How to overcome undersized marketing resources and achieve rock star status in your organization.
For decades, common wisdom has held that companies in growth mode should invest one in every ten dollars of gross revenue back into marketing – known as “the ten percent rule.” The reality is that, while virtually all companies maintain aggressive growth goals, marketing budgets often do not match those lofty expectations.
Of the thirteen industry categories included in a recent study from The CMO Survey, only two industries reported spending 10% or more of revenue on marketing – consumer services (18.9%) and education (12%).
So what does this mean for marketing departments and the professionals that work within them? The dynamic this creates is that marketing is often understaffed and underfunded, leading to what we refer to in our business as the phenomenon of the “lonely marketer.”
If you’ve found your way to this article it’s likely you are a lonely marketer yourself – the person (or one of a small collection of scrappy marketing pros) who somehow make it work.
This post is a collection of ground rules, observations, and best practices we’ve picked up on over the years to help you do more with less.
That’s a somber and seemingly unhelpful way to start, isn’t it? Hear me out.
It’s not to say that you should lower expectations of what’s possible. Rather, understanding the ground rules, including fiscal and person-hour realities, will help orient thinking on solutions. Lonely marketers likely won’t be able to tick every box on their wish list – that’s out of our control, but it’s also okay. What accepting reality gives us is a clear view of the resources available at our disposal to make magic happen, and with that information we can start formulating a plan.
That leads us to what should be the next step in your process…
Get clarity and buy-in on expectations and goals
Work collaboratively with stakeholders to define the most important initiatives for marketing to undertake and establish the goals and KPIs against which you'll measure success. With limited resources, the big challenge is getting consensus on a small number of the most crucial goals to accomplish and forcing decision makers to make tough choices on others. Forcing the company to go through this process up front will help keep both you and leadership laser focused throughout the year and will give you protection against wandering priorities and shiny objects.
Use funnel analyses to help prioritize
Auditing the current state of your funnel will give you a clear picture of your current marketing mix's strengths and weaknesses. This is a critical tool to determine the greatest areas of need and will help you focus priorities and identify which activities might yield the greatest returns for your effort and dollars.
One of the ongoing benefits of conducting a funnel analysis is that it forms the basis for reporting, ongoing campaign enhancements and optimizations, and maintenance of your backlog and priorities.
Automate your most common bottlenecks
The value of workflows that run automatically through your CMS, CRM, or other inbound marketing platform is obvious. You enable scale in your sales and marketing processes, enhance consumer touchpoints leading to better relationship-building, and offer a greater level of personalization for prospects.
If you’re a lonely marketer, automations are more necessity than luxury. When weighing which workflows and campaigns to automate, the two criteria we encourage folks to balance are:
- Which workflows are most important to the marketing strategy? Drip email campaigns that follow a form submission might be more mission critical than, say, small product page personalizations.
- Which workflows will fire most frequently? Determining where you’ll get the greatest return for your investment in setting up the workflow will help you resolve bottlenecks that might cause problems for your entire marketing operation.
Beware getting tangled in the weeds
You might be lonely, but you’re also the person with the most institutional knowledge about your company’s market, its relative strengths and weaknesses as a brand, and what has and hasn’t worked in the past. The greatest and best use of your time is applying all those smarts to formulating and driving strategy. Tactical execution is a time suck, so pick the battles you want to fight yourself and find help for the rest.
Speaking of which…
Find help where you can
The folks on your sales team can be great allies – they are often better staffed and resourced than marketing departments, and salespeople have their fingers on the pulse of the customer and the current state of your market. They can give you great real-time feedback on message testing, or they can be great content brainstorming partners.
If you manage paid campaigns, specialists at each of the platforms on which you run ads are a free and underutilized resource. Their jobs are to help customers succeed – they’ll help with everything from keyword research, to suggesting campaign optimizations, to new campaign formats to test. Don’t be shy about reaching out and asking for their help.
External help, in the form of freelancers or marketing agencies, can be a lifesaver. Once you’ve decided on your department’s critical initiatives and allocated your available person-hours to where they’ll be most effective, you’ll have a clear vision of what remains to be done to round out campaign execution. Understanding exactly what skills and tactical capabilities you need from an external resource will help guide your search and will set the relationship up for long-term success.
Show results and returns
Last, but certainly not least, is to report back regularly on the progress and results the marketing department is achieving, using the KPIs you agreed upon with leadership at the outset. This seems obvious but showing how you are exceeding expectations and showing a positive return on the investment the company made in marketing will boost future budgets and make your job (and life) easier in the long run.