In this opinion piece, Philippa Spork (image below), operations lead for Accenture Interactive ANZ looks at lessons in marketing cost efficiency, arguing that whilst initial maths on driving growth by spending less doesn’t seem to stack up, it’s absolutely possible…
As a marketing leader in 2019, it would be virtually impossible to ignore the ever-increasing interest in Marketing Return on Investment (MROI). Most marketers have had their budgets scrutinised by finance, procurement, operations and any other department whose P&L touches marketing.
To be fair, it’s not just marketing under the efficiency microscope. Nearly every 2018 annual report features a CEO promise to rationalise costs whilst delivering sustainable growth. But thanks to rising technology costs, new skills shortages and media fragmentation, marketing seems to be front at centre at many operational reviews.
Whilst initial maths on driving growth by spending less doesn’t seem to stack up, it is often absolutely possible. As with any budgeting process, a common-sense approach to ensuring resources are deployed in proportion to the outcomes they deliver is the key.
Just like a family might sacrifice dinners out to afford a trip to Europe, marketers must ensure that low value, repeatable tasks are automated or outsourced-for-less to be able to redeploy resources to higher value tasks that count most. And there you have it – supercharged growth at no extra cost.
Here are the top three beacons of common-sense advice for bringing the principle of ‘cutting costs to drive growth’ to life in real terms:
- Fully understand your current marketing ecosystem
First you need to know what exists in your marketing ecosystem; in terms of data, technology, processes, tools, people and other assets. In this discovery phase it’s crucial not to start allocating adjectives or aligning assets to people or tools just yet.
At the risk of over-simplifying, it’s like sorting out a toybox. First you tip the toys onto the floor. And it’s only when you put them into categories that you start to notice you have two of lots of things, a stack of toys that have been outgrown and a few others that should never have been there in the first place. Marketing operations audits are much the same. Once everything is laid out in front of you, only then can you determine what’s missing, what you need, what you don’t, and how to make space for things you do.
Of course, one goal is to make the most of existing investments, but it’s critical not to start trying to solve problems with existing people, processes or tech; as this just puts you at risk of putting square pegs in round holes. This process might also uncover some unwelcome facts as well as highlighting things you realise could have been avoided. But it’s important to go in to any audit with an open mind, the support of your stakeholders and acknowledgement that the goal is to identify opportunities to do things better not discredit legacy systems, processes, and most importantly people.
- Re-align your value vs effort ratio
Accenture Interactive Operation’s APAC lead Caspar Schlickum put it best when he said it’s about being smart, so you can be bold. Let’s face it, there is no shortage of big ideas in marketing. The hard part is finding the budget and resources to make them happen. It’s often the cost and complexity that shuts down a good idea, not the idea itself.
But what if there was a way to fund and resource those things you really want to do by finding the solution in your very own toybox? Isn’t it just worth a look?
There are plenty of opportunities to rationalise costs through automation or simply by re-allocating tasks which are important but not required to be handled by the core team, like tagging, analytics and social triage. Moving these tasks to lower cost resources enables the re-allocation of efforts to higher value functions like strategy, creative and media.
That first conversation with your agency can be uncomfortable when suggesting an operational review of their supplementary services. Yet evidence shows it’s possible to lower operational marketing costs to provide a higher return on client investment, ultimately making agencies and the client more competitive in the market.
The question really is why would you pay more than you need to just to re-size, re-format or personalise creative? And the proof is already in the pudding. At Accenture we’ve been privileged to deliver global marketing services for brands like GSK, BMW, Fiat and Microsoft, just to name a few. And we have been able to deliver significant saving across a wide range of functions.
- Optimise your technology
Turn the clock back ten years and Salesforce was a CRM, Sitecore was a CMS, Adobe was known for creative software and Google owned search. Today each have diversified to meet emerging and merging needs and all claim to provide the ultimate end-to-end solution. Most brands have a combination of all or some of the above in their tech stack and only the most sophisticated CMO fully understands the true labyrinth of choices available.
Optimising technology requires a unique set of technical skills across different platform specialities, with agile teams working together across different technologies with competing capabilities, with the aim of finding the best possible client solution. And then the final piece of the puzzle is aligning the capability of the marketing teams to the technology itself as they future proof their marketing capabilities for the longer term.
Whilst your marketecture is certainly no toy box, marketers can take comfort from the fact that underneath all the MarTech complexity, good old common sense must still apply.