*ANALYSIS:* Make the most of your budget
The good, the bad, and the desirable
If you want your team to become a lean, mean marketing machine, you need to weigh the costs of skills, processes, and technology in the context of their returns.
Cutting costs without undermining marketing performance and the push for greater content can feel like a delicate, if not impossible, balancing act. But spending less can turn out to be a catalyst for achieving better results - as long as you prioritize effectively.
When budgets are healthy, marketers can spend more on exposure across channels. Spend on message exposure is referred to by some as "working budget". and seen as desirable spending.
The myriad of costs associated with producing the content that receives the exposure falls into the category of "non-working budget". This includes everything required to plan, make, and distribute assets to the given channels.
Advertising expert David Meikle, argues these terms are misnomers: "First off, 'non-working' suggests that this money doesn’t work, but of course it does." As such, Meikle suggests a different set of categories to frame marketing spend ➡
Indirect costs often inflate when processes and ways of working cause errors or inefficiencies
David Meikle, seasoned advertiser and author of How To Buy a Gorilla
Direct investments: spend on the exposure of your messages.
This covers the cost of appearing on a given channel,a sponsored email promotion, a newspaper ad, link building for SEO, or an influencer promo. Calculating the ROI on these types of investments is relatively straightforward to assess for exposure on digital channels and at events. Less so for out-of-home media (OOH) and print circulation.
Indirect investments: spend that affects the amount of return seen from that exposure.
So these are the investments that help you to make the biggest impact on viewers when your message is in front of them, by making sure it's the right message, delivered in the right way, etc.
Indirect costs: spend that doesn't bring more exposure or more return but is needed to get the job done.
This is your undesirable spending; it has no meaningful impact on the reach or efficacy of your messages. Indirect costs often inflate when processes and ways of working cause errors or inefficiencies, which includes those born from a lack of insight or expertise.
Desirable spending goes beyond "working budget"; you need exposure and impact.
Paying a design agency thousands for what boils down to 'copy, paste, repeat' is not desirable or optimal. That process cost will not help you see value in agency partners.
Analytics and insights remain the most strategically important marketing capabilities
Gartner, CMO Spend Survey 2020
Some costs and poor investments will be straightforward to identify and cut, like the mediocre agency you've been trialing, the remarketing campaign that's not converting, or the software no one's using. But once all of the obvious cuts are made, you need to think bigger picture, rather than flinching at price tags, if you want your function to shine.
Underpinning the current execution of your marketing strategy you'll find investments with high returns, investments with mediocre returns, and zero-gain costs. When cutting spend, you want to concentrate on the latter two, but first, you need to find them. There are generally four buckets to assess: agencies, technology, people, and media spend.
Nowadays, software designed to be used by generalists has democratized certain capabilities across marketing and advertising that were previously reserved by agencies, including aspects of design, development, and distribution. The agencies worth their salt are those who have since focused on delivering tangible value to their clients through specialized expertise or skill sets that require extra creativity or human touch (like brand consulting or ad copywriting) or through their network (like in PR or link building). The quality of each third-party relationship will determine whether you see high or mediocre returns from the investment you're making.
Elsewhere, agencies are employed to fill the gaps when processes or people power fall short. Paying a design agency thousands for what effectively boils down to copy, paste, repeat kind of job – that's not desirable spend; it doesn't move the needle and it's not an optimal way to use your agency partners. You just don't currently have a better, faster, cheaper way of getting that job done. This is where improvements can be made to ways of working, upskilling your people, or investing in better technology can bring down total costs of growth or market share retainment.
Being smart about how you cut costs involves evaluating how each item on your team's P&L relates to your processes and performance and making investments and cuts accordingly. This could indeed result in increased investment in one category, like technology or people, if doing so cuts away a greater net value of expenses born from inefficiencies elsewhere.
MarTech and AdTech have democratized capabilities that were previously in the exclusive domain of agencies.
Gartner's CMO Spend Survey for 2019-2020
A good place to start is making sure you understand the returns you're getting in the first place, so you can make investments based on goals and audience data, not assumptions.
Gartner's recent survey saw analytics tied with competitive insights as the most vital capability supporting marketing strategy. Investment in analytics lets leaders achieve greater accuracy in their evaluation of activities, improve performance, and more effectively forecast results. This is a required area of investment across the marketing function if you want to know which efforts work towards your objectives, so you can predictably grow the brand and drive more revenue opportunities.
Take stock of any gaps you have in your ability to evaluate performance and understand your audience, as these are precisely the types of investments that let you improve the results and returns you see over time and prevent you from wasting money on the wrong kinds of tactics and tools.
Equipped with analytics, quantifying performance can still seem daunting given the variety of channels and metrics it's possible to track, as well as the various different goals your programs and campaigns feed into. This is where creating performance scores come in handy – a scoring out of 10 of the relative impact of an initiative on delivering the marketing strategy based on whichever metrics are plausible for the given tactics.
Poorly devised or broken processes are a breeding ground for time waste, sunk costs, and role frustration.
of marketers said one of their top challenges is knowing if content is actually influencing and engaging audiences
Source: CMO council
But when it comes to returns, the performance score of your programs, content, and campaigns only tell half the story. You need to view them in the context of their resource intensity – the time, budget, and energy that went into executing them. You might be surprised by how some of the cheapest, least scrutinized executions have delivered some of the best results due to factors like relevance and timeliness.
You don't need complete data accuracy here for this kind of plotting to be useful, so it's worth doing even with estimations.
Start with the initiatives you derive the clearest results from and take stock of the skills, time, and budget that goes into them. Speak to your teams about their experience:
- What are the biggest time sinks?
- Where are the greatest risks for delay or unbudgeted spending?
- Which parts of the process cause the most stress?
- What skills or tools would make the output better, cheaper, or faster?
- How have results been improving over the past years of executing the particular initiative? Why?
Then move on and do the same for the most costly initiatives that you aren't deriving top results from. Why are these so costly or ineffective?
Finally, investigate the initiatives you're unsure about when it comes to ROI. Why is ROI so unclear? How can you resolve that moving forward so you know that you're not wasting your budget?
Poorly devised and broken processes are a breeding ground for time-wastage, costs, and frustration. If your aim is to build a marketing engine that delivers reliable and scalable revenue, even in the face of budget cuts, you need reliable and scalable ways of working. This means empowering your team to operate with greater autonomy from the interference of stakeholders elsewhere in the business, but also from the holdups and limitations caused by relying on agencies or other internal teams who have split priorities.
When your budget's been cut, it's more important than ever that you know exactly how every penny is delivering value for both your business and your customers. If in doubt, invest in your audience. Invest in understanding them better, in reaching them at the time and place that best works for them, with the information, ideas, and sentiments they care about the most. This is how your voice cuts through. And to grow your market share, you need to grow your voice.
Grow your share of the market by 0.5% by reaching 10% excess share of voice against your market.
Source: IPA, How Share Of Voice Wins Market Share
*Recommendation #1:* Content production in-house
Four reasons to redistribute agency focus and embrace in-house content
According to a CMO Council study, almost half of marketing leaders say a top-three barrier to developing impactful and effective content is having the budget to develop high-quality robust content at scale. This will only have been compounded by recent events.
Redistributing the focus of your agencies away from content production and bringing your content engine in-house is your ticket to adjusting to new budgets while opening up a new way to boost content engagement, grow team creativity, and prove content ROI.
Here's 4 easy ways to invent in-house 👉
1. Cut costs and turnaround times
58% of CMOs report they lack the in-house capabilities to deliver their strategy, yet spending on in-house labor is static.
Source: CMO Council, 2020
It’s easy to say that reducing outsourcing cuts costs – but what about the costs of training in-house colleagues or acquiring the necessary software to continue writing and publishing content independently?
In 2018, this was a question that Cisco’s EMEAR team was faced with. Their creative agency-led approach was creaking under growing pressure to produce content faster while reducing costs.
Determined to take on the problem, they moved content creation in-house and acquired software that anyone could use to produce and publish on-brand content at scale.
The results? Costs were cut dramatically and on top of this, turnaround times were shortened. No longer was there the risk that content would be out of date when it was finally delivered.
Cisco’s EMEAR team was able to see in-house results reach:
🟢 7 times more readers
🟢 Turnaround in days, not weeks
🟢 Content at a tenth of the cost
Finding the right tool mitigates training costs. Cisco’s Audience Campaign Manager (EMEAR), Kay Armstrong, says “We have reduced the production time of content by weeks, if not months in some cases, as this is a self-service tool."
2. Increase consistency and accuracy
When you’re working with multiple agencies and freelancers, it becomes almost impossible to maintain consistency. Even the most watertight of brand guidelines have room for interpretation and this can mean that your brand identity is diluted overall. Added to this is the inability for external writers to be as familiar with, and committed to, the focuses and priorities of the business as those in-house. Instead, imagine publishing content only written by members of your in-house team, who encounter the business’ growing objectives and needs daily. This allows you to refocus your agencies on more cost-effective tasks.
Not only can in-house writers adapt quickly to changing demands, but they are also able to reach out to members in other teams for different perspectives. The output is not only going to be more consistent with the brand, but also has the potential to be more engaging, thoroughly researched, and accurate.
With in-house software, it’s also possible to update content continuously – meaning that content is not outdated once it’s published. This means that you can be sure what you’re publishing in-house is only ever up-to-date information.
3. Boost creativity and collaboration
– while working remotely
In difficult times, when colleagues are working remotely, boosting collaboration is essential to keep morale high and improve communication. This can be one of the most overlooked benefits of bringing content in-house – the ability to bring teams closer together to work on a project collaboratively.
Faith Wheller, Marketing Director at Cisco found that collaboration between teams across the world was one of their strong points after moving in-house. Seeing amendments from other team members, and getting feedback instantly improved quality control and teamwork.
This can also be done by democratizing your content creation with a centralized platform. What we mean by this is having one dedicated platform that is already equipped with a series of on-brand templates to expedite the creation of core content. By enabling anyone in the business to quickly create materials that are dynamic, on-message, and compliant, the pressure on marketing would be relieved and those frustrating bottlenecks would dissipate.
Not only could this deliver significant savings, but a centralized content engine could provide efficiencies and boost productivity across every function of the business.
4. Prove ROI and content impact
Outsourced content gives you limited analytics back. You might be able to see how many people downloaded a document, or visited a page – but this doesn’t necessarily give you the meaningful insights you need.
Moving in-house means you’re able to find platforms that can track your content performance. This means that you can measure your content engagement, read-time, and bounce rates to find out what your audience prefers reading, and which topics they’re uninterested in.
Today marketers are putting their money in advanced marketing technology solutions to not just communicate with customers more effectively, but to help optimize marketing operations, improve the performance of their planned and always-on campaigns, and provide more marketing automation capabilities to support their overloaded teams.
These insights are invaluable to the wider business as a whole. A Forrester study, commissioned by Turtl, found that sales teams need more insights from marketing to close deals. In fact, 51% of sales teams surveyed said that marketing insights were lacking in the final stages of the sales cycle. Moving content in-house provides marketing teams with the ability to deliver these insights, and steer their content strategy towards topics their audiences are engaging with.
Finally, with the impending doom of third-party cookies, marketers everywhere must develop their own in-house, first-party data strategy and deploy the right MarTech solution, so their data can be managed centrally and appropriately.
In difficult times, cutting costs to adapt to new budgets is a necessity. Moving content in-house not only reduces costs dramatically, but benefits the business by:
- Reducing turnaround times from weeks to days
- Ensuring content is accurate and up-to-date
- Improving collaboration during remote working
- Providing much-needed insight for marketing and sales teams
- Freeing up agency resources to focus on less time-consuming tasks
*Recommendation #2:* Drop print for digital
It'll do so much more than just save money
7 reasons to swap from print to digital
Everything's going digital at the moment, for obvious reasons, but even after the pandemic passed, there are strong arguments to be made for suspending or at least significantly limiting printed collateral.
Let’s be honest, we all have that stash of unread brochures cluttering up some corner of our home or office desk drawer. It's an unfortunate consequence of attending conferences and events. Some may have reached you by direct mail, but onto the pile they go!
Brochures and event materials contain valuable content, but how many people actually read them? The truth is you don't know. And it’s far too much of a waste to throw that much paper away.
Let’s consider a future without printed flyers ... Here are seven reasons why it would be better for everyone if we switched to digital brochures 👉
Having printed brochures as part of your strategy puts significant strain on your marketing budget. Brochures don’t just accumulate costs in the designing and writing stages but include costly additional steps like printing, physically picking up (or receiving in the post), and distribution. Each one of these added steps comes with a large price tag.
The price of printing 5000 budget brochures alone is around $500, according to PSPrint. Add to this the costs of designing the brochure (around $1500 for a mid-quality designer), shipping to your office – or even international shipping to your offices around the world – and you’re going to be looking at a minimum spend of at least a few thousand dollars. Whew.
Creating digital brochures means that not only can you save money on distribution and shipping, but also that you can keep your design in house. Online design platforms – like Turtl – make it easy for anyone to pick up design skills and create quality content.
Make it personal
Ever thought this: “Yes, it was nice to have a brochure personally handed to me at an event. It was nice to be directed to the pages where I could find the content most relevant to my needs. But wouldn’t it be far nicer not to have to carry around all this content which isn’t relevant to my situation and won’t be in the future?”
Well, the solution actually exists. Digital platforms are now at the point where you can speak to a prospect at an event, create a digital brochure that only contains content relevant to their needs, and send it to them to read on the train home. Nice.
Keep it on point
All of the information you printed in your brochure was accurate in January 2021, but by March it’s only half-true, and by the time it gets to June you might have reconsidered your product offering or switched up your visual brand identity. Printed brochures are quickly out of date and – in the worst cases – can spread false information.
There’s also the possibility that your outdated brochure is still in circulation – you simply have no control over it once it’s been unleashed into the world. Digital brochures, on the other hand, are simple to edit, easily replaced and updated, and alleviate the concerns that your reader might be reading something which is no longer true.
Wait – did someone say ‘event canceled’?
It’s pretty obvious that physical brochures have to be physically given to someone – whether in-person or through the post. If you’re looking at saving costs on mailing, or aren't targeting people already in your database, then you're left with events as the sole distribution method for your brochures.
But we all know that even at the best of times events don’t always go to plan. And when the going gets tough, marketing needs to get digital to make sure that people can still access their outreach comms. The truth is that far more people are going to be reachable online too – meaning that digital brochures give you that extra international reach power.
It’s the obvious one next. Going greener with your marketing is better for your ESG rating, kinder to your community, and better for your carbon offsetting. The fact is that consumers are now proven to be more in touch with their environmental impact than ever, and more likely to favor a greener alternative when it comes to choosing who to invest their money in.
Your company might not be the only one handing out wads of paper at the next event, but you’re sure to stand out in a few months once digital becomes the norm – and not in a good way.
Know if it's being read
There’s no way your paper brochure is going to be able to tell you who read it, or how long for, or what parts they spent most time mulling over, or if they shared it with someone else – and so forth.
The best statistic you can report with a printed brochure is how many have been handed out – but when it comes to the increasing demands on marketing to prove ROI – this just isn’t going to cut it.
Digital brochures can report everything from read times to bounce rate – meaning that you can change up your brochures depending on what most people read for the longest, and which pieces of content aren’t keeping readers engaged.
Be far, far more exciting
We all like a good experience. A good experience in the world of digital brochures means interactive polls and charts, embedded videos, enlargeable pictures, and clickable, shareable quotes. A good experience in the world of printed brochures means shiny paper. Need we say more?
Find out more about joining the digital revolution here.