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Effective Marketing Communications
By Paul Fileman

In any cost cutting programme, one of the soft targets is the, often substantial, revenue spend allocated to Marketing Communications. Sadly, many marketing teams are unable to react to a budget reduction without making substantial reductions in the outcomes they deliver.

Why is this? Often it is because the in-house marketing team has become so busy being reactive to a myriad of demands from the business that their marketing plan has become a dull list of initiatives delivered by expensive sub-contractors.

As CEO, is it your fault for driving the marketing team to deliver against a Strategic Marketing plan that made sense 18 months ago?

Have you considered the possibility that your marketing function may require review to re-align with your business in the current financial climate?

With Marketing Communications, it is easy for your marketing team to fall into the self-protection trap – as long as they use the same reputable suppliers as before, can the business live with the reduction in outcomes?

Outcomes

In order for your budget to stretch as far as possible, it is imperative that you start by defining the outcomes you require from your marketing communications. This discipline should be applied regardless of how you arrived at your current budget (whether you are reducing or increasing spend).

There are only three possible outcomes that you seek when you spend money on marketing communications:

  • Awareness
    Improvements in the unprompted awareness and perception of your business, its products and services, so that prospects favour your offers over those of your competitors.
  • Leads
    New sales leads that feed your sales force with leads that meet your sales qualification criteria and generate new business.
  • Loyalty
    Improved customer loyalty combined with reducing face-to-face selling time assigned to customer retention – and therefore is available to win more business.

The Plan

If your marketing team can document their annual market communications plan for each major sales channel on 2 pages of A4, there is a good chance that they have thought things through effectively and will be able to meet the needs of the various business stakeholders. If they insist on 80 PowerPoint slides and a document best measured with parcel scales, it is unlikely that your business will take the time to read the plan – let alone be able to ensure that your Marketing Communications plans are aligned with your Marketing Strategy and with your Sales Plans.

Planning Tools

Start by challenging your Sales Management team to work with your marketing team to define the marketing communications outcomes that are:

  • Essential in order for the business to meet its sales plans for the current plan period;
  • Essential to secure the foundations for business acquisition and retention in future plan periods.

Anything which does not meet these criteria should not be in the plan.

Cost Saving

Once you have a plan which is bought into and agreed between Marketing and Sales Teams, you can start to challenge the delivery cost. If your teams have been thorough and objective, there should not be any items in the plan in the “nice to do if we had the funds” category – everything should be there because it is essential. To save money on delivery, review the value for money that you are achieving. Consider issues such as:

  • Are you using generalist suppliers because they know your business well and understand how to work with you when your team are unable to devote sufficient time to ensuring they understand detailed requirements?
  • Are you using expensive agencies with huge overheads rather than niche specialists who can deliver excellent value for money when properly managed and briefed?
  • Are your marketing teams capable of selecting lower cost delivery contractors and then managing them effectively?
  • Have the good quality contractors you engaged 12 or more months ago become less effective because you have reduced the time spent managing them?
  • Have you reduced headcount in the marketing function and failed to ensure that rolling 12 month supplier contracts are managed effectively?
  • Have your marketing team got the skills and imagination required to deliver excellent value, or are they over-dependent on their sub-contractors?

Conclusions

If your business has grown substantially in recent years, you may not have had cause to review the processes and skills required to ensure that your Marketing Communications budget is delivering the value for money essential to underpinning the overall Marketing Strategy. You may have reduced budgets and head-count but not yet reviewed contractors or processes. Marketers are poor at accepting guidance on supplier selection from procurement specialists. You may need to take a different approach to ensure that your business goals will be achieved within the constraints that you set.

Now is an excellent time to initiate an improvement project.

Added: 10th December 2010

Paul Fileman is a business results improvement professional, marketer & mentor. He works with businesses to improve their profitability and performance. Find out more about Paul's company Results Zone.

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