Tag Archives: Marketing Budget

Offsetting Marketing Budget Reductions

30 Dec

budget cut“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” ~  Warren Buffett

If you’re like many marketers, 2023 budgets have either been frozen at last year’s level or reduced in light of what many organizations believe will be a soft economy in the coming year. That said, company expectations relating to brand development, customer acquisition and revenue generation goals can seem daunting.

The good news is that there are five key steps that can be taken to offset budget reductions and refuel marketing budgets:

  1. Review and revise annual Scopes of Work – Working in conjunction with your agency partners, representatives from the marketing and procurement teams should reassess project deliverables relative to approved spend levels and make the requisite adjustments. Focusing the extended team’s efforts on strategies and tactics that are critical to the attainment of the organization’s core business goals are the top priority. Out-of-scope work should be prohibited and or at a minimum, tightly controlled and non-essential programs shelved until business conditions improve and or additional marketing funds are allocated.
  2. Evaluate and improve Client/ Agency work processes – The opportunity for efficiency gains in this area are numerous, particularly in longer term relationships where too often bad habits, that drive costs up or limit market timing opportunities have become status quo. Key areas to review include the creative and media briefing and client-side approval processes. Ineffective and or inefficient approaches to these basic tasks waste time and increase project costs. Conversely, tightening brief development and streamlining the approval process can reduce fees associated with agency rework costs and decrease the time required to execute certain tasks.
  3. Right size your agency network – Over time, an organization’s roster of agency partners can swell to unwieldly levels, leading to management challenges, overlapping resources and duplicative costs. Internally reviewing each agencies roles and responsibilities to identify opportunities for focusing each agencies resource offering and reducing overlap. Longer term, consider the creation of broadcast and digital production and content curation and production centers of excellence, consolidating activities in this area to generate scale economies and reduce agency fee outlays. Additionally, work with your agency partners to identify opportunities to remove links from the marketing/ advertising supply chain. In short, reduce the number of intermediaries involved in the production, placement, and trafficking of your advertising to reduce unnecessary fees and costs.
  4. Review agency financial management practices and contract compliance – Auditing agency compliance and financial stewardship can lead to the identification of billing errors, earned but unprocessed credits, unbilled media balances that should be returned, the application of unauthorized mark-ups and agency time-of-staff under deliveries that could result in financial recoveries. Additionally, the independent review of project management, job initiation and reconciliation processes can lead to cost avoidance strategies that result in meaningful savings.
  5. Reconsider the “Estimated Billing” process – As interest rates have increased, so too has a company’s cost-of-capital. One key tenet of any organization’s treasury management practice is to retain control of its money for as long as possible. However, when it comes to advertising outlays, the industry tends to work on an “estimated billing” process where each agency bills for work to be done, services to be procured or media to be purchased upon approval, with the pledge to reconcile estimated costs to actual once a job has closed or a campaign completed. Unfortunately, this results in an advertiser’s funds being held and managed by others, with no economic benefit (e.g., interest income) and some level of financial risk. Consider moving to a “final billing” process whereby invoices are submitted by the agency for payment once services have been rendered and third-party costs validated. In turn, advertisers should be prepared to tender payment upon receipt of these invoices, so that none of its agency partners is required to go out-of-pocket to compensate third-party vendors.

Taking some or all of these actions can offset the impact of budget reductions or freezes. As importantly, an open-minded review of a marketer’s partners and processes will generate financial recoveries and future savings that will help refuel and improve their marketing investment.

Agency Compensation: The “More for Less” Trap

31 Aug

More for LessFor many marketers, cutting agency fees is an obvious target when it comes to meeting budget reduction goals. The reasons are understandable given the need to balance achieving in-market results and preserving or improving working media levels, while achieving the desired savings target.

A factor which clouds this issue, is the general level of uncertainty among marketers as it relates to the overall competitiveness of the fees being paid to their agency partners. Are we paying our agencies too much? Or are we already at a competitive remuneration rate? Without being able to objectively address this item, there will likely be internal pressure brought to bear from finance and or procurement to reduce agency fees as part of the budget right-sizing initiative.

It should be noted that we believe in regularly reviewing agency fees, assessing their competitiveness vis-à-vis the market and in looking for ways to optimize a marketers return on its agency fee investment. That said, we also firmly believe in compensating agency partners fairly and in proportion to both the agreed upon scope of services and the agency’s ability to contribute to the attainment of an organization’s marketing and business goals.

Experience has taught us that organizations which focus solely on reducing agency fees, without adjusting the scope of work and or the agency staffing plan upon which those fees were based, can negatively impact agency relations and jeopardize the quality of the work generated by the agency. Further, we have found that when an advertiser involves its agency partners in the budget reduction process there is a greater likelihood of successfully addressing the near-term goal, with the least risk of negatively impacting brand sales.

While it should go without saying, we will say it any way, advertisers must adjust their expectations downward with regard to key agency deliverables in the wake of a budget reduction. It is not an agency’s responsibility to fund the advertiser’s savings goal. As it is, budget reductions create financial challenges for agencies in the form of reduced levels of revenue, which in turn create staffing and resource constraints that they must deal with. Thus, asking an agency to reduce its negotiated overhead rate or to lower its profit percentage to preserve planned deliverables (e.g. do more for less) is simply not appropriate.

There are specific areas that an advertiser might consider, in addition to right-sizing the scope of work to align with the revised marketing budget, which can reduce agency time-of-staff requirements and therefore fees:

  • Review the creative briefing and approval processes. Streamlining and reforming current practices in these areas can reduce the number of steps and therefore the number of agency personnel involved in the creative development process. This in turn can lower the level of “re-work” required, yielding meaningful time savings.
  • Extend current campaigns, rather than developing new approaches, leveraging current creative assets and forgoing the investment in both hard costs and agency fees required to conceive of and launch new creative campaigns.
  • When it comes to the creation of regional versions of creative or the production of collateral materials, embrace an “adapt” versus an “origination” mindset, optimizing existing content, rather than spending time and money to re-create the wheel. The age old acid test of “nice” or “necessary” is the best filter to apply in this area.
  • Reduce the number of media plan revisions over the course of a year. Establish clear goals, implement compelling and relevant strategies and tactics and “work the plan,” rather than revising and re-selling plans.
  • Assess the number of meetings, their frequency and the number of agency personnel required to attend. Attendance, travel time and expense and meeting prep time reductions can yield meaningful savings for both client and agency.
  • Work with the agency to adjust its staffing plan, evaluating both the number and level (e.g. experience) of personnel required to deliver against the revised scope of work.

Finally, once the planned reductions have been identified, consider adding or enhancing the agency’s performance bonus, with a large portion of the incentive compensation tied to in-market results. This is an excellent way to let the agency know that your organization understands both sides of the “share the pain, share the gain” partnership mantra. Taking this approach will deliver on the budget reduction mandated by the organization, without negatively impacting relationships with the organization’s agency network.

 

%d bloggers like this: