By Hayley Goff, CEO
Money doesn’t grow on trees…When I was growing up this was a favourite pearl of wisdom from my mum. Now, as an adult and more notably as a CEO, I can fully appreciate it. Every pound counts – and with budgets and economic conditions being what they are, those pounds are highly scrutinised. Even though you’re likely the one doing the scrutinising, as a business leader you’re answerable to your board and your shareholders. Part of your remit is to refine your focus areas, your goals, and forge the best path forward to make them happen – all within the constraints of budget. And with departments clamouring for more, how do you prioritise what needs to be done?
One of those departments is marketing, stating with absolute certainty they can help you drive the business growth you’re after. Sounds like a win-win – but again, you’re balancing keeping shareholders happy with achieving your organisational objectives. In theory, the two are inexorably linked. In practice, you’re still scrutinising that spend to make sure you’re getting the expected return.
So how do you ensure your business is getting the right return on investment from marketing? Is marketing even worth it?
Emphatically, yes. But where do you start?
Trust your marketing leader. As CEO, you can’t be expected to know everything about marketing and lead gen – whether you have an internal team or fully outsourced support – take advantage of those capabilities and trust their consultancy. It also goes without saying that you and the business need clarity in terms of what you’re trying to achieve and this will influence the brief for marketing. Importantly, based on that, agree KPIs with your marketing team to guide delivery and hold them to account.
If you don’t have internal marketing resource (or even if you do and it’s not quite as mature as it could be) evaluate whether you need external agency support. I appreciate you may have been burnt in the past with agencies and left wondering about the value that was delivered (you’re not alone) but they can be helpful in helping you reach those growth or awareness objectives. They can be mobilised quickly and offer the added benefit of having specialist skills in the right places, able to either take on your whole marketing function or become an extended part of your existing team.
Important to note here that if you do decide to use an agency partner (or partners), make sure they’re the right fit for your business – not just in terms of skills and specialisms, but also when it comes to culture and (of course) targets and ROI. Ensure your marketing team establishes KPIs against the plan that they and agency partners are delivering with regular performance updates – if you are exploring agencies only work with ones that can clearly define a scope of work, budget and performance commitments so you are clear on the ROI that any investment will deliver.
With established KPIs you and your marketing team (or external partners) can measure impact. You are making a significant investment (again, be it internally or with agencies) and it should be clear how marketing communications is performing and supporting the business achieve its goals. Understanding what is working so you can replicate success and where things haven’t worked to understand why and adjust accordingly.
Resist the urge to bow to economic pressure and apply the brakes if you don’t see immediate results – an agency should deliver tangible assets from very early on but this doesn’t necessarily mean in month one the MQLs will see a massive spike. PR and marketing needs a sustained effort to deliver maximum impact, and cutting marketing often means cutting the new business pipeline. In the same vein, avoid the temptation to do ‘a little bit of everything’. Instead, prioritise your marketing critical activities, establish success and then scale.
Each business is different – but we all face some of the same pressures and the same scrutiny when it comes to spend, whether that is on marketing efforts, product development or digital transformation. The key to success, is establishing objectives and having the right facts and figures to prove ROI. Of course the bits in the middle are also important, but will be guided largely by your goals.