A plea for marketers to get commercially minded
Any time a crisis impacts cash flow, most businesses react immediately by cutting budgets—often leaving marketers scrambling with how to do their jobs with less. Once the purse strings are cut, it’s time to get commercially minded—FAST. Hopefully you were already thinking about how marketing is tied to revenue, but now more than ever, it’s critical to wage an internal PR campaign that showcases how your work results in hard numbers impacting top-line revenue while being prudent with costs.
For the commercially minded, budget cut discussions revolve around consequences to revenue: if we have to cut X, my team will bring in Y less revenue. There are always a few extras out there you can sacrifice without much pain, but when budget conversations get serious, the easy stuff is already off the table. To emerge from these talks successfully, it’s important to position marketing through a commercial lens—a top-line revenue-generating function—not a support function.
Here’s my recommended approach to these difficult meetings and conversations:
In addition to your everyday short- and long-term campaigns, you must be able to pivot rapidly. This could be taking big strides to reprioritize campaign resources as needed, as well as initiating rapid responses for lead acquisition, fast-tracking lead nurturing, and quickly and creatively generating sales opportunities. Now is the time to play the short game. Don’t give up your long game completely, but move the short game into priority mode and give it the spotlight.
Show, don’t tell.
Use this content creation rule as your guide when executing your … marketing of Marketing. Get an internal PR game plan together and BE VISBILE. Document and share all your successes with every stakeholder you’ve got, ad nauseum. Don’t wait to be asked—be proactive and go for it like there’s no tomorrow.
When the COVID-19 health crisis emerged here in the US, followed immediately by the oil price collapse, I rallied my marketing team so we could think collectively about the massive pivot we would need to make. We talked about what current market needs—how can we legitimize our customers’ concerns? What would a prospect be looking for with an impending global recession? We threw out the old playbook and outlined new opportunities, assigning specific priorities to individual marketers and clarifying which campaigns would sit on hold.
Most importantly, we then shared these plans proactively with the broader executive team and updated them each week, reporting on our progress each time.
Use hard numbers.
Speaking of progress reports, I cannot emphasize how important it is—especially in times of crisis—to leave the marketing jargon out of your communications. What’s fine for internal marketing discussions often means nothing to our higher-ups. Your CEO doesn’t speak in MQLs, she speaks in revenue. The bottom line is very real, the top line is badly needed, and you need to able to speak to it in meaningful numbers.
Where do you find the numbers for marketing? It’s easy. Ask yourself these types questions to come up with the numbers that matter to the business:
- What costs can you cut?
- How many new contacts (or companies) have you engaged with your new content?
- How can you put the pedal to the proverbial metal on campaign tactics without sacrificing quality?
- What opportunities has your team delivered? Of those, what’s closing?
The short of it is, whoever is bringing the cash in, wins.
My team and I offer a weekly highlight, results (in numbers and/or revenue), and next steps. There’s no need to overcomplicate your reporting right now—you don’t need a fancy new Marketing Department template. We use a simple Word document with easy-to-read headlines, subheadings, and content. Our team has shared access to it so we’ve constantly got our eyes on what everyone is working on and bringing to the table. This approach also ensures myself me and my managers are all singing from the same hymnal with consistent messaging to our stakeholders. Again, execute on your amped internal PR strategy.
Be that cowboy!
If you can be proactive, agile, and speak the language of revenue, it will demonstrate that marketing is so much more than communications. The heart of marketing is preparing the market for sales. The arena is messy these days, but there’s always a cowboy ready to kick up some dust and ride. Be that cowboy!
There is no magic here, no secret to unlock. You simply have to realign your strategy and content to fit the needs you know your current and future customers will have. While you’re busy doing that, you need to also show the business what you’re contributing to top-line revenue. Shorten your funnel—now is not the time for over-nurturing those leads, but rather for approaching real problems with thoughtful solutions.
This is my take, now that we’ve marked a month of corona-chaos coupled with an oil price collapse. But I’m interested in yours, too. Agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.