By Julia Stead
With COVID-19, businesses shouldn’t just expect things to just go back to ‘normal.” Gartner predicts that over a third of companies expect reduced levels of business operations for the foreseeable future. Acting like nothing has changes is a recipe for disaster.
But the outlook for marketers shouldn’t be all doom and gloom. In fact, during this time, the smartest organizations are seizing the chance to fix problems of operational efficiency and marketing agility that have been brought to light by the economic upheaval.
Fewer resources and uncertainty demand marketers prioritize efforts like never before. Marketers should be more strategic with their time, people, and dollars right now. But unfortunately this is a huge blind spot for most, as 63% of marketers cannot determine which investments drive results. And if you don’t know what’s working, how can you prioritize it?
COVID-19 has forced marketers to double down on understanding where they were driving impact and becoming more efficient in how they do it. This means developing a clear understanding of where you’re investing your financial and human resources. Most companies have at least a basic way to assess their people’s time or their campaign outcomes, but the one element most companies are missing in order to assess efficiency is an investment data set, including how much budget they planned to spend on certain programs and how much they actually spent on various programs and technologies.
How do you get started on this critical data set? Optimizing your investments is similar to how you optimize any other resource—it calls for flexibility, accessibility, and to be aligned to strategy. Here are four key places to start as you look to gain a better understanding of your investment data:
Your budget hierarchy should mirror the marketing organization itself. How are the teams of people organized, and how do they align around investments? Within what structure does your team already naturally spend money, such as campaigns or regions? Structure the budget as naturally as you can, based on how funds are allocated, so there are clear ways to tie investment data to performance data.
Investment data needs to be centralized in order to paint a clear picture of where and what you’re spending on. This enables teams to drill into investment data by product line or region, but also roll it up an organizational level for marketing leaders. Categorization is also key. Investment hierarchies aren’t the sexiest topic of discussion, but if you want to start understanding which channels are the most efficient, you need to understand what ALL marketing groups are spending on advertising, not just one group.
Do you only check on investment data when someone asks a question? If so, it’s time to change. An accessible system that a) encourages marketers to keep their investment data up-to-date and b) pulls in actual spend data will dramatically reduce the amount of time your team has to spend hunting for investment data, while giving you a data set you trust. An accessible data set also enables your team to be proactive about investments rather than reactive.
Like any other data set, investment data should be easily combined with other data sets for actionable insights. That means connecting it to your ERP system for automated actuals and your CRM for revenue impact and performance measurements. And all data sets need aligned fields, meta-tags, and hierarchies, so they can actually drive useful insights that will guide marketing decisions.
For a long time, marketers measured success based on the sheer volume of output. But in today’s world the measure of success needs to be on quantifiable business impact, and that means prioritizing all invested resources against the activities that drive business impact. Businesses that have clear investment strategies and clean investment data will have the foundational knowledge to know where they should focus their time, money, and people.
Our new normal has given marketers the opportunity to innovate and test new things. Think about those tests with an eye to fixing the foundational challenges the crisis exposed, so your future plans have an even greater impact on the next normal.
Julia Steadman, CMO at Allocadia
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