This is potentially every marketer’s worst nightmare, but the reality is, the constant chase for more marketing budget is essentially part of the job description for a marketing professional. At BlueChip, we often hear our clients say “I want to do this, but I have no budget for it” or “I need to convince management that this is an important initiative, but I fear they will set unreasonable revenue targets for it.”
With the growth of digital marketing and the ease of access to data, expectations on proving ROI on your marketing efforts are increasing. The information that advertising platforms have made available in terms of conversion rates and the cost associated with acquiring new customers has brought with it more pressure on marketers to prove ROI even on more traditional marketing channels.
The thing with expectations is that once we are exposed to new, improved ways of doing things, we often expect the same experience even if technological development and processes haven’t caught up yet. Just look at how new customer experiences championed by tech disruptors like Netflix and Uber have changed consumer expectations across a multitude of services, from how we buy our groceries to how we do internet banking.
This is important to keep in mind when pitching for the budget. Depending on the channel and your ability to gather data and prove ROI, you might have to add some education to your plan of attack.
1. Rationalise your request
Digital advertising spend has been on a steady incline for years, and according to a Zenith forecast social media ad spend would surpass print ad spend for the first time in 2019. Still, more traditional marketing channels remain important in the marketing mix, as different channels usually deliver on different objectives.
For example, search ads are great to reach your customers lower down in your marketing funnel, whereas channels such as broadcast, OOH, PR and sports sponsorships allow you to grow brand awareness and reach the masses. Whilst important, these channels don’t offer the same opportunity to accurately track and measure how they are affecting sales numbers and often the impact on consumer behaviour is built over time. Positive media coverage builds awareness and trust, but it may take months (or even years) before you begin to see its impact on consumer preference and revenue. This is especially true if your customer buying cycle is long and your target audiences are generally loyal to their current provider (“sticky”, as we say), which is the case for many financial services.
So, remember, expectations management is key! But whilst being clear and communicating reasonable targets for your initiative, don’t forget to talk up the long-term benefit.
Get a shopping list of initiatives you would like to implement, but don’t have the budget for. Prioritise them and rationalise your prioritisation. Why is this important to reach your short-term or long-term marketing objectives? Why are some more important than others?
2. Know all the challenges and hurdles
This is all about preparation. Like any presentation, sale or pitch, you must be prepared for the bad and ugly (questions). Consider all possibilities when asked about the budget and be ready to face some objections to your grand ideas. It’s okay to be passionate and committed to pushing an initiative that will play an important in the business's future success, but don’t get too defensive when management or stakeholders push back.
Be prepared by considering who would say what and why, and formulate responses that address their concerns. Some may question whether your suggestion is cost-prohibitive, another may ask about efficacy, while another may wonder about the timing. After all, everyone has a different agenda, different goals, and different targets to hit.
3. Set expectations and have a plan B
While it’s important to be realistic and identify the potential challenges and hurdles that may come your way, it is also important to provide the best-case scenarios in addition to an alternative plan in case they don’t approve the extra budget. When pitching, it’s critical to ask what the cost of successful implementation would be? And what are the expected results? It’s a good idea to have at least an option A and an option B here, where B is a less costly option but also won’t drive the same results.
In the situation where your marketing budget is not approved, show the stakeholders that you can achieve results with limited resources that go beyond the executive team’s and the Board’s expectations. Illustrate the projections based on your results to make the case for how much farther you could go if your budget were increased next time.
4. Getting buy-in from key stakeholders
Without full stakeholder buy-in, projects may not run smoothly – in the short and long term. First consider what motivates them, by aligning your project goals with the company’s, and establish potential stakeholder values. Don’t be afraid to speak the truth and be transparent about any issues that may be of concern i.e. uncertainties of delivering on a solution. Earning their trust and establishing that relationship will help increase stakeholder buy-in.
Who will you need to get on board? Would it be the Sales team, HR (if it is a joint people and culture + marketing initiative for example), tech team (if the implementation requires tech investment). It is important to identify your stakeholders early and communicate to them their role and contribution to the project. Be willing to discuss and share concerns and ideas.
5. How to prepare your pitch
Who are you talking to - the global CMO, the executive team or the board? What are their main objectives and KPIs for the year? How will your increased marketing budget help them achieve their goals? By understanding your audience, you’ll be able to tailor your pitch to the goals they are looking to achieve. At the end of the day, you need to show how your marketing goals align with their business goals. Speak their language by explaining how increasing brand awareness through XYZ, or increasing the number of qualified leads by investing in a new CRM system, will help the company hit their revenue targets and achieve sustainable growth.
Ensure your presentation is not too lengthy (we recommend 5-10 slides max.) supported by credible data. Don’t forget to translate any tech or marketing jargon that your stakeholders may not know of, and stay clear of abbreviations as much as possible. It will be hard to convince an audience that doesn’t understand what you are talking about.
Explaining your game plan and justifying your strategy will reel them in. Finish off with 3 key takeaways you want your stakeholders to walk away with and come prepared with the next steps (e.g. a follow-up meeting) if a decision cannot be made in the meeting.