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Optimizing Marketing Budgets during Ongoing Disruption

A frequent question we’ve received from clients as we work with them to put together 2022 plans and budgets is, “how do I best allocate my budget, people, and resources” while their markets continue to be disrupted by COVID.

Marketing teams need to continuously prepare for disruption, whether it’s from a new competitor, advance in technology, pandemic, or another significant market event. We recommend beginning with a reassessment of marketing’s role, capabilities, and successes within the organization to date. Among the areas on which the reassessment should focus include:

  • Most marketing organizations focus on a combination of brand awareness and sales support. Has that mix changed over the last year? 
  • Does the marketing team have the tools in place to deliver on the mix of activities now expected of it? If the company has been getting by with Constant Contact, for example, does it need to upgrade to a more comprehensive CRM?
  • What marketing activities have earned the greatest success and against which objective over the past 1-2 years. For example, if the goal of trade show activity is to deliver XX number of SQLs versus simply brand awareness, did that effort accomplish the goal? 

Teams should also think about updating a competitive analysis to understand how other companies in your space have changed their positioning. In addition, are new competitors entering your market and are they startups or companies that previously focused on different markets but now are focusing on yours. It’s likely it will be necessary to update the company’s positioning based on this new look at competitors. 

What successes did the marketing team enjoy in the last 1-2 years in terms of criteria such as mediums utilized, results achieved and messages communicated should be an additional question. For brand awareness, did earned media coverage and earned social media move the needle and how did the marketing team measure that? For lead generation, did email marketing and marketing automation pull in the quantity and quality of leads expected, and how well did paid media support that effort? 

With this information in hand, marketing teams should think of 2022 as a year of experimentation. In many markets, activities are returning to normal, but the pace differs by industry and by marketing tactic. In-person attendance at conferences is still spotty, for example. 

Many marketing teams should consider a broad spectrum of activities with very specific goals and metrics in place to gauge success. They should also take a “fail fast” approach and if a specific campaign isn’t meeting goals, quickly make adjustments. Of course, this strategy is more effective with activities such as email marketing where adjustments are quick and easy as compared to trade show participation where there is just one bite at the apple per year. We are also generally recommending refraining from trade show participation for at least the first half of 2022, due to the high costs involved and generally poor attendance. Clients have let us know trade shows where they have exhibited have had as little as 25-30% of pre-pandemic attendance. We are recommending a great focus on tactics where teams can pivot quickly.

As marketing teams continue to navigate the pandemic, we are also recommending keeping detailed notes of what strategies have worked since its start in March 2020. They should identify key learnings and create a plan of attack for future market disruptions based on what they’ve learned from COVID-19. This set of best practices will help companies both keep their profiles high and continue to generate lead flow, while less organized competitors struggle.

Periods of market disruption definitely pose challenges to marketing teams. But, they also create opportunities for those that think strategically and analytically to leverage the situation to improve their competitive position. 

If you need help strategizing for 2022 (and beyond), contact us.

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