CMOs Need to Balance the Expensive Cost of “Free”

March 18, 2019 | 3 minute read
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There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but that’s easy to forget when the CFO is blowing up your inbox with requests for a leaner marketing plan. How can CMOs defend their operating budgets, while still maximizing opportunities to defend the balance sheet?

The Art of Right-Sizing a Marketing Budget Starts with Reassessing How You’re Communicating Value to the C-suite

I remember the lean days of the Great Recession – hoping for the economy to come bursting back so I could worry less about pinching pennies and more about developing career-defining creative work for our marketing efforts.

The economy has certainly roared back to life, but the pressure to do more with less hasn’t abated. C-suites are still feeling constant pressure to improve their stock performance. Solid earnings per share only leads to demands from analysts for even more impressive performance in the next quarter. Market forecasts improve, and creative executives try to find new ways to exceed expectations.

This is leading to a push towards automation in marketing. Great CMOs know how to balance new technology with proven strategies. But they need to be able to communicate a strong vision that protects their teams from unnecessary and potentially damaging budget cuts.

For this reason, I believe the most important skill a CMO can have is the ability to communicate value to others. This goes beyond messaging in your marketing campaigns. It starts with getting a sign-off from the c-suite to create winning campaigns that blow away the competition – even if they seem expensive on the front-side.

Here’s How I Strike Out Objections with Every Pitch…

I’ve worked with a variety of teams at multiple companies – it’s the nature of serving as an outside contractor. I’ve learned that delivering meaningful results starts with scoring sign-off from those that hold the corporate purse strings. To do this, you have to become skilled at building relationships quickly.

The best way to quickly build relationships with decision-makers is by playing into someone’s innate curiosity. Marketing seems like a black art to those standing on the sidelines.

Provide decision-makers with exciting pitches that teach them how the game is played. If they feel like they’re getting a look behind the scenes, you’re going to build mutual trust.

Eventually you’ll find yourself making the pitch that really counts. In that moment, if you’ve developed both a well-founded pitch and solid relationships, your chances of securing funding are much higher.

What Goes into a Strong Pitch?

My goal during a pitch is to paint a vivid, exciting picture for the audience. I relay personal experiences and then back up my findings with respected third-party references.

For example, one objection I heard recently was: “Hey Dan, why aren’t we leveraging more free software and services? I feel like we could shrink our software licensing fees a bit in your department.”

I chose three of our most used products and explained how they minimize the amount of time our graphic designers and social media teams spend completing tasks. The labor spend that we are able to save more than covers the licensing fees.

Then I showed them something more relatable to their daily lives. I asked them: “Why are you paying for all of those servers downstairs? Did you know that there are companies that offer free web hosting? Couldn’t you move some of your digital assets there and reduce the amount of IT equipment?”

They thought I was serious. I wasn’t. I answered the question for them by explaining the subtle weaknesses of different “free” solutions. Free solutions rarely deliver the kind of customer experience you need to create in order to compete in a crowded marketplace.

In a previous article, I outlined how important it is to validate stakeholder sign-off. It’s worth mentioning again here. Once you have agreement, don’t delay in memorializing it.  

With the exciting advances in data-driven technology and automation, CMOs are going to need to become better than ever at justifying their expenses. Spend time wrapping your head around where your department’s dollars are going. If you can show areas where you’ve already reduced overhead, your argument that your current operating costs are valid will go much further.

See what else CMOs can do in the digital age to help their bottom line and marketing with “3 Ways CMOs Are Putting Artificial Intelligence to Work.”

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Dan Steiner

Dan Steiner is an author and legal marketing expert from Austin, Texas. He is the owner and marketing director at Vintage Legal Marketing, an award-winning law firm marketing agency. His work has been featured in a number of publications, including Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

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