Are you in danger of missing revenue projections at the mid-year point?


If so, your marketing budget is in jeopardy.  The reasoning is straightforward.  The marketing budget is an area that financial executives can look for instant budget relief without a clear and immediate downside to the business.


What if you could save your budget or at least minimize cuts that could hurt the business?  


In our experience, successful CMOs support (instead of defend) their budget with a fact-based approach. When cuts are necessary, savvy CMO’s use a pre-emptive approach to minimize them. This is done by providing visibility to the true cost of cuts to help the CFO and CEO make the right decision for the company.  


In this post, we’ll show you a playbook for presenting your budget with the facts.  We’ll also give you a few quick ways to pre-empt the cost cutting conversation and protect your budget. Today’s post advises marketing leaders on how to address a tough situation. The reality is that top marketing leaders work from an objective-based budgeting approach.  Marketing objectives are tied back to corporate growth strategies, and then the marketing efforts are funded based on the results contributed. When you take this business approach to developing a marketing budget, the mid-year cut discussion is likely to never occur. It’s hard to execute a Marketing Strategy to grow revenue faster than your competitors. Leverage the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook to access a revenue growth methodology to hit your number quarter after quarter, and year after year. 


Successful CMOs support their budget with a fact-based approach. Control the budget review by arming yourself and others with the facts. Then take action to allocate your marketing budget to the projects with the most revenue potential.


Before budget cuts are discussed, it’s helpful to review expectations, results, and possible consequences of marketing budget reductions.


  1. Remind all of expectations. Marketing is responsible for creating qualified leads. Sales has the responsibility to close those leads and generate revenue. Marketing is not responsible for generating revenue or closing on business.


  2. Present contributions to the funnel. What were Marketing’s specific contributions to the sales funnel? Since generic leads are almost meaningless, prepare to review the number and types of leads provided:


    1. By buyer personas


    2. By market segmentation


    3. By deal size


  3. Examine time frames.


    1. What was the elapsed time from Marketing qualified lead to Sales qualified opportunity?


    2. How long did it take for a Sales qualified opportunity to close?


  4. Examine the close rates. Has the rate changed? Dig deep to determine why and at what point deals have crumbled.


  5. Review program spends. Demonstrate results of program spends and resulting adjustments when investments fell through.


Preparing for Cuts: The Dos and Don’ts


You’ve done the homework. Unfortunately, it looks like you might have to decrease your spend in the second half of the year. Before specific cuts are considered, revisit the organization’s and marketing’s strategic plan so that potential cuts impact those goals the least.


In addition, guard against short-term fixes with adverse long-term implications. It’s no secret that new customers take much longer to close than existing customers. In a rush to increase revenue, it may be tempting to pull all resources and assign them to work on existing customers. While this will likely increase revenue in the short term, the results seriously affect the long-term pipeline. If you lose momentum with potential customers, how long will it take to recover those relationships?


You’ve put a lot of thought into all of the implications that cuts will bring. Be sure to go into the review meeting prepared for discussions. Since you’ve done the work, it makes sense for you to recommend specific cuts. You don’t want someone else to decide on reductions without the benefit of your thorough analysis.


So how will you prioritize cuts?


  1. Reduce or eliminate non-program spend. If it’s not directly contributing to revenue growth, add it to the cut list. This includes items like conventions and sales kickoff meetings.


  2. Dial back third-party spend with 3rd party agencies. Open large agency-driven assignments for competitive reviews.  Share with the agencies the financial struggle and you will be surprised how much they sharpen their pencil to be a good partner. Furthermore, it goes without saying to eliminate expensive swag. Finally, forego expensive software that will not impact the in-year results.


  3. Reduce program spend on programs by optimizing by results generated.  Look at reducing the total number of programs and placing more investment into fewer programs.


Consider this:


Download our Marketing Project Prioritization Tool.  Use this spreadsheet to score your projects and assign priorities.   From here you can make a decision about which projects to trim or cut.  


Finally, be sure to document the expected results and consequences of the cuts. Ensure complete understanding that cuts will adversely affect planned revenue and other metrics.


Lessons Learned for Next Year: Sales and Operational Planning and Reporting

No one wants to go through the operational and sales planning process anticipating budget cuts. Realistically, though, it’s better to prepare for cuts and never need the information. Without the detailed plan, analyzing results to make rational budget cuts is almost impossible. So when you develop your operating and sales plan prior to the fiscal year start, plan down to the level that makes analysis possible.


For example, let’s say you expect to adjust spend based on sales by persona. You’ve identified your most lucrative sales are to the client CFO. In order to cut your budget without affecting sales to CFOs,  you’ll need to complete your sales plan down to the persona level.


Once you’ve planned to the level required, it’s important to build and automate reporting so that results map to your plan criteria. Without reporting, it’s impossible to tell if plan assumptions prove out.


Planning and reporting down to the budget-level required is time-consuming and expensive.  But having those results make it possible for the CMO to make strategic decisions. Without relevant reporting, the CMO is just a custodian of the reports..


If mid-year results are not as expected, you might be one of many defending the spend. You’ll  have a better chance of holding on to your budget by taking a proactive, fact-based approach. If cuts are still needed, consider the prioritization presented here. And next year, plan your budget with enough detail to make valid decisions. Build reporting to correspond to your budget to drive decision-making throughout the year.


Have expectations gone up and left you wondering if you can make your number? Here is a Revenue Growth Diagnostic tool that will help you understand if you have a chance at success. Take the Revenue Growth Diagnostic test and rate yourself against SBI’s sales and marketing strategy to find out if:


  • Your revenue goal is realistic
  • You will earn your bonus
  • You will keep your job


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