It’s that time of year when budgets for the coming year are set. Reading the tea leaves, it looks like we’re going to face economic uncertainty and political shocks for a while yet. In this climate, many executive teams will be concerned with cost, and so should marketers.
I’ve been fortunate to work in many companies and there hasn’t been one where the advertising and marketing budget couldn’t have been put to better use. Luckily, I’ve also learned that there are some easy ways to do more with less. So please your finances directly by trying some of these approaches.
Recalibrate the campaign development process
At the beginning of the year, a lot was written and discussed about the quality of marketing briefings. I’m a big fan of brilliant briefings and brilliant agency briefings to improve effectiveness. It’s all true: great panties deliver great results. They are also an important part of making operations more efficient.
The key to saving money without sacrificing effectiveness is understanding how you or your teams work with your agencies or in-house writers and designers. You want to aim for as little friction as possible: a briefing, a briefing, an agency response to the briefing, a feedback session, a revision, a sign-off.
Marketing teams waste enormous amounts of their budget briefing the wrong agencies with bad briefs, not involving the right decision makers early enough, using the creative work to refine the strategy and giving bad feedback. By standardizing the briefing, the creative development process, and the way you work with your agencies, you can save a fortune in fees. In a review my team conducted at a large company with multiple departments, we reduced fees by 20% and did a better job. Do not believe me? Ask your agencies how well they work with you and how you could become more efficient by working better together. It’s going to be a sobering conversation.
Leverage your purchasing power by streamlining your supply chain
Never popular and challenging, but a great lever to save money and do brilliant work. Add up all the money you spend on design, digital, social, content and creative agencies. Ask yourself if you couldn’t shop better if you focused your spending on fewer, better partners. Better work, better unit cost. Of course you can. It’s just a matter of courage, perseverance and priorities.
There will be cultural challenges, every marketer or team will have their favorite agency – that’s why you have too many agencies now. There is also a cost associated with the transition, and onboarding takes time. Consider all of that, but if you can transform your campaign process at the same time, you could save a fortune by rolling out bigger and better briefs in fewer agencies and do better, more consistent work.
If you want to get purchasing and financing on your side, go one step further and create a strategic sourcing plan: a lead strategic agency, a lead through line agency, two to three specialist agencies. Boom! In one go, you’ll get better purchases and, most likely, better results. I streamlined 20 agencies into a lead agency group a few years ago. It has unlocked millions and dramatically improved results.
Keep your media agency under control
The original sin of marketers is media. For far too long marketers have ignored the critical relationship they have with their media agency and the price at which they purchase inventory. Most marketers have no idea about the commercial deals they have with their media agency, the fees and commissions they pay, or the price competitiveness of the media they buy. It is inexcusably lazy and very wasteful. Don’t be part of this crowd.
Media will most likely be the largest single spend line of a marketing budget, but it is probably the most poorly managed.
A few hints:
- Your media agency doesn’t buy media for you, they sell media they wholesale to you.
- The unit price you pay for media depends on how well you negotiate it.
- There are many different business models from paid to commission-based. Each leads to different results.
Do yourself a favor and hire a good media consultant to walk you through all of this. You are worth gold.
So if your finance team and their cost-cutting accountants ask you to save 10% or even 20% on your marketing spend over the next few months, you won’t have a leg to stand on unless you have a handle on your media contract , have streamlined your business relationships and already improved your processes. These really are three great ways to cut costs without sacrificing your marketing effectiveness. In fact, they could do even better.