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The marketing plan/budget….when does it cease being a plan, or just a budget and start to become reality?

Marketing Plan
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This post is by Julian Barrans, Business Director, Asia for TrinityP3. Julian has worked as a business, marketing and branding professional for over 30 years, with more than half of that time in the APAC region, working both client side and agency side.

Most marketers have just gone through their marketing plan preparations as part of the overall business plan submission. No matter how the plan was arrived at, I’m sure there would have been pressures put on the overall budget, as well as a close look at the ROI targeted to deliver the top line number needed to then deliver the bottom line. But the plan is done and dusted.

So there’s a collective sigh of relief amongst marketers around the world that they can get on with delivering the remainder of the year, as well as look forward to those well deserved end of year celebrations with work colleagues, agencies and of course time with family and friends.

But what about next year’s plan…..doesn’t it need to contribute from day one next year to have a real chance of delivering the tough targets in place for increased revenue, and more often than not, reduced budget levels too? The latter more often than not a cost saving that is handed down and not at all strategic in nature.

Especially worrying is where are the monies to be ‘saved’ from to deliver the budget cuts?

There are clearly a number of things that need to happen now if you’re not going to see Q1 come and go with no shift in line with the outlined plan. So what needs to happen, or should I say what therefore needs to be done?

1. Back up the strategic plan for next year with timely strategic actions

This is a bit like ….’if you want to win the lottery, you need to buy a ticket for the lottery’.

Well this sounds obvious you might say….but how many business plans are put in place where, effectively, nothing has changed during Q1, where it is a continuation of the previous year, or worse, there is very little activity at all, as no activities are ready to be put in place to meet the plan needs and ROI targets.

A bottom up approach to the marketing plan would give the marketing team a fighting chance to get relevant strategic activities in place to hit Q1 and make an impact. However, it is unlikely they will be in line with the ‘freshly’ reduced budget declared by the executive management team, under pressure by shareholders to deliver more cost reductions (we’ll cover this further in point 2).

Also, if you have honed your supplier roster to deliver appropriate support around your strategic and specialist needs, that are fit for your marketing strategy today and future fit for tomorrow then you will also be ready to implement strategic actions in Q1 as well.

When was the last time you took a close look at your needs, both current and future, to ensure marketing was future fit for both the organisation’s strategic direction?

Let the learning from this flow through your supplier roster in terms of key strategic agency and key specialist agency partners, as well as revamping your marketing structure, then you will be ahead of the game and ready with strong timely strategic activities that deliver the marketing strategy.

2. How do you deliver budget savings without sacrificing crucial strategic activities?

In the first round of budget cuts, it’s usually about sticking to core strategic brand activities that deliver profitable revenue year in, year out. But then what happens to those new ‘opportunity areas’ that meet emerging consumer wants that will deliver the new growth wanted by so many businesses and become core profit deliverers in the future?

Investment in future growth and future profit will be hampered, and vulnerability to the businesses future established.

In the second round of budget cuts, you struggle to look to where you’d make reductions without damaging the effectiveness of your key revenue drivers, the salience of your brand(s) and other considerations like your media commitments and volume discounts in place. Not to mention that difficult conversation that you’ll have to have with the CEO about needing to cancel that particular sponsorship!

So instead you resort to slashing agency fees as surely they’re paid too much anyway. Then six months later you wonder why the quality of ideas seems to have dropped and though there are plenty of agency bodies in the room when presentations are made, there’s now a distinct lack of seniority across the team…..maybe cutting costs indiscriminately was a bit of a false economy and has just made your life harder and the effectiveness of your activities less with finance breathing down your neck over the reduced ROI taking place.

Surely there’s another way!

Every organisation you look at, you’ll find has experienced ‘supplier creep’. Whether it be because of a period of sustained growth and expansion in the past, or because, as new marketers joined the company, they brought along suppliers they liked working with to the ranks of their new organisation. Or again, a shift in the marketing industry…where of course there’s been the advent of the digital channel and the various specialist suppliers that are constantly appearing.

Either way ‘supplier creep’ really messes around with the efficiency of your marketing team and budget. Often you find there are dozens and dozens or hundreds of suppliers on your books that each need briefing, liaising with, meeting with, managing content, digital assets and spending money with.

This leads to reduced efficiency for your team in terms of that valuable commodity….time, as well as missing out on better volume discounts where you’re spending across fewer suppliers. Not to mention the willingness to service your account with more senior personnel on the team, where you now experience the benefit of these key strategic agency partners actually understanding your brand too.

In summary…..

We all have a choice, where we can let things happen to us or we can plan ahead and be on top of the game.

I’d say develop a Marketing Plan that delivers against the overall business plan, supported by strategic activities, already thought through and in place ready to go Q1. The same goes for how you’re going to manage any budget savings dropped on you. You need to start making those savings Q1, as it just gets harder and harder to squeeze them into less time remaining as you go through the year.

This should be backed up by a lean, brilliantly skilled marketing team that are fit for the future, working with a lean roster of agency suppliers (strategic, specialist and essential others), all totally aligned with your ways of working, your brand strategies, etc.

I hope this hasn’t messed up the idea of year end celebrations…but surely with timely preparation it is a celebration in itself!

How are your budgets set? Top down? Or bottom up? Are you using Zero Based Budgeting?Find out how we can assist with budget setting and measurement here

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Julian has worked as a business, marketing and branding professional for over 30 years, with more than half of that time in the APAC region, working both client side and agency side. A creative business leader who truly understands the importance of team building, working with the right partners as well as making decisions based on sound business strategy and practices.

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