Marketing Budgets Depend on Measurability

Last week’s article about Are Marketing Budget Cuts Here to Stay? prompted interesting discussions about the role of measurability for supporting marketing budget proposals.  In the current scenario of declining or flat marketing budgets, measurability is a key factor that determines what is funded and what gets cut.

In recent years, marketing organizations have greatly improved capabilities to gather data, do analysis and produce meaningful metrics about most marketing tactics and activities.  This is all good – executives and other functional areas of a company now have a measureable view of marketing’s contribution to the business. Marketing has more insights into the effectiveness of what they’re doing and tracking their activities and results as never before.

Given the constrained business conditions and expanded availability of marketing metrics, it’s no surprise that executives are insisting on more measurable supporting data to determine what and how much of marketing budgets receive funding.  While this may seem like a reasonable approach on first impression, there are some concerns that marketers should consider to ensure that the right mix of marketing plans are approved in their budgets:

  • Inbound marketing channels such as websites, search engines, blogs, social media, videos, etc. are online and have built-in data gathering capabilities to produce a vast array of metrics.
  • Various research studies and anecdotal information from various marketers indicate a substantial shift of marketing budget allocations to inbound marketing from traditional outbound marketing channels.
  • While there is substantial proof that inbound marketing works, is it possible that some of the budget shift is influenced by it being so easily measurable and therefore more quantifiable for budget discussions with executives?
  • It’s generally more difficult to get meaningful metrics with direct correlation to outcomes from outbound marketing channels.
  • For many B2B and IT companies, outbound marketing channels such as trade shows, conferences, live seminars, etc. used to be the staple marketing tactic to find buyers and engage with customers.  These are the areas that are being cut the most in marketing budgets.
  • Although attendance at these type of live events have declined, are we possibly cutting back more than we should because we don’t have good supporting metrics?
  • I have talked with many salespeople who lament the continuing trend of decreased participation in these live outbound marketing events.  For many B2B and IT salespeople, meeting people face-to-face and speaking with them at these type of events is still the best way to find qualified prospects.
  • Although some metrics such as response rates, unique website visitors, clickthrough rates and others are easy to get and meaningful within a specific performance context, are they really meaningful for determining budget allocations?
  • Many marketing metrics are primarily about measuring activities.  But business results are what really count in the end.  Are the metrics for supporting marketing budgets based on funding activities or producing results?
  • What about funding for longer-term strategic marketing such as positioning, branding, developing market presence and credibility in target segments, engaging with influencers, etc.  These are vital for producing business results, but tough to measure and maybe more difficult to justify in constrained marketing budgets.

Are you seeing an increasing requirement and importance placed on metrics to get budget allocations and approvals?  How are you dealing with some of the concerns raised above?  Your comments are always welcome.
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