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Marketing Budget Rationale Ties to ROI

Column: MarketingWorks

From the Nov. 2009 Issue

“CMOs slash marketing budgets in 2009.”

Would this headline surprise you? Would you be more surprised to learn that
on a global basis, 2009 marketing budgets were lower than 2008 budgets, with
more than half of the budgets cut 20 percent or more?

Sad, but true — and still, it’s very sad when I hear about budget
cuts at a time when marketing budgets should be more, not less.

Yet, there are a few bright spots as noted in a recent article in Direct Marketing
News: Close to 50 percent of chief marketing officers increased social media
spending, while 44 percent increased their company’s investment in website
development. Another 38 percent increased the budget for e-mail marketing.

If spending on traditional marketing is down, and budgets for social media
are up, how does an accounting firm come to terms with how to handle its marketing

Any marketing budget ought to include a mix of online and offline tools to
recruit prospects, retain clients and increase a firm’s profile, but for
gosh sakes, don’t decrease your marketing budget! Now is the time to be
bold, put your best foot forward and create a long-lasting presence in the marketplace
… while your competition is pulling back. When the dust settles, you’ll
be the firm that’s remembered and admired for your tenacity in a very
volatile environment.

The inclination is to cut spending, yet what are you going to cut to make
the numbers work? Sure, every firm can spend less when it needs to. Do you really
need doughnuts every morning during tax season? Do the firm partners need to
take an offsite retreat rather than spend a full day in the conference room?
Can you get along with a smaller-scale client gift for the holidays?

I think you get my point. However, sacred cows are just that. No one wants
to give up their budget, either for ego/pride sake or because they may think
they’ll never get the money back again.

While very different in many ways, marketing professionals within firms share
one common trait: They want to develop quality programs that will bring in business
and keep clients. So if you ask the marketing staff what they can give up in
the way of budget, you’ll probably get scowls and grunts. It won’t
be easy and shouldn’t be easy to get blood out of a turnip, right?

I think the answer gets back to ROI, or how these marketing programs provide
a return on their investment. If a program cost $1,000, did the firm realize
at least $1,000 in new business?

I know you’re reading this and thinking that this kind of ROI is doomed
from the start. Not every program is necessarily going to reap something tangible
in return, but you have to face facts. Your managing partner is going to ask
you sooner than later to provide some kind of quantitative results, no matter
how much you think you may have him or her in your back pocket.

Here’s an example. You conducted a three-part direct mail postcard campaign
to a certain industry niche to heighten the profile of a certain part of your
firm’s practice. Did it work? Was there an increase in clients asking
for the service?

Note how I didn’t ask whether you closed the business; that’s
a separate conversation.

There’s another way to measure the ROI. If the postcards directed recipients
to a website for more information, did you keep track of visitors? Web services
such as LeadLander track this for you. Or if you are using Search Engine Optimization
(SEO) tactics, ask your Web provider for reports on who visited the site and
how much time they spent clicking through the information.

Did you complement the campaign with social media tactics to push it out?
There are no hard costs in social media, except for staff/resource utilization,
so you can talk about the ROI associated with social media, especially if you
can tie a retweet or some other indication on the effectiveness of using social

ROI is a funny thing. We love ROI when it’s in black and white, but
can’t stand it when it’s qualitative rather than quantitative. Whatever
the situation, I guarantee you will impress your partners by measuring ROI on
all your efforts. With ROI measurement, you can hold on to your marketing budget
much easier and with a lot fewer tantrums.

Try it. If you don’t know how to begin measuring ROI, ask for help.
You can’t function without it.

See inside November 2009 issue

The Mac vs. PC Battle (And Why It Almost Doesn’t Matter Anymore)

Column: Tricks & Tips


Are You Up to the Communication Challenge?

Column: Real Stories, Real Solutions