In uncertain times, the saying goes, marketing budgets are always the first to go. 28% of marketers say that securing enough budget is their biggest challenge, and with budgets falling this year and only 15% expecting to see a rise next year, it seems they’re not wrong*. With mounting pressure to deliver results alongside reduced budgets restricting your resources, it can feel like you’re working with one hand tied behind your back. So what can be done?
Why marketing budgets are the first thing to go – and why they should be the last…
The old adage is true, marketing does tend to be the first place the C-suite looks for cost savings during tough times. Unfortunately, this means sales usually fall in the long run. However, as marketers well know, marketing spend is one of the hardest to justify to those who hold the purse strings, as demonstrating direct financial returns is tricky, to say the least. Proving ROI on each element of a marketing strategy is becoming more and more crucial for marketers everywhere, but understanding what that ROI should look like is a critical first step.
In the midst of troubled economic waters, continued investment in marketing actually benefits businesses on the whole, driving home brand values and upping awareness in a time when competitors are quiet, and your customers are looking for support.
What should marketers be focusing on?
It isn’t just about the level of investment, it is about taking a fresh look at your whole strategy, what is working and what isn’t, and ensuring you are getting the most from the money and resource you do invest. Marketers need to transform their strategy to truly make a difference during stale economic times.
Keep in mind that it won’t just be your business feeling the pinch, the same will be true for your prospects and clients. It’s very likely that your target audiences’ needs and values will shift slightly in these times. Successful marketing strategies are those that are agile and move to accommodate these changing needs, communicating brand values that speak to the circumstance of the audience. Promoting a sense of community and providing a helping hand or friendly face has proved successful for many brands in difficult economic times.
In this context, prospects and clients are looking for a trusted partner, someone who understands the issues they face and who will work with them and support them in finding solutions. A customer-centric strategy is more important than ever, as is your brand identity and how you differentiate yourself from competitors. Communicating your USPs and core values in a clear, concise and distinctive way is vital to marking yourself out as the trusted and needed partner to help them through their own challenges.
The way you go about promoting your business is another element that needs to adapt during hard times. If budgets do get cut, it’s understandable that marketers will look to use different, more cost-effective platforms to communicate their message. However, before you re-evaluate your entire channel strategy, look at which channels are providing strong returns – you will likely get more benefit from focussing, even increasing your investment, here, and reducing or removing the ones that don’t seem to be giving much back.
Proving the value of your marketing efforts
As we mentioned earlier, proving ROI on your marketing activity is vital to securing budget, but also incredibly difficult. Channels that focus on brand awareness are unlikely to result in direct sales, and even their impact on lead generation can be difficult to measure accurately. Measuring and demonstrating results is consistently cited as the main challenge for marketers, often because they are chasing the wrong results. Rather than focusing solely on the direct financial returns from marketing spend, this activity needs to be seen in the context of the bigger picture.
It is vital to be clear on the specific outcomes you need from your investment and to set KPIs that directly relate to those outcomes – whether that’s reach amongst your target audience to support brand awareness, or data capture to support lead generation, as examples. The whole business needs to be bought into these objectives from the beginning so that results can be viewed accurately and objectively. Whereas attributing leads or sales directly to specific marketing activity may not always be possible, with clear outcomes and KPIs in place, you will be able to see how your investment has performed and, if it hasn’t, where the issue may lie.
How can we help?
In difficult times, your customers want to know that you’re a brand who cares. Don’t forget that they’re likely to be in the same boat, and looking for all the support they can get, particularly if you can offer them cost-effective ways to improve their own efforts. The human approach is essential in reaching out to your customers, reassuring them that they’re still valued and keeping them loyal.
If you need to strengthen that human connection with your clients, telemarketing can help, and provides many additional benefits. It is flexible enough to be easily tailored to the outcomes you need and targeted to reach and extend your most potentially profitable customer segments. As an outsource option, it can flex up and down as required, so you can minimise your overhead costs and respond quickly to opportunities as they arise. Not only that, it is data-driven and highly measurable so you can get into the detail of what has worked, what is producing ROI and tweak your approach on the fly to maximise results. What is more, personal, dynamic, two-way conversations really get your message and the human aspects of your brand across.
Our team has a wealth of experience in supporting brands across a variety of sectors, helping them to get their message heard and communicate their values in a way that will resonate with the changing needs of their customers. Unscripted conversation is what we do best, making sure your customers and prospects continue to stay loyal and engaged.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, in good times as well as bad, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
* Five major challenges marketers face and how to solve them
Marketing budget growth stalls as CMOs fail to prove ROI