5 reasons you should turn down marketing budget (no, this isn't a joke)

You may think it's crazy to turn down marketing budget, but sometimes signing off on a big campaign spend is the wrong thing to do. She presents five tips to save you pain in the long term and win more respect from your CFO and board

You probably think I have taken leave of my senses by suggesting there are any circumstances where you should turn down marketing budget. In fact, when I mentioned to my mentor I was thinking of writing this blog, she said "you know there aren’t many marketers who would do that Ruth, turn down marketing budget. You’re quite unusual!"

I know what it’s like when you’re perceived as a discretionary spend or worse still the 'pens and posters' department – getting budget approved can be tough. But I genuinely believe in some instances that signing the purchase order on a big campaign spend is the wrong thing to do, so I’m sharing them with you in this post in the hope that I will save you pain in the long run and help you win even more respect from your CFO and board.

1. When parts of your customer experience are broken

Have you worked through your end-to-end customer experience in the shoes of the buyer? Is it all as they would expect? Does the web form work? Does the email get responded to? Does the phone get answered?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’ then hang fire on that big campaign because you could be about to waste your hard-fought marketing budget. Fixing these broken links before your campaign goes live may delay your big launch but will significantly improve your chances of campaign success and you’ll save yourself the whole load of pain that comes from trying to fix things mid-flight or worse still after the event when you need to explain why your campaign hasn’t delivered on its objectives. And it will pay dividends in the long run too because 96% of B2B buyers say the customer experience directly affects whether they’ll buy again – that’s pretty much all B2B buyers.

2. When the time scales are ridiculously short 

Whenever I speak to other senior marketers, there’s one issue guaranteed to get us all grumbling into our flat whites (or diet coke in my case) and that’s short-termism.  More and more we’re being asked to deliver campaigns on a three-month timeline. Over the summer when I was preparing to deliver some content marketing training for B2B Marketing, I reviewed the winner of the 2017 B2B Marketing of Award for Best use of Content Marketing. The law firm BLP took home the gong that year for their campaign ‘The Heist’. When you read the case study one thing really stands out and that was the time the Marketing team were given to do the best job they could. They allowed three months to prepare the campaign, three months to develop the campaigns assets and plan and there was a five-month campaign period. Five whole months and do you know what? It was worth the wait because they smashed their target. 

So, if you are being asked to sign up to a timeline that brings you out in a cold sweat, say no to the budget. Do some analysis on the average time it takes for your campaign response to come in and the time it takes to move through the different stages of the funnel and use this evidence to negotiate a realistic time line.

3. When you’re not fully aligned to sales

For most B2B Marketers whether we like it or not we are dependent on our sales colleagues to get the deal over the line and bring home the bacon. As part of your campaign planning process not only do you need to brief them on the campaign but you also need to agree who is going to do what and by when at every stage of the funnel. If you don’t you could find yourself with a load of leads grinding to a halt and not going anywhere. So, before you spend, get aligned with sales.

4. When your product proposition is out of kilter

When you’re doing your post-campaign analysis, can you identify why you’re losing business? Is it a poor customer experience? Lack of an agreed process with sales? Or is your product proposition falling short at proposal stage?

If this is you, rather than say yes to more campaign spend now consider diverting some spend (and effort) into market scanning and consumer insight to make your next campaign even more effective.

Delve deeper into why you’re losing business by:

  • Examining what’s happening in your space. What are the opportunities and threats for your brand?
  • Reviewing the significant players in your market. Not just the competitors but the alternative offerings. How does your product proposition match up?
  • Get some feedback from prospects that didn’t buy. What frustrated them about the buying process they went through and what were the key factors in their decision.

5. When you’ve not done your homework properly

This final point is not so much when you should say no to budget, but more don’t even ask for it.

At the most recent Festival of Marketing, UKTV CFO Mary Basterfield said that one of the worst things marketers can do is turn up at her door with just a plan to spend money with no benefits of what the plan might generate and no evidence of how the plan helps deliver on the broader goals of the company. 

As you are developing your marketing plan make sure you:

  • Document the contribution your plan will generate with the metrics that matter e.g. leads, sales, revenue, profit, retention, etc.
  • Demonstrate how your activity helps achieves broader business goals as well as marketing goals.
  • Include some kind of forecast of your campaign performance, where you don’t have past data try industry benchmarks or case studies.
  • Don’t shy away from communicating the risks, explain how you’ll mitigate them.
  • Collaborate with finance about how to measure the benefit of your marketing activity. They could be a friend rather than a foe in fighting the battle against short-termism.

Just so you don;t think I'm crazy, I also believe there are plenty of opportunities when you should ask for more budget!

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