marketing, and customer experience helps organizations strike a balance between the interests of their business and their customers in order to create growth for everyone. Matt has worked with global brands like GE Healthcare, Gainsight, The Toro Company, Praxair, and more.