Strategies for Brands to Maximize their Marketing Impact

Strategies for Brands to Maximize their Marketing Impact

“I recommend that marketing kick-off their planning sessions by first aligning with finance on business goals and objectives, and a shared agreement on what areas of the business are top priorities for the near vs. long term,” says Julia Stead, CMO, Allocadia, in an exclusive interview with TalkCMO.

TCMO Bureau: According to you, what are the struggles today’s brands facing while managing their marketing budget?

Julia Stead: Spending money is ultimately the expression and execution of a business strategy, and so it’s critical for marketing organizations to have visibility into where they are spending and how that aligns with business strategy. Moreover, they should also have real-time access to what exactly has been spent and where, and near real-time understanding of the performance of that spend, from an ROI perspective. Looking at where the brand’s biggest struggles lie within this world, I think it’s mainly an agility problem. Marketing teams and their budgets are often fragmented and silo’d; spread thin across different product lines, regions, departments.

On top of that, because of the pandemic and general market instability, strategies are rapidly evolving and budget planning has become a continuous process rather than an annual set. As a result, marketing organizations are struggling to keep up with that pace of change when it comes to managing their budgets with full transparency, accuracy and flexibility. The result means money being spent on the wrong things, duplications in spend within the same organization, and a lack of timely ROI measurement to inform next best actions.

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TCMO Bureau: How can marketing and finance departments strengthen their relationship?

Julia Stead: The best starting point is acknowledging the relationship is important and prioritizing time to make it stronger. This means having conversations outside of pure financial discussions, building a friendship and rapport, and understanding what is happening in the other person’s world—also understanding things like internal processes, resources required for specific tasks, and timelines. This can help build not only trust and goodwill, but also a deeper understanding of the priorities and challenges that person or their team is focused on.

I recommend that marketing kick-off their planning sessions by first aligning with finance on business goals and objectives and a shared agreement on what areas of the business are top priorities for the near vs. long term. At this stage, it’s also important to have honest conversations about how marketing spend can and should support those priorities. Without this, they will find themselves in the situation where a finance team is focused on cutting costs because growth targets are on hold, while a marketing team is asking for more money for a big splashy brand campaign.

Lastly, I recommend having shared goals and mutual success milestones to foster more teamwork and celebration. For example, this could be something like the marketing budget coming within 1% of target next quarter, where both parties can do their part operationally and strategically to make this happen together.

TCMO Bureau: How can brands maximize their marketing’s impact in today’s marketing environment?

Julia Stead: The best way to maximize impact these days is to do less, but better. With everything being digital-first and everyone feeling some degree of stress, anxiety, or uncertainty, marketers should be streamlining the volume and complexity of their messages instead of focusing on the quality, authenticity, and emotional connection with their audience. This can be accomplished via two approaches:

First – they need to get back to the basics of really understanding their audience and their current world. They should put themselves in buyer’s shoes and understand their problems and environments. In the B2B world, this means spending more time as a marketer actually meeting customers, listening and asking questions. Then using all of this information to tailor meaningful messaging that resonates on a more personal level and adds value.

Second – look at the channel/program mix and be harsh. Evaluate spend and which channels are delivering the highest ROI, then double down on those while going light in the other areas. Keep at least 10-20% of spending flexible to test out new channels and campaigns, to see what will be the next winner – this is especially important these days as the new digital experiences crop up every few months and customers’ preferences continue to evolve.

TCMO Bureau: What trends do you see will shape the relationship between marketing and finance departments?

Julia Stead: I see 2 big trends shaping the future of the relationship between marketing and finance teams:

  • Marketers holding revenue numbers and having a bigger seat at the executive table.

I’m seeing marketing leaders increasingly move away from vanity metrics and top-of-funnel KPIs, instead of focusing on pipeline, revenue, and sales targets. ROI measurement is becoming more sophisticated and also more ingrained in the way that marketing organizations operate. This goes hand in hand with a stronger partnership with sales teams and a focus on business outcomes vs. marketing results. As a result, marketing is no longer perceived as a cost center but instead a revenue driver, which garners more partnership and collaboration with finance.

Read More: Strategies to Maximize Data-driven Customer Experience

  • Marketing organizations having more flexibility and agility when it comes to budget planning and investment management.

As marketing teams get better at agile planning and leverage more collaborative tools and processes for budget management, they will have to work closely and frequently with finance teams to integrate financial data sets and reports. I believe this will build a stronger partnership and more mutual language spoken between the two teams.

As CMO at Allocadia, Julia is focused on helping marketing leaders accelerate business growth by planning strategically, investing with purpose and maximizing performance. She is also a founding board member of the Women In Revenue non-profit organization, serving as the head of its PR committee. Prior to Allocadia, Julia was VP Marketing at Invoca and Head of Sales & Marketing at IPfolio, and along the way, she’s been named a DMNews Top 40 under 40, a Top 40 Demand Marketing Game Changer and ABM Superhero. She holds an MBA from the University of Montreal and a bachelor’s degree in English from McGill University.