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How to survive and thrive when budgets are squeezed

How to survive and thrive when budgets are squeezed

By Chris Hopwood, Managing Director, Marketingunity

In recent years, a number of factors have combined to create headaches for marketing management.

First came increasing formal regulation in all sectors, resulting from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the USA, and FSA regulations in the UK. Now there is the credit crunch and looming recession.

The result is increasing scrutiny from Managing and Finance Directors looking to cut costs in all areas of their business.

This includes Marketing, which (perhaps for the first time) is having to accept increasing corporate governance, and account for how their budget is being spent.

Unfit for purpose: the hidden costs of spreadsheet marketing

According to analyst firm Gartner, “There is substantial waste in most marketing departments with approximately 25 per cent of the marketing budget spent on producing and managing marketing programs rather than on the actual promotions/campaigns.”

This inefficiency may have stemmed from a historical acceptance by businesses that marketing should be judged by its creativity (magic) rather then its management efficiency (logic). Ironically, the resultant lack of focus on efficiency has resulted in only 75 per cent of marketing time being available for marketing.

The historical lack of management scrutiny of the ‘logic’ has until recently been shared by internal and external software developers. In stark contrast to Manufacturing, HR, Finance, and other departments, all of whom are served by a plethora of system suppliers, the vast majority of marketing departments rely exclusively on the spreadsheet.

As key marketing activity data is often held across dozens of separate spreadsheets, creating even a single summary report is a mammoth task.

This scenario completes the triple whammy of challenges facing marketing today: doing as much marketing as before, often with less resources and/or money, but with some resources now being diverted to report on and justify what it is doing. So, the question is: what can marketers do?   

Introducing Marketing Resource Management (MRM)

In the face of such challenges, visionary marketers are implementing software that can support sustainable best practice processes. Step forward, Marketing Resource Management. MRM is web-based collaborative software that ensures the effectiveness of the marketing value chain by allowing all ‘team’ members to communicate effectively, collaborate and contribute.

In MRM terms, the ‘team’ includes not only the marketing department, but other internal departments such as Finance and Procurement, and the entire marketing value chain, including field staff, agencies and suppliers. As well as spanning the whole value chain, a good MRM system will also span the whole marketing life-cycle, from ‘concept to consumer’. This means an online environment which can, amongst other things:

•    proactively plan and execute campaigns
•    select and manage internal resources, agencies and suppliers
•    manage workflows and approvals
•    manage digital assets
•    procure goods and services cost-effectively
•    ensure timely fulfillment
•    provide comprehensive management reporting

The result is reduced costs and administration overheads and faster time-to-market (and longer time-in-market) for campaigns, delivering maximum return on marketing investment.  

MRM provides a central database that collects two valuable inputs: firstly, data that records full details of business transactions, such as what was purchased, by and from whom, and at what price; and, secondly, an automatic audit trail of activity, detailing who did what and when, who gave authorisation, and so on.

This database delivers real-time management information that streamlines campaigns, and allows marketing management to hone practices, minimise risk and waste, and drive continuous process enhancement.

Building marketing success:  shareable, repeatable, accountable

The database is accompanied by a flexible workflow mechanism, which enables marketing management to design and implement ‘best practice’ processes, and monitor their success, allowing opportunities for incremental improvements to be quickly identified.

The result is a clear, well-documented process that is followed by the whole value chain, which not only achieves marketing effectiveness, but transparently demonstrates it to the rest of the business.

The optimisation benefits that MRM delivers are tangible and attractive. According to Gartner, MRM “can save more than 15 per cent of an enterprise's marketing budget” and “saving money is just the start of improving marketing return on investment.”

Gartner’s report also estimates that “time-to-market for creative production or product launches may be reduced from 12 to 15 weeks to four to six weeks using MRM solutions”.

MRM is being recognised as the new foundation for marketing best practice and the cornerstone of repeatable marketing success.  Marketing functions worldwide are today implementing such systems to deliver maximum value to their organisations and gain a competitive edge.

MRM has been conceived as a pragmatic solution that works in the ‘real world’ and starts delivering benefits immediately, so it can be easily implemented for a specific campaign or across an entire marketing programme. MRM is proving its value and, increasingly, is becoming a vital tool to help marketing teams prove theirs.

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