The 2015 planning season is upon us. It’s the time of year when the C-Suite is busy sharpening their elbows to ready themselves for the budget brawl. To help arm marketers for this blood bath, I’ve pulled together benchmarks and/or research needed to defend and win marketing dollars. Here are some answers, and sources, for your five toughest budget questions.
- How much should we be spending on marketing? It’s a classic question and a favorite of CEO’s everywhere. The mere mention of it is enough to stop marketers in their tracks. Fortunately, the AMA, McKinsey and the Duke Fuqua School of Business have got your back with their 2014 CMO Survey. Section 3 of the report contains data from 350 marketers on their spending from digital to people and programs. The research even breaks spending out by size of company, type of company (B2B or B2C, and B2B products or services). The report is packed with valuable information — it’s a “must have” for any marketer this year.
- What should the mix between people and programs? This question comes shortly, if not immediately, after the question above. Ten years ago the general benchmark ratio was 40/60, forty percent of the budget went to staff and the remaining to program spending. Now it’s the reverse, 60/40 people to program spending, for a number of reasons. The biggest factor has been the need for specific skill sets that are in high demand relating to analytics, social media and content marketing have driven up staff cost. Need more information, here’s a useful infographic on the real cost of social media, including salary cost for staff.
- Where should we invest? Typically, this is a teaser question, and could also be asked as; “if you had an incremental $1 (or $10K, $100K, etc.) where would you invest it?” Keep in mind that just because the CEO is asking the question doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the incremental funding, but you better be able to answer the question. To do that see IBM’s C-Suite Priorities report entitled The Customer-activate Enterprise. The research, collected from face to face interviews with over 4000 senior executives, provides insights into the priorities of each member of the C-Suite. The top priority in the report is Digital. Including everything from increasing responsiveness to customers, to making the organization more agile and responsive. Specific priorities for CMO’s, it’s about capturing; analyzing and using customer data across touch points.
- What’s the payoff/return/business impact of Social Media? There are a number of sources that you could tab into to help develop a response. I’ve always been a fan of HubSpot’s State-of-Inbound. Additionally, if you have downloaded the CMO Study mentioned in bullet #1, there is a whole section on Social Media (see graphic). Interestingly enough after four years “Visits” and “Followers/Friends” are still the leading social media metrics today. Personally, I’m not a fan, try using measurements related to engagement. Note the gains being made in “Conversion Rates” and “Buzz Indicators” over that last four years. This is the result of the development of better measurement tools. Here’s a great cheat sheet from SocialMediaToday on the Top 50 Tools. For digital and mobile benchmarks download Adobe Digital Index’s Best of the Best Report.
- What return should we expect from our marketing investments? This is a loaded question. Recognize that what the executive really wants to know is: “What will marketing do for me and/or my group?” As a result, answer the question based on their area of interest, and in their language. If it’s a sales executive, talk in terms of new leads, customers and pipeline value. If it’s the CEO, talk about brand value, revenue growth or customer retention or loyalty. Rarely is this question asked on behalf of the organization as a whole. Even more rare, is the executive that believes the numbers you’ve quantitatively derived for a ROI.
Lastly, go in strong and ask for a bigger budget. Here’s a report to keep in your back pocket in case you need it, Gartner’s CMO Spend 2015: Eye on the Buyer. The report will support your request for an increase, and maybe help the “powers that be” understand that if you’re not getting a bigger budget, your key competitors probably are…now go get ‘em!
Do you think the senior executive team is excited about the big lead generation campaign you just launched? Nope. How about the number of “Likes” on your corporate Facebook page? Think again. Marketing doesn’t matter in many organizations, because it thinks, operates, and worst of all, reports “small.”
Executives sitting in the “C-suite” got there by thinking big, managing big, and reporting “big”. Marketers commit hari-kari with this group by reporting tactical level activities – “minutia,” that garners no ones attention. Do you think the head of sales is reporting the number of sales calls reps make a day? No. If you want to get their attention, you have to make marketing more important to them. Here are five ways to go “Big.”
- Big Bets – if you want marketing to be valued you have to understand, and link, to what the organization values. It’s that simple. If it’s market share, connect marketing objectives and activities to acquisition or/and account penetration. If it’s profit, understand the drivers and align your teams’ efforts appropriately.
- Big Strategy – once you understand how to link marketing to the business objectives your job is then to connect those big bets to day-to-day marketing activities. Your smarts will be needed to take the marketing requirements from the product and sales organizations (which may be very tactical) and link them to the overall marketing strategy that aligns to the “big bets.” Warning – this will require math, perhaps lots of it.
- Big Plays – to execute, organize your marketing objectives as defined by your internal stakeholders into 2 or 3 “big plays.” If market share is a key growth objective, a big play should focus on an area that has the greatest opportunity to do that…a specific market, product and customer. All marketing activities/campaigns should be nested around that “play.’ Messaging is critical here because it is the “big play” wrapper that creates consistency in the communication across execution –think “Smarter Planet.” IBM discovered years ago that the best performing campaigns stayed in market the longest, and had the highest level of integrated tactics. It takes focus and discipline to do, but if you can get there it will make your life easier by allowing you to organize everything under a big play umbrella, and if things don’t fit…then maybe you don’t do it.
- Big Results – the first rule here is to understand that measurement and reporting are different. Measure everything, but only report “process” or “results” metrics. Executives care about “outputs,” not “inputs.” Inputs are activities, outputs are results, know the difference.
- Big Balls – ya gotta have ‘em. You are going to have to get comfortable with, and embrace risk. If you do this right, you will be placing bets, that at the time, you will not know how, or if, they are going to pay off. Years ago, I worked with a CEO that committed to double the size of the business in three years. The CMO calculating sales cycles realized to support that growth marketing needed to double the number of leads that year. She had no idea how she was going to do it, but it caught the attention of the senior management team, focused her team, and it happened. But as she learned, you don’t try to go it alone. Reach out to others with your plan, get their buy-in and support. Level set expectations on timing and performance, it may require a significant investment in time and money for the “big bets” to pay off. Set big goals, but be realistic in getting there.
The time for going “big” is now. In Forrester’s recent B2B CMO’s Must Evolve or Move On report, 97% of marketing leaders who were survey agree with the statement that “Marketing must do things that is has never done before to be successful.”
The other interesting, and important nugget from the research is that marketing is playing a bigger role in influencing corporate strategy, and other functions. Make sure you’re capturing this opportunity at your organization by thinking, and by being — “Big”.
This post was originally posted on July 8, 2011. It also appeared on Forbes.com
Here’s a hypothesis: Given the greater focus on ROI, marketing automation tools, and enhanced tracking of results, marketing is more of a science than ever. Therefore, marketers’ ability to defend and validate their value among peers should be easier than ever before.
So why does a recent study by Fournaise show that CMOs still lack credibility with CEOs?
The study points to several deficiencies with an emphasis on communication – are you sensing the irony? Further, marketers tend to sabotage themselves in everyday interactions with the larger executive team, and in many cases, have no idea they are doing it.
Here are five common mistakes among marketers:
- Stumble explaining the value of marketing. Asked almost daily, and rarely answered properly. The key is to understand how the inquirer perceives the role of marketing. The question behind the question is “what is the value of marketing … to me?” According to the study, it most often relates to “revenue, sales, EBITA or even market valuation.”
- Limited product, service, and customer knowledge. Even the savviest marketer will arrive DOA in the credibility department if they fall short on this one. And it is not about feature or functionality, but rather customer use and application that matter most and those factors vary by industry and size. Leave “speeds and feeds” to the product organization. Marketing’s job is to differentiate and develop compelling value propositions that sell. If products are built “inside-out,” then bring the “outside-in” perspective.
- Can’t Dance. Marketing comes with highly visible risk and things are going to go wrong. When they do, marketing needs to learn how to dance. Handling these situations will define how marketing is viewed. Keep best and worse case scenarios in mind when briefing the executive team. Truth is, if marketing isn’t making a few strategic and tactical mistakes, it’s not moving fast enough. As a former IBM client told me, “If you fail, and you will, fail fast.”
- Isolation. A favorite question from sales: What have you done for me lately? And the product team can be equally demanding. However, marketing has to build, nurture, and maintain strong relationships with these groups. For Sales, it is helpful to establish an integrated sales pipeline and hold weekly pipeline meetings; this will build rapport and create a common sense of purpose. It’s also an opportunity to put marketing metrics in a sales context. The key to a successful relationship with sales is about communication and performance. For the product group, marketing needs to clearly define points of integration for research, content, and value proposition development. The key to a successful relationship with the product team is about process and integration.
- Where to invest – or cut – an incremental dollar. This question is posed by the CFO at the end of the quarter when numbers are off, and by the CEO who wants to redirect budget. It’s also used as a test. As a holder of discretionary dollars, marketing has to be prepared to answer “where” and “why” along with stating the business impact. In talking about CMOs, 72% of CEOs say, “[marketers] are always asking for more money, but can rarely explain how much incremental business this money will generate.”
To call out the sense of irony, most of these issues are communication related. The same rigor brought to external communication needs to be applied internally:
- Know the audience
- Understand their needs
- Communicate to them in their language.
While the Fournaise study states that executives think in terms of “revenue, sales, and EBITA,” most make judgments based on their emotions. Marketers are advised to use their creativity in delivering the message.
Friedrich Nietzsche said it: “All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses.”