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Hacking the Gordian Knot: Spinning Business Gold from Financial Marketing Budgets

Armchair analysts often view CMOs as either visionaries whose out-of-the-box thinking could change business fortunes of their firms, or as timorous also-rans, who, saddled with the weight of irrational expectations, barely manage the demands placed upon their time by cantankerous stakeholders. The Gordian knot that CMOs and their Marketing teams are forced to contend with, often does not have a neat ‘Alexandrian’ solution to it. Apart from trying to gain some sort of a foothold in slippery digital waters, marketers, today have to own and drive digital marketing revenues in a hypercompetitive environment that is at best indifferent (and at worst, hostile).

How does the modern financial marketer, therefore, apportion her resources to achieve the nirvanic high that she often promises her own consumers? Analyst reports suggest that the ‘median’ marketing budget available to financial marketers today is about 10-12% of the company’s topline. Given this sizable dollop of company spend, it is easy to expect titanic yields in return.

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How can marketers deliver outsized returns for marketing dollars spent while constantly pushing the envelope of digital evolution? In other words, how can the yin of Marketing spend be matched by the yang of spinning business gold?

Invest First, Spend Later:

Too often, the term ‘Marketing Spend’ is taken too literally and budgets are rapidly sunk into BAU activities and campaigns of dubious value. Taking a leaf out of IT’s book, investment-friendly options that tie into long-term business benefit for the firm must be given first dibs on marketing budgets.

Marketing investments that help enrich and aggregate the firm’s most valuable asset (data) and facilitate tangible ROI through Intelligent Marketing activation campaigns that tie-in with Product strategy are often the best investment bets available for financial marketers today.

Skunkworks, Anyone?

Remember R&D’s elite corps ‘Team Skunkworks’? And how their innovative, zany ideas could result in a bold new product line for the firm or give wings to hitherto side-lined potential blockbuster rollouts? Marketing is supposed to roll out creative calling cards covered in pixie dust at regular intervals. However unfair this may seem, it is the need of the digital hour.

Using a portion of the available budget to set up and empower a skunkworks team whose campaigns, ideas and creative inputs could potentially help the company leapfrog competition and tap into fertile revenue streams could well be the differentiator for CMOs/Marketing Leaders looking to fan out their plumage.

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Parallel vs. Serial:

Oddly enough, here’s another learning from R&D that can make all the difference. As a financial marketer, ask yourself this – How many times have you allowed bureaucracy, lack of resources or dependency on Tech to be reasons for not accelerating clearly beneficial projects that can have demonstrable value in the short, medium and long-term?

Running threads in parallel that lead up to a common business goal allows for clarity in resource allocation. Parallelism trumps serial tasking often and in an era of compounding downstream losses due to incomplete projects, it can be the difference between a successful Go-To-Market strategy and one that languishes unrealized.

Intelligent budgeting that ups the ante and reallocates resources to remove bureaucratic or operational hurdles and allows for parallelism to thrive so that Marketing can remain at the bleeding edge of successful campaign, product and PR rollouts should displace archaic ideas of static/BAU budget allocation.

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Fail Fast, Fail Cheap:

Being agile is a strategy that not only works well for product development, but for marketing programs as well. Understanding ROI from different buckets of Marketing spend (for example conference attendance, upskilling, choosing the right social media mix and understanding the value of improving UI/UX on web and mobile platforms) and taking quick decisions that can provide returns or fail fast if they cannot, is central to ensuring that BAU dependencies do not become the only fulcrum of Marketing decision-making.

In Conclusion:

In order to hack the Gordian knot, Financial Marketing leaders can and must consider ROI-driven budgeting decisions as opposed to archaic ideas of Marketing spend/cost-centric budgeting. Reconsidering budgeting through these suggested lenses might lend impetus and vitality to an otherwise run-of-the-mill exercise and help unlock revenue streams that are directly attributable to relevant apportionment of available resources.

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