Marketing isn't about doing more, it's about doing less

Darren Woolley

Darren Woolley is Founder and MD of TrinityP3, an independent strategic marketing management consultancy that assists marketers, advertisers and procurement with agency search and selection, agency engagement and alignment and agency monitoring and benchmarking. With his background as an analytical scientist and creative problem solver, Darren brings unique insights and learnings to the marketing process. He is considered a global thought leader on agency remuneration, search and selection and relationship optimisation.

It was in October 2008 and the following six months that the global financial crisis took hold and huge cuts were made to marketing budgets as a result. The ensuing topic of conversation with marketers was finding ways to maintain marketing programs with a limited budget. We were able to help with advice on how to manage budget cuts by minimising duplication, removing waste and so on.

During this time, our work with marketers revealed several interesting insights. Of note was our observation that many marketers expected to carry out business as usual. In fact, many not only wanted to do the same thing, they actually wanted to do more despite significant cuts to their budgets.

We experience similar situations when dealing with agency remuneration benchmarking. In these cases, we find procurement are looking for savings, while buying power is what most marketers look for. Marketers seem to feel compelled to go beyond what they were doing before even with the limited resources they now have to work with.

It begs the question: Are you doing too much when you might actually be better off if you did less?

What are the reasons for wanting to do more?

There is a lot pressure for you to do more with less.

Does action equal results?

Many believe that action equals results. They measure their importance and effectiveness by the amount of activities they are involved in. To these people, doing more is a survival strategy to appear more valuable.

It is very easy to add more

What’s more, everywhere you look there is someone trying to sell you something. With countless channels, numerous disciplines and an increasing number of specialists advocating their services, it is little wonder how easy it is to add more to your already substantial list.

Everybody else is doing it

It is also easy to believe everybody else is doing it so you better do it to. You don’t want to feel the technical revolution is leaving you behind so you almost feel obliged to embrace the hottest digital innovations out there such as Vine, WeChat or Snapchat. You only need to read the trade press to see that everyone seems to be doing it.

What about integrated marketing?

Many agencies and marketers believe in the concept of fully integrating with the customer across every available channel. Yet on balance it’s not so much about how many channels you use as it is about choosing the right channels to use.

The promise of success

Is it the secret to your success that drives you to do more? Do you hope to find that one crucial element you can add to your marketing strategy that will furnish the results you want? Unfortunately, assurance of success and delivery is not that easy.

What is the cost of doing more?

The problem with doing more in most cases is that it comes at a price. Operating within the current budget means you will have to carefully rationalise taking on more against your actual requirements. This is a difficult task and is a rare occurrence because it is really hard knowing what the best thing to drop is.

How counter-productive is doing more?

Often, rather than dropping tasks, more is added to the current marketing plan. Instead of changing it, the plan and the requirements expand in opposition to the budget, which rarely expands to meet the workload.

When this happens you could find yourself adding more resources and suppliers to meet the requirements. Suppliers who offer new services and disciplines can be easily engaged as a test but you will more than likely find a little way down the track that the agency roster has suddenly multiplied.

As the budget starts to drain, pressure mounts up and corners are cut in an effort to save money here and fund more there. You now find yourself spread so thinly you struggle to manage the implementation and the monitoring of the program. The trouble is, you don’t have a current marketing strategy with an approach which fosters accountability and you have put yourself in a position where it is very possible to inadvertently make critical mistakes.

Is change a spontaneous or random act?

Embracing innovation and the changes that accompany it is not just a spontaneous or random act. It needs a process to ensure that changes in your marketing plan are:

  • Funded appropriately, adequately resourced and correctly implemented
  • Carried out without impacting on the other effective parts of the plan
  • Measured and monitored, to ensure the change has value.

Focus on doing one thing well

Once we know the many reasons why we may want to do more and how counter-productive doing more can be, how do we approach it? Real focus is often shown by some of the more successful advertisers and brands when they implement their marketing communications plan.

They don’t try to be in every possible channel. Instead, they choose channels that are relevant to their target audience where it will have maximum impact. Channels where they can engage and relate to consumers who want to buy what they have sell.

‘Test and learn’ is best

Many marketers use the ‘test and learn’ approach for managing innovation in their marketing strategy. Innovation is added to the marketing strategy mix using the ‘test and learn’ approach. See an earlier post to learn how the scientific method can be used to ‘test and learn’ marketing strategy.

To fund the ‘test and learn’ approach, you might like the approach adopted by some marketers where they use a 70 / 20 / 10 ratio when allocating their budget. Seventy per cent of the budget is allocated to delivering the current marketing strategy, 10 per cent to new ideas, innovation, and opportunities and carried out as experiments which are monitored and measured to establish the effectiveness of this approach. The remaining 20 per cent is then used to develop approaches which show favourable results.

Following this process enables you to make decisions based on results rather than doing more for just for the sake of it.

Tags: agency management, omni-channel marketing, marketing strategy

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