How to Manage Marketing Costs

June 24, 2019
Contributor: Ewan McIntyre

Why marketers must act now and focus on cost optimization: An expert view from Gartner VP Analyst Ewan McIntyre

Remember Brian Tracy’s 2001 book “Eat That Frog!”? It certainly sold a few copies. The basic concept is simple: Tackle the biggest, most important and most difficult task first. This is your frog.

If you tackle the tough stuff first, everything else is relatively easy. And, if you have more than one frog, prioritize the biggest, ugliest one.

I’ve got a copy of this book somewhere. Yet still, I procrastinate. I still shove the most difficult tasks further down the to-do list. Proof — if proof is even needed — that self-help books are only worth the investment if you’re willing to help yourself.

Marketing cost optimization: The biggest, ugliest frog

One of the biggest, ugliest frogs in marketing is dealing with budgets, especially planning for budget challenges. As I’ve written in previous posts, very few CMOs or marketing leaders come to this fine profession via stints as a management accountant. If we can defer difficult decisions about cost and budget management, we will.  

Five Marketing-Specific Focus Areas of Cost Optimization

Gartner analysis of a number of major indexes indicates that we live in a time like no other, a time where there’s a collision of environmental factors that we’ve never seen before. Consider:

  • Business transformation. Unprecedented rates of business transformation and M&A activity, altering how organizations compete and create value
  • Competition. Significant competition from all sides, with entrenched top-player dominance across industries, as well as from new and disruptive entrants
  • Economic uncertainty. Market uncertainty, with historic levels of policy and economic uncertainty hitting simultaneously
  • Employee power. Historically low rates of unemployment and historically high rates of employee disengagement, exacerbating marketing’s talent challenges
  • Capital inefficiency. Easily available debt, but high levels of capital inefficiency, indicating that although there’s plenty of cash, there are limited opportunities to invest profitably
  • Lack of preparedness. Amid all this turmoil, a level of CEO confidence that indicates a significant underestimation of the headwinds that their organizations face

We’ve overlaid all of these trends in the chart below.

graph of trend lined across major indices
Leading businesses act proactively

Cost optimization: An essential element of your marketing strategy in unique times

Dealing with this mix of environmental factors requires an integrated approach that looks at the strategically important investments that drive effective, efficient marketing operations and execution. An approach that proactively plans for talent challenges, ensuring that the right mix of skills and capabilities are in place to survive and thrive in tough times.

But, returning to our friend the frog, it also needs to be an approach that addresses marketing’s costs. We call this cost optimization, and it’s different from simply cutting costs.

So it’s now frog-eating time. Learn more about Gartner’s approach to marketing cost optimization, and talk to us today about how we can help you build a strategy that addresses the certainties of today and the uncertainties of tomorrow.

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