Just a little trim around the ears — How to cut your marketing budget without hurting your brand image.
When it comes to belt tightening, most marketing managers have it all wrong. The minute the boss gives them the bad news… “gotta cut your marketing budget” they go straight to the list of tactics and start chopping off the bottom of the spread sheet. Not a smart trimming around the ears, a military-style buzz cut…
First thing to get chopped is community support… those feel-good event sponsorships that help non-profit organizations but don’t return any discernible ROI.
The next thing on the chopping block is ”image” advertising.” Anything that doesn’t have a coupon or a response vehicle of some kind is out the window.
Brand building, it seems, can wait for better days.
Quite often, the only thing left is nearly-free social media posts and tiny little digital display ads that don’t get seven seconds of attention.
The short-term reaction often leaves companies looking quite bad in the long run.
What’s needed is a more strategic approach to cutting your marketing budget.
Rather than a military barber’s approach to cost cutting, try thinking like a surgeon. First, do no harm. Start by eliminating the marketing messages that are off brand, off target, or both.
In order to do that, you might need a second opinion.
You need more than just the bosses’ orders and one person’s opinion to wisely cut your marketing budget. You need to eliminate dangerous assumptions from the marketing planning process and work with objective criteria of some sort.
So here’s an idea… why not start with an objective assessment of what you’re currently doing? Get a second opinion on your messaging, your media buy and your overall tactical plan.
In my experience, it’s often the message, not the medium, that’s the problem…
Print ads say one thing, social media says another and the web site implies something else. Sales presentations go off in one direction, while promotions head somewhere else. Radio commercials, new media, good old-fashioned direct mail… it’s all scattered around with no coherent theme.
So before you do any budget cutting, use the opportunity to think about what you’re saying. Get your message aligned with your strategy. Reevaluate every marketing “touch point” in terms of consistency, clarity and brand worthiness. Then scalp all the wild hairs.
If you can just quit saying the wrong thing, you’ll save a ton of money.
Most marketing managers assume the budget was allocated in a logical manner to begin with. But that’s simply not the case. Most marketing budgets are handed down, year after year, and are based simply on “how we’ve always done it.” No one ever questions the underlying assumptions.
And you know what they say about ass-umptions.
Here’s an example from the medical profession: Our client, the CEO of a multi-location pediatric practice, was enamored with the idea of “excellence.” He wanted to build a “pediatric center of excellence” and recruit specialists from all over to “elevate the level of care to new heights.” Operationally, that’s a great idea, but it was a terrible idea for advertising.
Because the assumption — that the quality of care is relevant to young mothers — turned out to be false. Moms believe that ALL doctors are good doctors. They just want one that they like in an office that’s convenient. So in that case, we started by cutting out all the communications that were focused on the quality of care.
Here’s another example of the messaging process gone wrong. I wrote a post about an ad for Wales Tourism. A classic case of paying a lot of money to place an ad in Golf Digest that was wrong in both its strategy, and its execution.
As one British reader commented… “Golf Wales is an oxymoron.” And even if you accept the strategy of selling Wales as a golf destination, the message was all wrong, so cutting that ad is probably the smartest thing they could do.
The fact is, Wales Tourism probably needs a lot more than just a quick trim. They need to rethink the entire hairdo. But who’s going to do that?
Any decent marketing person can buy media that will reach the desired target audience and choose tactics that will drive traffic. But revamping the strategy and nailing down that core brand message is something else entirely.
Strategy and message development are the hardest parts of the job, and unfortunately, many marketing managers aren’t up to the task. And even if they were, many bosses wouldn’t listen.
A well-crafted, comprehensive brand strategy book eliminates that problem and makes cost cutting a lot more logical. It’s like a brand bible that provides guidance and inspiration on every decision. So when push comes to shove, there’s no doubt about what should stay, and what should go.
That’s what my firm does… We help clients flesh-out their brand story and we put the strategy down on paper. Once it’s sold internally — and all the department heads are on the same page — then we help execute on it.
And by keeping that brand book close at hand, our clients eliminate waste and save money, without sacrificing their hard-earned brand image.
So if you absolutely have to cut your marketing budget, start by reading this post.