Preparations for the beginning of a new financial year sparks the creative thought process which sees many of our clients review and discuss their marketing performance, the agreement of future budgets and how to spend the money wisely throughout the year.
Sadly, for some businesses, especially those that do not have the benefit of a qualified marketer to rely on, the arrival of a figure for the marketing budget is usually a result of one of the following shortfalls.
- What was spent last with a little year with a bit added or indeed taken away!
- Basing your budget on how much forecast profits allow
- An allowance has been made to be spent on adhoc “things” – marketing being one of them
If one of the above answers apply to your business, then we strongly recommend that you consider changing the way your business approaches its marketing strategy and budget planning.
The sad thing remains, that even when a qualified marketer is involved, marketing is still treated as an element of businesses that can be cut at the drop of a hat to improve bottom line performance.
So, if you are reading this and can relate to having one of the above rationales as the basis for your arriving at your marketing budget, our challenge to you would be to change your emotional thinking. Instead, consider marketing to be an investment in your sales strategy and reflects that profit can be flexed and justified per output. After all you’d evaluate a new piece of plant or machinery based on carefully calculated break even analysis, so why not treat marketing in the same manner and give it the respect it deserves.
It always brings a smile to our faces when we meet a business owner who has clearly made an effort with their marketing in the past but just haven’t been able to follow it through. This scenario is always a good starting point as it tells us that this company is already appreciative of how marketing can influence their business. We really do abhor having to answer the age of old question of why marketing is an essential part of running a business.
When we sit down with potential new clients, the most common question asked is “So what can marketing do for our business.” This is quite possibly the most frustrating question you could ask a marketer, as we all have the view that everybody markets themselves every single day, in every meeting, and in every conversation.
Having answered that question, our next step is to try and ascertain whether their marketing activity is carefully planned against a set of agreed objectives, recorded in a monthly plan, costed and then measure the results.
Quite often this results in a mix of responses ranging from “of course” to “well, erm…..no not really” – how does anyone know to what extent marketing is successful, after all marketing is unmeasurable isn’t it?
The answer is an unequivocal no!
The best way we try and describe the value of a fully integrated marketing plan is in the following scenario: Please imagine…….
An MD received a direct mail letter inviting them to a seminar. The MD was impressed with the presenter who was amiable and knowledgeable. Afterwards, the MD, expressed an interest, but had no immediate need. Later the MD was entertained at a corporate dinner where he met some of the presenter’s other clients who said how good the firm was. A year later, having seen and read a lot more about the company’s expertise from colleagues, their website news section, e-news bulletin, social media posts, and in print or on-line press releases, he appointed the company. The MD was also quietly impressed by their corporate social responsibility activities and their sponsorship of local initiatives.
Now on the face of it, can you realistically say which marketing tool could be attributed with winning the business?
Was it the initial direct mail letter, the personal selling approach of the presenter, the company brochure, the word of mouth testimonial, the monthly e-news, or the corporate entertainment? OR was it simply a combination of all – Catching our drift yet?
The above scenario demonstrates that essential need to have an integrated marketing mix that includes communications messages that will resonate with the needs and wants of your target market. If this mix is delivering profits and overall sales figures are being achieved, who would dare to argue that the strategy wasn’t a combined success. Of course, you can test elements to see if results are affected but only one of the elements should be tested at a time.
In summary, marketing planning is an essential part of running a business. A full marketing review should be done at least every year, even if only tweaks are made to ensure objectives are still being met, target markets and communications messaging are still relevant, and that strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are identified.
Promotional activity should be planned in advance, evaluated regularly and carefully costed so that results can be measured. It is unlikely that any one single promotional activity will be as effective as a carefully planned combination of activity that ensures that your target market is exposed to your brand or product offering at a number of touch points.
This is often why marketing gets its “black hole” reputation as no ‘one’ single element can be attributed with winning new business – it’s the combination of a well thought out strategy.